Acronym vs. Abbreviation vs. Initialism: What’s the Difference?  - Deepstash
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An abbreviation is a way to shorten a phrase. Many common abbreviations tend to shorten the word being referenced by literally shortening the word but not creating a new one. Here are some abbreviation examples:

  • Ave., which is an abbreviation for “avenue”
  • Dec., which is an abbreviation for “December”
  • Etc., which is an abbreviation for “et cetera”
  • Photo, which is an abbreviation for “photograph”
  • Exam, which is an abbreviation for “examination”


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An acronym is a type of abbreviation that shortens a phrase by combining the first letter (or letters) of each word in the phrase to form a new pronounceable word. Here are some acronym examples:

  • NASA, which stands for National Aeronautical and Space Administration. To form the acronym NASA, you take the first letter of each of the words in the phrase “National Aeronautical and Space Administration” and then pronounce the collection of letters as a new word—we pronounce the term as “nah-suh” and not the individual letters “N-A-S-A.”
  • FOMO, which stands for “fear of missing out”
  • LASER, which stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”
  • RADAR, which stands for Radio Detection And Ranging


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An initialism is another type of abbreviation similar to an acronym—but not exactly the same. Initialisms also use the first letter of each word in the phrase, but instead of combining the letters to form a new word, like with “NASA,” you pronounce each letter individually. Here are some examples:

  • VIP, which stands for “very important person”
  • DVD, which stands for “digital versatile disc”
  • ATM, which stands for “automatic teller machine”
  • AM and PM, which stand for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem”
  • RSVP, which stands for “répondez s’il vous plait


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Types of Abbreviations

Technically, acronyms and initialisms are types of abbreviations. Not all abbreviations, though, are acronyms or initialisms—those terms refer to specific types of abbreviations formed from taking the first letters of words in a longer phrase or name. 

The real confusion comes when determining which of those types of abbreviations are acronyms and which are initialisms. Since initialisms are similar to acronyms, many people say that “acronym” can be a blanket term that also covers initialisms, as points out. A lot of people do use the word “acronym” to refer to an initialism that technically is not an acronym because it’s not pronounced as a word.


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