acronym /ˈækrənɪm/

Most people are familiar with the word acronym as a word made from the initial letters of a phrase. For example, “radar” came from “radio detection and ranging” and “scuba” is an acronym of “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.”

RADAR

RADAR

Some folks also distinguish an acronym from an initialism, which is a word that is simply the prounciation of the letters. Thus, “FAQ” is not pronounced “fack” (/fæk/) but “eff-ay-queue” (/ɛfɑɪˈkju/). Similarly, “FBI” is not pronounced “fuhbih” but “eff-bee-eye” (/ɛfbiˈɑɪ/).

The first part of the word, the “acro-” comes from the Greek ακρο- meaning “a tip, point, extremity, peak, summit.” The second part, the “-onym” from the Greek ὂνομα, meaning “name.” An acronym is therefore a name from the tips of a phrase.

It’s a relatively new word that was first coined in the US in 1943.

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