Acronym: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what an acronym is? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on acronyms, including the definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What is an acronym?

According to Collins English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, an acronym is a word that is made up of the first letters of words in a phrase, and that is pronounced as a word, not to be confused with an abbreviation or initialism. An initialism would be something like TNT or FBI, in which each letter is pronounced individually. This kind of abbreviation can be used in many different fields like chemistry, mathematics, economics, anthropology, and physics to make up a word of individual letters. A backronym is an acronym in which the word was used first, and the meaning was later given. An acronym is often written in capital letters to abbreviate a long phrase. Such abbreviations made from letters of a series of words are sometimes considered slang in the broader sense of acronym. Acronym is three syllables – ac-ro-nym, and the pronunciation of acronym is ˈækrənɪm. 

There may be some cases in which acronyms should be avoided, and some where they would be celebrated. This all depends on context.

Many different languages also contain words that mean acronym. You may notice that some of these translations of acronym look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that likely have the same root or language of origin, causing them to sound the same. The below list of translations of acronym is provided by Word Sense

  •  Russian: акро́ним‎ (masc.), сокраще́ние‎ (neut.)
  •  French: acronyme‎ (masc.)
  •  German: Akronym‎ (neut.)
  •  Maori: kupu rāpoto‎, pūtaukī‎
  •  Hebrew: ראשי תיבות‎
  •  Spanish: acrónimo‎ (masc.)
  •  Danish: akronym‎ (neut.)
  •  Romanian: acronim‎ (neut.)
  •  Finnish: kirjainsana‎, akronyymi‎
  •  Slovene: kratica‎ (fem.)
  •  Korean: 약어‎
  •  Catalan: acrònim‎ (masc.)
  •  Hungarian: betűszó‎, mozaikszó‎
  •  Czech: akronym‎ (masc.)
  •  Occitan: acronim‎ (masc.)
  •  Roman: akronim‎ (masc.)
  •  Japanese: 頭字語‎ (とうじご, tōjigo), アクロニム‎ (akuronimu), 略語‎ (りゃくご, ryakugo)
  •  Cyrillic: акроним‎ (masc.)
  •  Interlingua: acronymo‎, initiales
  •  Polish: akronim‎ (m-in), skrót‎ (m-in), skrótowiec‎ (m-in)
  •  Mandarin: 縮寫‎, 缩写‎ (suōxiě), 縮略詞‎, 缩略词‎ (suōlüècí), 略語‎, 略语‎ (lüèyǔ)
  •  Galician: acrónimo‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: acronimo‎ (masc.)
  •  Greek: ακρωνύμιο‎ (neut.)
  •  Dutch: acroniem‎ (neut.), letterwoord‎ (neut.)
  •  Swedish: akronym‎
  •  Portuguese: acrônimo‎ (masc.) (Brazil), acrónimo‎ (masc.) (Portugal), acrograma‎ (masc.)
  •  Irish: acrainm‎ (masc.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: acranaim‎ (masc.), geàrr-ainm‎ (masc.)
  •  Arabic: أَكْرُونِيم‎ (masc.)

What is the word origin of acronym?

According to Etymonline, the term acronym has been used since 1943. This comes from the suffix onym meaning name and the root acro, meaning highest or topmost.  These are Latin as well as Proto Indo European in origin. 

What are examples of acronyms?

An acronym can be used in many different contexts in the English language. Trying to use a word or literary technique in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize what it is, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this term of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of examples of acronym that can help get you started incorporating this tool into your everyday use.  Take a look at these acronym examples from Your Dictionary and see how many you know! 

  •  SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely
  •  AWOL – Absent Without Official Leave (or Absent Without Leave)
  •  NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  •  AIDS – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  •  IMAX – Image Maximum
  •  PIN – Personal Identification Number
  •  YOLO – You Only Live Once
  •  TASER – Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle
  •  RAM – Random Access Memory
  •  SCUBA – Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus
  •  BAE – Before Anyone Else
  •  FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency
  •  HUD – Department of Housing and Urban Development
  •  GIF – Graphics Interchange Format
  •  FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out
  •  AARP – American Association of Retired Persons
  •  SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  •  NATO – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  •  UNICEF – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
  •  ASAP – As Soon As Possible
  •  HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act
  •  PHAT – Pretty hot and tempting
  •  LASER – Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation
  •  WAC – Women’s Army Corps
  •  SWAT – Special Weapons and Tactics
  •  RADAR – Radio Detection and Ranging
  •  OPEC – Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
  •  POTUS – President Of The United States
  •  DARE – Drug Abuse Resistance Education
  •  LOL – Laugh Out Loud
  •  OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  •  NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement
  •  JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group
  •  SEAL – Sea Air Land (U.S. Navy)
  •  KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
  •  WASP – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
  •  BRB – Be Right Back

What are other literary techniques and devices?

There are many different grammatical and literary techniques and devices that you might see when you are reading poetry or prose. Knowing these devices is very important because they are always used in writing or speech for some purpose. Knowing these devices can help readers and listeners understand the speaker or author’s deeper meaning and why they are using such a device. Take a look at the below list of literary devices from Reedsy and see how many you know! Then try researching ones that are unfamiliar to you. 

  •  Synecdoche
  •  Frame story
  •  Tmesis
  •  Satire
  •  Hyperbole
  •  Anachronism
  •  Isocolon
  •  Anastrophe
  •  Symbolism
  •  Imagery
  •  Malapropism
  •  Repetition
  •  Allusion
  •  Hypophora
  •  Cumulative sentence
  •  Euphemism
  •  Litotes
  •  Tautology
  •  Dramatic irony
  •  Personification
  •  Anaphora
  •  Anthropomorphism
  •  Tragicomedy
  •  Flashback
  •  Allegory
  •  Zoomorphism
  •  Colloquialism
  •  Juxtaposition
  •  Alliteration
  •  Simile
  •  Metaphor
  •  Metonymy
  •  Motif
  •  Archetype
  •  Irony
  •  In Medias Res
  •  Exposition
  •  Paradox
  •  Foreshadowing
  •  Polysyndeton
  •  Tone
  •  Aphorism
  •  Soliloquy
  •  Point of view
  •  Onomatopoeia
  •  Chiasmus
  •  Oxymoron

Overall, the word acronym (əˈkrɒn ə məs) is a word made up of groups of letters of words using their first initial. These parts of a series of words are made of the initial letters of a multipart name to form a single word. Some style guides say to avoid these. 


  1. Examples of Acronyms | Your Dictionary 
  2. Acronym | Word Sense
  3. Acronym definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  4. acronym | Origin and meaning of acronym | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. 45+ Literary Devices and Terms Every Writer Should Know | Reedsy