Radar (radio detecting and ranging) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) are each an example of an acronym.
Origin of acronymacr(o)- + -onym
- A word formed by combining the initial letters of a multipart name, such as NATO from N orth A tlantic T reaty O rganization or by combining the initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar from ra dio d etecting a nd r anging.
- Usage Problem An initialism.
Origin of acronymacr(o)- -onym
- ac′ro·nym′ic a·cron′y·mous
Usage Note: In strict usage, the term acronym refers to a word made from the initial letters or parts of other words, such as sonar from so(und) na(vigation and) r(anging). The distinguishing feature of an acronym is that it is pronounced as if it were a single word, in the manner of NATO and NASA. Acronyms are often distinguished from initialisms like FBI and NIH, whose individual letters are pronounced as separate syllables. While observing this distinction has some virtue in precision, it may be lost on many people, for whom the term acronym refers to both kinds of abbreviations.
- An abbreviation formed by (usually initial) letters taken from a word or series of words, that is itself pronounced as a word, such as RAM, radar, or scuba; sometimes contrasted with initialism.
- A pronounceable word formed from the beginnings (letter or syllable) of other words and thus representing the phrase so formed, e.g. Benelux = the countries Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg considered as a political or economic whole.
- (deprecated) Any abbreviation so formed, regardless of pronunciation, such as TNT, BBC, IBM, or XML (see usage notes).
- The original definition was "term for words made from the initial letters or syllables of other words", indicating that it should be pronounceable as a word, e.g. snafu, comsat.
- The third sense is often criticized by commentators and many others who prefer the term initialism for abbreviations that are not pronounced like an ordinary word, on the grounds that the distinction is useful and should be maintained.
- Initialisms are generally written with all letters in upper case (such as EDP or IT). Acronyms are treated as words in their own right and are written in lower case (such as scuba or radar).
- In American English, the general rule is that acronyms of more than four letters are written in lower case (e.g., laser, but UNESCO, UNHCR and many others) while those with four or fewer letters are written in all caps (e.g., NATO). (In European usage the latter example is usually written "Nato", it being both a true acronym and a proper noun.)
- Older usage required that each letter be followed by a full stop (period). Current usage tends to omit full stops.
- In recent years, the use of mixed capitalization in acronyms has become more common in two circumstances. The first occurs when the words contain articles that are not capitalized when spelled out in title case – for instance, Field of Regard initialized as "FoR." (This can be helpful in preventing confusion among acronyms spelled the same way to represent different meanings.) The other circumstance occurs when the writer is attempting to make an acronym pronounceable when it otherwise would not be by including more than just initial letters – for instance, "RaZR".
- Acronyms also exist which, for convenience's sake, are pronounced with interstitial sounds, usually vowels, placed among the initials to make pronunciation easier. An example is WSDL (web services description language) pronounced wizdul.
acro- + -onym, first attested around 1943.
acronym - Computer Definition
A pronounceable word formed of the initial letters or other parts of several words.An acronym generally comprises all upper case letters. SONET, for example, is the acronym for Synchronous Optical NETwork, a North American standard for fiber optic transmission systems. SONET became internationalized as SDH, an unpronounceable initialism for Synchronous Digital Hierarchy. Acronyms occasionally comprise all lower case letters. For example, bit is the acronym for binary digit, which is the basic unit of information in a binary numbering system. Bit also is a word unto itself, and with multiple meanings, including a small piece of something. Acronyms sometimes comprise both upper case and lower case letters. Sesame, for example, is the acronym for Secure European Systems for Applications in a Multivendor Environment. See also abbreviation, anacronym, backronym, contraction, initialism, and portmanteau.
A word typically made up of the first letters of two or more words; for example, BASIC stands for "Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code." Letters within a word are also used; for example, XML means "eXtensible Markup Language." Technically, if only first letters are used, the term is an "initialism," but this distinction is not widely made. For an excellent acronym resource, visit www.acronymfinder.com. See backronym.