Quick English: Acronyms

Acronyms show up all over the place in the English language – in text messages, technology, and even in country names. You might not even realize that you're using them! They've been used in language for many centuries, and even showed up in Greek and Roman writing. Mostly, they were used to cut down on effort (as much writing was carved into stone) and to save room.


So what does an acronym really do? An acronym is an abbreviation that is formed with the first few letters in a phrase or word. Commonly, they are formed with the first letter of each word in a phrase. Did you know that when Roman names were written, they were always abbreviated (shortened to their first letter)?


Some acronyms are pronounced as words

Laser - light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (You can see why that got shortened!)
MoMA - Museum of Modern Art
Nabisco - National Biscuit Company
NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Radar - radio detection and ranging
Scuba - self-contained breathing apparatus


Others are pronounced as letters

ATM - automated teller machine
LOL - laughing out loud
BBC - British Broadcasting Company
BYOB - bring your own bottle
FAQ - frequently asked questions
IMO - in my opinion
TTYL - talk to you later
PIN - personal identification number
PS - post script (an addition to a letter or note)
PSA - public service announcement
TfL - Transport for London
TGIF - thank God it's Friday
UK - United Kingdom
USA - United States of America


Some are pronounced as a mix of letters and words

JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group (an image file)
SFMOMA – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


How often do you use acronyms in your daily life? Probably more often than you realize! They've been a common tool in our day-to-day English language conversations. So what acronyms do you use regularly? Are there any that we haven't included? Test your acronym skills with our quiz and see how you do!


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