Acronym Definition and Meaning: What is Acronym?

Acronym Definition

ac·ro·nym (kr-nm)


A word formed from the initial letters of a name, such as WAC for Women's Army Corps, or by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio detecting and ranging.

acronym [ˈækrənɪm]


a pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of words; for example, UNESCO for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

[from acro- + -onym]

acronymic , acronymous [əˈkrɒnɪməs] adj


a word formed from the initial letters or syllables taken from a group of words that form the name of a company, product, process, etc. — acronymic, acronymous, adj.

See also: Names

Noun 1. acronym - a word formed from the initial letters of the several words in the name

MPEG - a set of standards adopted by the moving pictures experts group for the compression of digital video and audio data or a file of data compressed according to those standards

descriptor, form, signifier, word form - the phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something; "the inflected forms of a word can be represented by a stem and a list of inflections to be attached"

DINK - a couple who both have careers and no children (an acronym for dual income no kids)

weakly interacting massive particle, WIMP - a hypothetical subatomic particle of large mass that interacts weakly with ordinary matter through gravitation; postulated as a constituent of the dark matter of the universe

NIMBY - someone who objects to siting something in their own neighborhood but does not object to it being sited elsewhere; an acronym for not in my backyard.





a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words, as Wac  from Women's Army Corps, OPEC  from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries,  or loran  from long-range navigation.


an acrostic.

verb (used with object)


to make an acronym of: The committee's name has been acronymed MIKE.

Definition of ACRONYM

: a word (as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term; also : an abbreviation (as FBI) formed from initial letters : initialism

Examples of ACRONYM

  1. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is known by the acronym “NATO.”

Origin of ACRONYM

acr- + -onym

First Known Use: 1943

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile

Rhymes with ACRONYM

anonym, antonym, cryptonym, eponym, homonym, metonym, paronym, pseudonym, retronym, seraphim, synonym, tautonym, toponym, underbrim


Pronunciation: /ˈakrənɪm/

Definition of acronym


an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (e.g. ASCII, NASA). Compare with initialism.


1940s: from Greek akron 'end, tip' + -onym


An abbreviation composed of the first letters of other words so that the abbreviation itself forms a word. For example: CRASSH: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities - Aids: acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Acronyms are treated just like ordinary words in a sentence, and may be composed of all capital letters, or of an initial capital followed by small letters. For example: Of 34 mothers who gave birth to children with Aids at his hospital, only four had any symptoms of the disease. Daily Telegraph An abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced separately is called an initialism. For example: WHO BBC

Main Entry: ac|ro|nym

a word (as NATO, radar, or snafu) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term

Main Entry: ab|bre|vi|a|tion

a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole <amt is an abbreviation for amount>

Some say that the distinction between an acronym and an abbreviation is that an abbreviation becomes an acronym if it is pronounced as if it were a word. So NASA, WYSIWYG and CORBA are acronyms while IBM and HTTP are not. SCSI on the other hand is usually pronounced "scuzzy", so would be an acronym.

The confusion is apparently caused by different uses of the word "word": is every consecutive sequence of alphabetic characters a word, or does it have to be a pronouncable sequence of syllables?

For an abbreviation to be an acronym it needs to be a) an initialism (to be made up of the heads of its component words: for example the initial letters) and b) it should be treatable as a word.

SNAFU satisfies both of these criteria, and so is an acronym. 'Amt' fails to be an acronym for 'Amount' on both counts.

From MerriamWebster

Main Entry: word

something that is said

According to this definition single syllables and whole sentences count as words, and written words aren't words until they are spoken, so it has to be a pronouncable sequence. The definition cited is only the first of many (1a, as in: take my word for it), and is not applicable in this context.

PCMCIA (Personal Computer Manufacturers Cannot Invent Acronyms) doesn't count. CORBA, which does not correspond to a word in English nor sound like one, does.

an abbreviation "formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term" is called an "acronym" if pronouncable, an "initialism" otherwise.

If you insist on calling all abbreviations "acronyms," linguists will chuckle smugly and shake their heads at you.

Then again, linguists have mostly advanced beyond both the strict prescriptive and strict descriptive viewpoints; at some juncture, if the usage shifts enough, the distinction will be moot.

Meaning of acronym

An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. These components may be individual letters (as in CEO) or parts of words (as in Benelux and Ameslan). There is no universal agreement on the precise definition of various names for such abbreviations (see nomenclature) nor on written usage (see orthographic styling). In English and most other languages, such abbreviations historically had limited use, but they became much more common in the 20th century. Acronyms are a type of word formation process, and they are viewed as a subtype of blending.

Current use

Acronyms are used most often to abbreviate names of organizations and long or frequently referenced terms. The armed forces and government agencies frequently employ acronyms; some well-known examples from the United States are among the "alphabet agencies" (also jokingly referred to as "alphabet soup") created by Franklin D. Roosevelt under the New Deal. Business and industry also are prolific coiners of acronyms. The rapid advance of science and technology in recent centuries seems to be an underlying force driving the usage, as new inventions and concepts with multiword names create a demand for shorter, more manageable names. One representative example, from the U.S. Navy, is COMCRUDESPAC, which stands for commander, cruisers destroyers Pacific; it's also seen as "ComCruDesPac". "YABA-compatible" (where YABA stands for "yet another bloody acronym") is used to mean that a term's acronym can be pronounced but is not an offensive word (e.g., "When choosing a new name, be sure it is "YABA-compatible").

The use of acronyms has been further popularized with the emergence of Short Message Systems (SMS). To fit messages into the 160-character limit of SMS, acronyms such as "GF" (girl friend), "LOL" (laughing out loud), and "DL" (download or down low) have been popularized into the mainstream.


Sense 1


A word formed from the initial letters of the several words in the name

Classified under:

Nouns denoting communicative processes and contents

Hypernyms ("acronym" is a kind of...):

descriptor; form; signifier; word form (the phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something)
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