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The Australian National University

Acronyms

Thousands of acronyms occur in the English language: in conversation, on the radio and television, in newspapers, etc., they form a significant part of the lexicon. They are an important and ever-increasing part of today's communications.

What is an acronym? Strictly speaking it is a word formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as one word (the term comes from Greek akros `point' + onuma `name'). More loosely, it can also be an abbreviation (sometimes called initialisms) pronounced as a string of letters as in the case of NSW (New South Wales), BYO (bring your own), and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

The most interesting acronyms are probably those belonging to the first category. Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services) and Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), for example, are quintessential Australian acronyms evoking many of the images associated with our national ethos. It is interesting to speculate whether today Qantas, at least, is still recognised as an acronym. On the other hand the origin of the acronym Aids/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is universally recognised.

Some widely used acronyms include:

  • AIDAB
  • ATSIC
  • BILBY [Award]
  • CSIRO
  • DINK
  • EFTPOS
  • GATT
  • HECS/Hecs
  • Laser
  • NATO
  • NIMBY/nimby
  • PIN
  • RAM
  • Scuba
  • SIDS/Sids
  • SNAG
  • TAFE
  • UNICEF/Unicef
  • WACA

Using your dictionary or other reference materials discover the origins of the above acronyms.

See how many you can think of that relate to your environment, particularly your school.

Updated: 19 October 2010/ Responsible Officer:  Centre Director / Page Contact:  Web Publisher