Posted by Toni V.S. | 10:44 AM | , | 8 comments »

How many people can tell you--without a little thought--what U.N.C.L.E. (as in The Man From) sands for? A good many words we use today are in reality acronyms which were abbreviated and incorporated into our language as real words. In fact, they are so much a part of our daily lives we don't even realize they are there. Although some acronyms are purposefully thought up, most are abbreviations of other names or descriptions. Some have now become so common, they are no longer recognized as acronyms. They may be individual letters or parts of words, and generally fall into the following categories:

  1. Non-initials pronounced as a word
  2. A mixture of initials and non-initials
  3. Pronounced as a word or letters depending on context
  4. A combination of letters and words
  5. Pronounced as letters
  6. Names of letter made into a shortcut
  7. Shortcuts made into names
  8. Multi-layered acronyms
  9. Recursive acronyms (abbreviation refers to itself)
  10. Pseudo-acronyms using letters for real words
  11. Redundant initialisms

The following are some of the most common and more recognizable acronyms used today:

AIDS: acquired immune deficiency syndrome

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Scuba: self-contained underwater breathing apparatus

Laser: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

Gestapo: Geheime Staatspolizei (secret state police)

Interpol: International Criminal Police Organization

Radar: radio detection and ranging

Nabisco: National Biscuit Company

Necco: New England Confectionery Company

PAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

IRA: Individual Retirement Account

CD-ROM: Compact Disl-Read Only Memory

JPEG: Joint Phographics Expert Group

BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation

DBA: Deoxyribonuvleic Acid

OEM: Original Equipment Manager

IRA: Irish Republican Army

AAA: American Automobile Association

NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

3M: Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing

GIMP: Gnu Manipulation Program

IOU: I Owe You

K9: Canine

ATM: Automated Teller Machine

DSW: Designer Show Warehouse

HIV: Human Immunideficiency Virus

PUN: Personal Identification Number

VIN: Vehicle Identification Number

PHP: Personal Home Page

This is only a partial list, to recount all the acronyms in existence would take reams of paper, so I’ve only mentioned some of the most current ones. And now, I’m going to put this in a MEMO, sent it to HQ and get out of here PDQ!


  1. Mary Ricksen // August 7, 2011 at 1:27 PM  

    Well! What does U.N.C.L.E. stand for?
    I forgot to tell you the truth. Interesting subject!

  2. Mary Marvella // August 7, 2011 at 4:38 PM  

    Alphabet soup is best served in a bowl. I forget the letters unless they spell a word I know, and then I forget what each means. I am so challenged!

  3. Toni V.S. // August 7, 2011 at 6:00 PM  

    United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, Mary.

  4. Hildie McQueen // August 8, 2011 at 3:41 PM  

    I use acronyms daily since I work for the gov't. Some of them are second nature!

  5. Tamara LeBlanc // August 9, 2011 at 7:40 AM  

    LOVED this!!
    The list was great. And you're right, some of those were surprises to me - laser, Nabisco, radar? Had no idea:)
    Thanks for sharing!
    Have a wonderful day,

  6. Beth Trissel // August 9, 2011 at 7:50 AM  

    Very interesting and clever, Toni. I didn't know what U.N.C.L.E stood for, or all of these others either.

  7. Josie // August 9, 2011 at 8:53 AM  

    Who knew? Thanks for spelling out some acronyms I should have known (like Nabisco) but didn't.

  8. Pamela Varnado // August 9, 2011 at 9:07 AM  

    I have a military background, so acronyms were a way of life. This was my favorite. SOP: standard operating procedure.