Acronym vs. Abbreviation – The Difference Between

How to tell the difference between acronym and abbreviation

One would think that since an acronym and an abbreviation are both shortened forms of words, that they are synonyms and mean the same thing. While they are shortened forms, they are two completely different terms.

What is an acronym?

An acronym is an abbreviation for the name of an association, a building, an organization, a government agency or other name that consists of several words. Each of the words in a proper name begins with a capital letter. These letters form the acronym for the name. An example is ACH, which is an acronym for Automated Clearing House. It makes it a lot easier to use an acronym than to write out the full name or term. For example, Greenwich Mean Time is a very commonly used term, but it is a lot easier to use GMT when you write it after the time. It is also very convenient to use acronyms when speaking about an organization. Just imagine if you were speaking about the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. It really is a mouthful to say that name in full every time. Therefore it is more convenient just to say UNICEF instead.

What is an abbreviation?

An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word in which letters are omitted.  The word actually comes from the Latin language and means “short”.  An abbreviation usually starts with the same letter that is at the beginning of the word and then uses a selection of letters from the word. The abbreviation for government is “govt.” Some other examples of abbreviations are:

–          Boulevard – Blvd.

–          Street – St.

–          Avenue – Ave.

What is the difference between acronym and abbreviation?

Many of the words that have become a common part of the English language are actually acronyms. Did you know that the word “radar” is an acronym? It actually stands for Radio Detection and Ranging. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The rule for creating an acronym is to use the first letter of each word in the proper name.

An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word and the rule for creating acronyms do not apply. In an abbreviation, the first letter of the word is used and then some of the other letters in the word. UK, for example, is the abbreviation for United Kingdom. The abbreviation for department is dept. One of the main rules for abbreviations is that there has to be a period placed at the end.

Summary

  1. Acronyms and abbreviations are ways of shortening words.
  2. A period must be used at the end of an abbreviation.
  3. The first letters of each word is used to make an acronym.

 

  • Feather

    This is not correct information. ACH and GMT are not acronyms–they are initialisms, a form of abbreviation. Acronyms are initialisms/abbreviations that actually form a word (the suffix -nym means “word”).

  • Joey Buttafuoco

    I don’t get the part where it says that the UK is an abbreviation but then two sentences later it says that abbreviations must end with a period. All I see is a comma after their use of UK. But I am not the brightest guy either.