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What Are Acronyms?

Acronyms are a type of abbreviation where each word in a series or phrase forms a single word that's pronounced differently, like YOLO (You Only Live Once).

What are acronyms in grammar?

The English language has a true appreciation for its abbreviations. Acronyms, pronounced like akronim, are a type of abbreviation where each words in a series or phrase forms a new word (more specifically called an acronym).  

Types of abbreviations

Abbreviations refer to any word or series of words that have been shortened from its original form. There are four main types of abbreviations commonly used in English:

1. Acronym,

2. Initialism;

3. Shortening/truncation,

4. and Contractions.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out); YOLO (You Only Live Once), and SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) are each examples of acronyms. Note that an acronym shares the same meaning as the phrase/term it represents—the difference is in how it’s pronounced, and that it offers a more convenient way to refer to the exact same thing. Let’s take a gander at how acronyms differ from the other types of abbreviations, in the following sections.

Acronym vs. initialism

Compare the following:

Initialism: FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), FYI (for your information), LOL (laugh out loud, sometimes pronounced like lewl); BTW (by the way), BRB (be right back); ASAP (As Soon As Possible).


In English, initialisms are a type of abbreviation where each initial letter that makes up the phrase are spoken aloud individually, such as FBI or ASAP. By contrast, acronyms like NASA and LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) form new pronunciations altogether from the individual letters.  

Acronym vs. shortenings (or truncations)

Compare the following:

Shortening/truncation: Cont. (continued), Prof. (professor), Mr. (Pronounced mister), Dr. (doctor); and Mrs./Ms. (Mrs. is pronounced missus, where Ms. is spoken like miss.)

Acronym: NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), FOMO, SCUBA.

Initialism: FBI, BTW, ASAP.

With words that are shortened or truncated, as is the case with Dr., Prof., Mr., and other occupational honorific’s, the abbreviated version sounds the same as its original form, and the abbreviation itself is a trimmed version of the original form. Most often we use a period after to indicate its shortened/truncated form. This also notably differs from acronyms and initialisms because shortened abbreviations oftentimes do not represent a series of words in a term, but rather a single word chopped down (in most cases).

The other class of abbreviation are contractions: doesn’t, isn’t, aren’t, and so on. Contractions typically formed by merging words through an apostrophe, and removing part of the word itself.  Contractions are used all the time in conversation and writing; though when it comes to formal/academic writing, it’s best to avoid the contracted form of words.

List of commonly used acronyms in English

AIDS: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

Amphetamine: alpha-methyl-phenethylamine

AWOL: Absent WithOut Leave

FUBAR: F***ed Up Beyond Recognition

BOGO: buy one, get one (free)

SCUBA: self-contained underwater breathing apparatus

PIN: personal identification number

CAPTCHA: Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart

POTUS: President Of The United States

FLOTUS: First Lady Of The United States

SCOTUS: Supreme Court of the United States

SWAT: Special Weapons and Tactics

IMAX: Image Maximum

BAE: Before Anyone Else

MoMA: Museum of Modern Art

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format

Navy SEALS: Navy Sea Air Land forces

OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

WHO (used as an initialism or acronym): World Health Organization

NAFTA: North American Free Trade Agreement

UNICEF: United Nations Children’s Fund


DOA: Dead Upon Arrival

DOB: Date Of Birth

CDC: Centre for Disease Control

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder

IQ: Intelligence Quotient

MD: Doctor of Medicine

SUV: Sport Utility Vehicle

PS: Post Script (from Latin, postscriptum)

DND: Do Not Disturb

CST: Central Standard Time

PST: Pacific Standard Time

MST: Mountain Standard Time

AM: Ante Meridiem

PM: Post Meridiem

TBD: To Be Determined

TBA: To Be Announced

FYI: For Your Information

MBA: Master of Business Administration

HR: Human Resources

ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival

BTW: By The Way

BRB: Be Right Back

LOL: Laugh Out Loud

EOD: End Of Day

EOW: End of Week

Catch up on Gflex articles!


1. “Types of abbreviations”, accessed on January 19, 2023.

2. “What is an Acronym?”, accessed on January 19, 2023.

2. “List of Commonly Used Abbreviations”, accessed on January 19, 2023.

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