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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English abbreviaten, from Latin abbreviātus, perfect passive participle of abbreviō (to shorten), formed from ad + breviō (shorten), from brevis (short). Alternatively, a back-formation from abbreviation.[1] Doublet of abridge.



abbreviate (third-person singular simple present abbreviates, present participle abbreviating, simple past and past participle abbreviated)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To shorten by omitting parts or details. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 17th century.][2]
    • 1597, Francis Bacon, Essays:
      It is one thing to abbreviate by contracting, another by cutting off.
  2. (obsolete, intransitive) To speak or write in a brief manner. [Attested from the late 16th century until the early 17th century.][2]
  3. (transitive) To make shorter; to shorten (in time); to abridge; to shorten by ending sooner than planned. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][2]
    • 2019 November 21, Samanth Subramanian, “How our home delivery habit reshaped the world”, in The Guardian[1]:
      But as delivery schedules have dwindled into hours, even the gigantic warehouse full of stuff in a central place such as the triangle is proving insufficient. Now, companies also need smaller distribution centres around the country, to respond rapidly to orders and to abbreviate the last mile as much as possible.
  4. (transitive) To reduce a word or phrase by means of contraction or omission to a shorter recognizable form. [First attested in the late 16th century.][2]
    bovine spongiform encephalopathy is more commonly known by its abbreviated form BSE.
  5. (transitive, mathematics) To reduce to lower terms, as a fraction.
    Synonym: simplify
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Late Latin abbreviātus, perfect passive participle of abbreviō (abbreviate).



abbreviate (comparative more abbreviate, superlative most abbreviate)

  1. (obsolete) Abbreviated; abridged; shortened. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 17th century][2]
    • 1892, J. J. Earle, The philology of the English tongue:
      The abbreviate form has never been able to recover that shock.
  2. (biology) Having one part relatively shorter than another or than the ordinary type. [First attested in the mid 19th century.][2]


abbreviate (plural abbreviates)

  1. (obsolete, Scotland) An abridgment. [Mid 16th century.][2][3]


  1. ^ Elliott K. Dobbie, C. William Dunmore, Robert K. Barnhart, et al. (editors), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, 2004 [1998], →ISBN), page 2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002), “abbreviate”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 3.
  3. ^ abbreviate, n.” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh: Scottish Language Dictionaries.



abbreviate (comparative plus abbreviate, superlative le plus abbreviate)

  1. Being abbreviated.




  1. inflection of abbreviare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative





  1. second-person plural present active imperative of abbreviō