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An abbreviation consisting of the first letter or letters of words in a phrase (for example, IRS for Internal Revenue Service), syllables or components of a word (TNT for trinitrotoluene), or a combination of words and syllables (ESP for extrasensory perception) and pronounced by spelling out the letters one by one rather than as a solid word.


(Languages) an acronym in which each letter is pronounced separately, rather than the acronym being pronounced as a word


(ɪˈnɪʃ əˌlɪz əm)

an abbreviation or acronym formed from the initial letters of a group of words.


, alphabetism, acronym - Initialisms (sometimes called alphabetisms) are formed from the initial letters of a string of words and are pronounced as a sequence of letters, e.g. BYOB, USA, DVD. Acronyms are formed from the initial letters or parts of words in a sequence, but have the distinction of being pronounceable words, e.g. RADAR, SCUBA.
See also related terms for sequence.
References in periodicals archive ?
Yet the confusing collection of acronyms and initialisms, legal cases, terminology, and new legal risks makes the area a potential minefield.
Another consequence of the importance of the graphic code is the blurring of the boundary between acronyms and initialisms. Word-formations like VPILF (SARAH PALIN--VPILF A Vice President I'd like to ...), or gmilf--an acronym for Grandma I'd Like To F ...
There are numerous acronyms and initialisms that are not indexed, making the reading less than easy.
You're sure to find pleonasms with initialisms and acronyms, such as AC current, CAD design, DOS operating system and the HIV virus.)
A helpful list of initialisms appears at the start of the book and it closes with appendixes showing a map of the NAFO Convention area and a list of NAFO members.
Appended material includes a handbook of diplomatic terms, events, and organizations; acronyms and initialisms; and listings of top government officials and their terms of service.
DON HAUPTMAN'S April 1 article on his online language column ( contained April Fools' Day acronyms and initialisms. Some examples:
Initialisms that are spelled out in speech do not qualify as acronyms according to my usage: thus, for example, ATM fails to qualify since it is pronounced "A, T, M" rather than atom.
Acronym Finder ( offers definitions of more than 242,000 acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms. If it's technology related, CMP's TechEncyclopedia ( may be an even better choice, with definitions of more than 20,000 acronyms and other terms related to computers and the Internet.
Ad hoc abbreviations (or more formally, ad hoc initialisms) present their own difficulties.
The volume closes with an expansion of used initialisms. ([umlaut] Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR)