Initials are Not Acronyms, Nor are Abbreviations

We live in a world where many of the meanings of words have been lost or corrupted to the point that nobody no longer knows what they mean.

One such word is the word “acronym”.

Most people under about 40 now think that any collection of initials is an acronym. But this is not true. An acronym is a set of initials that form a pronounceable word.

My proof is the following from


And the following from the Collins World Dictionary.


The following ARE NOT acronyms:

  • IBM (International Business Machines)
  • PSE (PhotoShop Elements)
  • SQL (Structured Query Language)
  • BBC (British Broadcasting Company)
  • ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company)
  • USA (United Stated of America)
  • IMHO (In my humble opinion)
  • BRB (Be right back)
  • IRL (in real life)
  • RTF (Rich text format)
  • NSW (New South Wales)
  • PC (Personal Computer)
  • CPU (Central Processing Unit)

These initials are simply initials. They do not form acronyms.

The following are acronyms:

  • AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)
  • ASAP (As soon as possible)
  • AWOL (Absent with out leave)
  • CAD (Computer Aided Design)
  • FIFO (First in, First out)
  • LOL (laughing out loud)
  • NAB (National Australia Bank)
  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)