List of Common Acronyms

, Staff Editor
Updated March 31, 2022
Girl laughing with list of common acronyms examples
    Girl laughing with list of common acronyms examples
    Girl: TopVectors / iStock / Getty Images Plus /
    Used under Getty Images license

Acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms, oh my! From text messages to in-person convos, we all use shorthand every day. But is your shortened way of expressing an idea an acronym? It depends on how you say it. Acronyms are formed by using the first letter of each word in a phrase to form a new word. For example, “you only live once” is shortened to the acronym YOLO, which you’d say as “yoh-loh.”

Common Acronyms in Pop Culture

You may not even realize that your favorite TV show, movie character or musician is using an acronym as their name!

  • ABBA (musical group) - Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid (first names of the band’s members)

  • BUMP (slang) - Bring Up My Post

  • HER (musician) - Having Everything Revealed

  • NERD (musical group) - No one Ever Really Dies

  • SHIELD (TV show) - Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division

  • WALL-E (animated character) - Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class

  • YAHOO (search engine) - Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle


Common Acronyms in Chat

Whether you’re DMing, texting or chatting in your favorite video game, acronyms are the key to keeping these messages quick and concise. These are the acronyms you probably use or read on the daily.

  • ASAP - As Soon As Possible

  • BAE - Before Anyone Else

  • BOLO - Be On the LookOut

  • FISH - First In, Still Here

  • FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out

  • GIF - Graphics Interchange Format (but is it “jif” or “gif”?)

  • LOL - Laughing Out Loud (some people pronounce this as “lahl”)

  • YOLO - You Only Live Once

Common Initialisms in Chat

There is a bit of debate about whether initialisms are acronyms or if acronyms and initialisms are both just types of abbreviations. An initialism is an abbreviation that uses the first letter of each word in the phrase it’s describing (like an acronym), but you still say each letter of the initialism individually (unlike an acronym). For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigations is shortened to FBI, but you say it as “eff-bee-eye,” not “fbi.”

If you’re on the team that considers initialisms as a type of acronym, these are some common initialism examples:

  • AFK - Away From Keyboard

  • BBL - Be Back Later

  • BBS - Be Back Soon

  • BEG - Big Evil Grin

  • BRB - Be Right Back

  • BTW - By The Way

  • EG - Evil Grin

  • IDK - I Don't Know

  • IMO - In My Opinion

  • IRL - In Real Life

  • LMK - Let Me Know

  • NOYB - None of Your Business

  • OMG - Oh My God

  • POS - Parents Over Shoulder

  • ROFL - Rolling On the Floor Laughing

  • SMH - Shaking My Head

  • TTYL - Talk To You Later

  • WTH - What The Heck (or Hell)


Common Acronyms in the Military and Government

Listening to conversations in a government or official settings can be a bit like hearing a new language for the first time. Get in-the-know with common acronyms used in government and military settings.

  • AWOL - Absent WithOut Leave

  • FUBAR - F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition

  • OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • NAFTA - North American Free Trade Agreement

  • NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • Navy SEALs - Navy Sea Air Land forces

  • POTUS - President of the United States

  • SCOTUS - Supreme Court of the United States

  • SWAT - Special Weapons And Tactics

Common Initialisms in the Military and Government

You won’t often hear these initialisms spoken as new words, even if some appear to spell out a new word.

  • CIA - Central Intelligence Agency

  • CPS - Child Protective Services

  • CSI - Crime Scene Investigation

  • DMV - Division of Motor Vehicles

  • DNC - Democratic National Committee

  • DOD - Department of Defense

  • DON - Department of the Navy

  • DZ - Drop Zone

  • FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation

  • GIB - GI Bill

  • MIA - Missing In Action

  • POW - Prisoner Of War

  • RNC - Republican National Committee

  • REAP - Reserve Education Assistance Program

  • UN - United Nations

  • USAF - United States Air Force


Common Informative Acronyms

Acronyms are a useful way to convey essential information quickly, but only if you know what they mean. Informative acronyms are commonly used in the medical field but have also crossed over from industries into daily life.

  • AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

  • DARE - Drug Abuse Resistance Education

  • PEMDAS - Parentheses, Exponent, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction (math order of operations)

  • RADAR - Radio Detection And Ranging

  • SONAR - Sound Navigation And Ranging

  • ZIP code - Zone Improvement Plan code

Common Informative Initialisms

These abbreviations help quickly describe useful groups, items and actions.

  • ABS - Anti-lock Braking System

  • ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder

  • ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • AMA - Against Medical Advice

  • CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • DOA - Dead On Arrival

  • DOB - Date Of Birth

  • DIY - Do It Yourself

  • ESL - English As A Second Language

  • FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

  • HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus

  • IQ - Intelligence Quotient

  • MD - Medical Doctor

  • OTC - Over The Counter

  • PPV - Pay Per View

  • PS - Post Script

  • SUV - Sports Utility Vehicle

  • UFO - Unidentified Flying Object


Common Acronyms in Business

Acronyms are often used in the business world to identify a business or to create shorthand communication between co-workers.

  • CAPTCHA - Completely Automated Public Turing Test (to tell Computers and Humans Apart)

  • DAEMON - Disk And Execution Monitor

  • KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid

  • NASDAQ - National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations

  • SWOT - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

  • SMART Goals - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound Goals

  • TED - Tell me, Explain to me, Describe to me

Common Initialisms in Business

Business people often speak in initialisms once they’re comfortable with the industry lingo.

  • ADP - Automated Data Processing

  • AKA - Also Known As

  • CDT - Central Daylight Time

  • CST - Central Standard Time

  • DBA - Doing Business As

  • DND - Do Not Disturb

  • EDS - Electronic Data Systems

  • EOD - End of Day

  • EOW - End of Week

  • EDT - Eastern Daylight Time

  • EST - Eastern Standard Time

  • ETA - Estimated Time of Arrival

  • FYI - For Your Information

  • HR - Human Resources

  • MBA - Masters of Business Administration

  • MDT - Mountain Daylight Time

  • MST - Mountain Standard Time

  • POS - Point Of Service

  • PR - Public Relations

  • PDT - Pacific Daylight Time

  • PST - Pacific Standard Time

  • TBA - To Be Announced

  • TBD - To Be Determined


Common Acronyms as Identifiers

Some acronyms identify an organization or person by shortening a long name into a pronounced acronym. Explore these common identifiers for organizations and dating.

  • FLAG – Foreign Language Association of Georgia

  • MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving

  • PAWS – Progressive Animal Welfare Society

  • PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Common Initialisms and Identifiers

Although it’s not unheard of for people to pronounce AARP as “arp” these days, these initialisms aren’t true acronyms — yet.

  • AA – Alcoholics Anonymous

  • AARP – American Association of Retired Persons

  • ADA – American Dental Association

  • AFL – American Football League

  • AMA – American Medical Association

  • APA – American Psychological Association

  • ESPN – Entertainment and Sports Programming Network

  • LDR - Long Distance Relationship

  • MLA – Modern Language Association

  • MOTOS - Member Of The Opposite Sex

  • MOTSS - Member Of The Same Sex

  • NBA – National Basketball Association

  • NFL – National Football League

  • NHL – National Hockey League

  • PGA – Professional Golfer’s Association

  • SPCA – Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

  • SO - Significant Other

  • SWF – Single White Female

  • SWM – Single White Male

  • WWE – World Wrestling Entertainment


Speak in Shorthand

Abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms are all fair game for becoming new words thanks to the anything-goes attitude of today’s wordsmiths. Who knows — you might even invent an acronym that becomes commonplace years from now.