Acronyms and abbreviations

At the online sales conference I attended today, we were bombared with a bewildering multitude of acronyms and abbreviations. There was much talk of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) – even knowing what these abbreviations stand for doesn’t necessarily help you to understand them, in some cases.

An acronym is a pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of words, such as NATO (North Altantic Treaty Organisation). Acro- is a combining form meaning something at a height, summit, top, tip, beginning or end. It comes from the Greek ακρος (akros) – extreme, topmost.

An abbreviation is a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase used in place of the whole. Abbreviate comes from the Latin Latin abbreviāre from the Latin brevis – brief.

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

6 Responses to Acronyms and abbreviations

  1. Adam says:

    Sometimes, an acronym is used so frequently, that it becomes a mainstream word by itself. For example: laser (light amplified by the stimulated emission of radiation), scuba (self contained underwater breathing apparatus)…and of course, snafu (situation normal…er…um..I think I’ll just let you look this one up on http://www.dictionary.com :-) ).

  2. TJ says:

    While I was (and still) looking for answers about the case of the watch and the writing on it, I got this site which I find really useful:
    http://asgle.classics.unc.edu/abbrev/latin/

    it’s a categorized page according to the initial letter for the most common abbreviations used in latin.

  3. TJ says:

    >> Adam: are you the one who submitted the puzzle of the japanese mirror?

  4. Adam says:

    No, it wasn’t me.

  5. TJ says:

    too bad :)
    I wonder what happened to them!
    They seem to be not japanese at all!

  6. Abbreviations and acronyms are becoming extremely frequent, if not even abused, in Italian too. Obscure ones and well-known ones alike are often pronounced according to their actual spelling, i.e. not letter by letter, as it would be better to do. This custom is so common that sometimes they are either created so to sound easily pronounceable or, alternatively, “mispronounced” in order to cope with clusters of adjoining consonants.
    For instance, Italy’s national football (soccer) federation, abbreviated FIGC, is typically referred to as “fi-gi-ci” (which sounds as “fee-jee-chee” in English), i.e. reading the first two letters consecutively and spelling the remaining two individually.
    I wonder whether this only happens in Italian.

    Abbreviations may also be very tricky when translated in other languages, as the sequence of their letters changes, according to the different arrangement of nouns, adjectives, etc. For instance, AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) turns into SIDA in Romance languages, as well as EEC (European Economic Community) is CEE, PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) is OLP, and so on. This may easily leave a foreign reader puzzled (and sometimes a native reader too!), with a high risk of misunderstanding the shortened expression.