SSN Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Have you seen the word SSN around and wondered what it means? Click here to find the meaning of SSN and its history, so you don’t have to wonder.

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Have you heard the term SSN? If you are a citizen of the United States, it is incredibly important to know what this word means. It’s a crucial piece of information that affects your daily life in a big way. 

That’s why today’s word of the day is SSN. In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the definition of SSN, the history of the word, and why your SSN is important. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of the word and how to use it, so let’s get started.

What Is the Definition of SSN?

SSN is an acronym that stands for “social security number.” Every US permanent resident has one. The Canadian equivalent is the social insurance number (SIN), and the UK equivalent is the national insurance number (NIN). Here is the definition of a social security number:

  • A nine-digit number given to US citizens that acts as an identifying number for their person, specifically used to tax a person’s income and deliver retirement and medical benefits given by the US government to its citizens.

The social security administration (SSA) assigns each permanent resident in the US an SSN. The number represents you as a person to the social security administration so that they can keep track of whether or not you pay your taxes and so that they can give you the social security benefits you are owed. 

This number is assigned and given to you on your social security card, which has your social security information. It’s an incredibly important government document that every US citizen must have. 

How Are SSNs Created and Used?

SSNs are created by the US government and assigned to you once you successfully apply. Since 1972, the SSA has assigned these cards out of the city of Baltimore. 

Your SSN isn’t made via randomization. It is generated using three different numbers, each with a specific meaning. The first number is a set of three digits called the Area Number, and it represents the geographic area of the mailing address you put on your application. 

The second number is a two-digit number called the Group Number. This number is mostly for administrative purposes, and it signifies a large group of people that apply around the same time. The third number has four digits and is called the Serial Number. They run in numerical order from 0001 through 9999. 

These compiled three digits are separated by dashes, so your social security number will look something like this XXX-XX-XXXX, with the Xs representing a digit. 

Your SSN is a tool the government uses to track a person’s earnings, compute how many benefits they are entitled to, and compute how many benefits they have been given. It’s a general tracking number for tax and SSA purposes that help give a variety of benefits to Americans, specifically retirees. 

You don’t need to be a US citizen to get a social security number. SSNs are given to any permanent resident of the US who’s allowed to stay and work in America for an extended period. 

What’s the History of the SSN? 

The SSN was created back in 1936. After the Social Security Act was passed in 1935, the Social Security Office had to come up with a way to track the earnings and benefits of each person so that they could adequately deliver social security benefits. 

After about a year of debate about how the government should create the number and whether the Social Security Act was constitutional, they finally agreed. SSNs began to roll out in 1936 before collecting social security taxes in 1937.

Over time, the phrase “social security number” needed to be shorted for ease of use, so they shortened the term to SSN. The acronym mostly appears on government forms, employment applications, and other official documents. The SSN acronym is a great way to save space and make for efficient, easy-to-read forms. 

Since their creation, SSNs have been integral to how American society functions. You need to provide your social security number to your employer to get any job. It is a tool that can help prevent identity theft, it’s an identifier used by many government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and it has been important in getting Americans important life-saving benefits and services from the government.

What Are Some Examples of SSN Used in a Sentence?

Here are some example sentences that utilize the word SSN. 

I need to fill out my tax return, but I can’t remember my SSN or find my social security card anywhere!

My social security number won’t show up on my driver’s license, right?

I filled out form SS-5 to replace my SSN card. Will it change my social security number or not?

You have to give your SSN to any financial institution to make an account. 

Is my SSN the same as my taxpayer identification number? 

There isn’t any identifier in a person’s SSN that would indicate anything about immigration status or even U.S. citizenship. 

SSNs have helped millions of Americans get the social security benefits they need to retire confidently.

My SSN benefits are super easy! The money gets deposited right into my bank account every month. 

A Good Understanding of SSN

Now you understand the meaning of SSN, the program’s history, and how to use it. Now you can use the word SSN confidently in your writing and not be confused when you see it on a job application or government form. 

If you ever need a refresher on the meaning of SSN or its history, simply come back to this article for the information you need.


  1. Social Security Number | International Student and Scholar Services | University of Minnesota
  2. Social Security Number | Social Security Administration
  3. The Story of the Social Security Number | Social Security Administration