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What Exactly Are Acronyms & Initialisms?

Many of you probably know the meaning of the term "acronym." However, you may not be familiar with the word "initialism." Although the two terms are very similar, they have different meanings. We are going to explain the difference between the two.

 

Acronyms

An acronym is defined as a word that is formed by using the initial letters of a name or by combining the initial letters of a series of words.

Many organizations use acronyms to abbreviate industry-specific terms relating to their particular field. Scientists often use them when referring to technical terms. For example, they may use the acronym "BLAST" instead of writing or pronouncing "Basic Local Alignment Search Tool."

The computer industry is renowned for their love of acronyms. In fact, the majority of computer terms are acronyms such as "RAM" which is a shortened version of "random access memory" and "SIMM" which means a "single in-line memory module."

You may feel like you're learning an entirely new language when you chat online. You will find internet users typing acronyms such as "brb" which means "be right back" or "afaik" as an abbreviated version of "as far as I know."

 

Initialisms

An initialism also refers to a word that is formed by using the initial letters of a name or the first letters of different words. The difference is that you pronounce the name of each separate letter instead of pronouncing the word. For example, HTML is an initialism used to indicate "hypertext markup language."

Certain initialisms have become so common that very few people know what they stand for. For example, how many of you realize that the term "DNA" actually stands for deoxyribonucleic acid?

Very common initialisms include F.B.I. which stands for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and C.I.A. which refers to the Central Intelligence Agency. If you're American, you will often use an initialism, "USA" to refer to your home country – the United States of America!