Informant Podcast: Where Family is First!

Acronyms vs. Intialisms

It has come to our attention (via Nate the Zyngaman) in Episode 3, we stated that MW, FF, IE, etc are “acronyms” they are in fact “initialisms”. Ooops, our bad.

For all you English majors.  Here is more detail from

In writing, an abbreviation is any shortened form of a word or phrase.

Note, however, that there are types of abbreviations; the most common being acronyms and intialisms.

  • acronym – (a type of abbreviation)
    A word formed from the initial parts (letters OR syllables OR arbitrary parts) of a name.
    Examples: NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)
  • initialism – (a type of abbreviation)
    A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter being pronounced separately.
    For example, “BBC” (British Broadcasting Corporation), or “PBS” (Public Broadcasting System).

The key difference between an acronym and an initialism is that an acronym forms a new word, while an initalism does not.
For example, you say “nay-to” for NATO; this means you are saying a word, as opposed to saying each letter (ehn-ay-tee-oh).
So “NATO” is an acronym. But “U.K.” is an intialism for United Kindom: you say each letter individually (you don’t say “yuk”, so you know it’s not a word). Also, the periods are a dead-giveaway that’s it’s an intialism…

Fun Stuff. If you are into this sort of thing.

  • According to the above, “ASS” could be either acronym or an initialism:

    ASS Acetylsalicylic Acid
    ASS Allocation de Solidarité Spécifique
    ASS Applescript Studio
    ASS Argininosuccinate Synthetase

    ASS Australian Special Services
    ASS Aarskog-Scott Syndrome

    Hmmm….~Chainsaw Chester

  • Nice little tidbit, and very good to know. Most common folk will not even know what an initialism is but will know what you mean when you call FF, IE or MW an acronym. 🙂

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