Alphabet Soup: Acronyms & Initialisms


25 August 2014

Is it an acronym or an initialism? Do you know the difference? Does it matter? 

Acronym: "A 'word' coined by combining the initial letter of each word that identifies an institution, a law, etc. Example: NARA, used as a short form for National Archives and Records Administration." (EE, Glossary, p. 819)

Initialism: "A coined 'word' created by combining the initial letter(s) of several words to identify a thing, place, or concept. Initialisms are written in all capital letters (or, by the canons of topography, in small capital letters), without periods between letters. Unlike acronyms, when an initialism is spoken, individual letters are pronounced." Example: OAH for Organization of American Historians. (EE, Glossary, p. 824)


Photo credit: "Alphabet Soup," CanStockPhoto ( : downloaded 4 August 2014), used under license.

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