Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A word formed by combining the initial letters of a multipart name, such as NATO from North Atlantic Treaty Organization or by combining the initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar from radio detecting and ranging.
  • noun Usage Problem An initialism.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Any abbreviation so formed, regardless of pronunciation, such as TNT, IBM, or XML.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a word formed from the initial letters of the several words in the name

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[acr(o)– + –onym.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

acro- + -onym c. 1943

Examples

  • In the book it states the letters in the title acronym stand for the four main components of productive meetings.

    PR.com Press Releases

  • The group, whose acronym is Spanish for "enough," said if the council members don't step down by Monday's council meeting, it will begin working for their recall.

    MercedSun-Star.com: front

  • Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA): This acronym is short for the "Super Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA): This acronym is short for the "Super Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA): This acronym is short for the "Super Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • Video Graphics Array (VGA): This acronym is short for the "Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA): This acronym is short for the "Super Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA): This acronym is short for the "Super Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • Video Graphics Array (VGA): This acronym is short for the "Video Graphics Array" display mode.

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  • The term acronym, although said to have originated some time in the 1940s, took time to achieve dictionary recognition.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol X No 3

Comments

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  • My worst pet peeve when it comes to language is the use of the word acronym. I often hear it used to describe any kind of abbreviation - when its original usage actually refers to an abbreviation that itself is pronounced as a word.

    I realize that some of the dictionary definitions linked here give both definitions; and I grant that acronym is an awesome word, so I can understand why people would want to use it more often. But it makes me sad to hear the meaningful distinction between these two words disappear.

    December 9, 2006