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232 language/english/etymology/acronym.p


This article is from the Puzzles FAQ, by Chris Cole chris@questrel.questrel.com and Matthew Daly mwdaly@pobox.com with numerous contributions by others.

232 language/english/etymology/acronym.p

What acronyms have become common words or are otherwise interesting?


The following is the list of acronyms which have become common nouns.
An acronym is "a word formed from the initial letter or letters of each
of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term" (Webster's Tenth).
A common noun will occur uncapitalized in Webster's Tenth.

Entries in the following table include the year in which they first
entered the language (according to the Tenth), and the Merriam-Webster
dictionary that first contains them. The following symbols are used:

NI1 New International (1909)
NI1+ New Words section of the New International (1931)
NI2 New International Second Edition (1934)
NI2+ Addendum section of the Second (1959, same as 1954)
NI3 Third New International (1961)
9C Ninth New Collegiate (1983)
10C Collegiate - Tenth Edition (1993)
12W 12,000 Words (separately published addendum to the Third, 1986)

asdic Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee (1940, NI2+)
dopa DihydrOxyPhenylAlanine (1917, NI3)
fido Freaks + Irregulars + Defects + Oddities (1966, 9C)
jato Jet-Assisted TakeOff (1947, NI2+)
laser Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (1957, NI3)
lidar LIght Detection And Ranging (1963, 9C)
maser Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (1955, NI3)
nitinol NIckel + TIn + Naval Ordinance Laboratory (1968, 9C)
rad Radiation Absorbed Dose (1918, NI3)
radar RAdio Detection And Ranging (ca. 1941, NI2+)
rem Roentgen Equivalent Man (1947, NI3)
rep Roentgen Equivalent Physical (1947, NI3)
scuba Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (1952, NI3)
snafu Situation Normal -- All Fucked (Fouled) Up (ca. 1940, NI2+)
sofar SOund Fixing And Ranging (1946, NI2+)
sonar SOund NAvigation Ranging (1945, NI2+)
tepa Tri-Ethylene Phosphor-Amide (1953, 9C)
zip Zone Improvement Plan (1963, 9C)

Below are blends that technically are also acronyms:

alnico ALuminum + NIckel + CObalt (1935, NI2+)
avgas AViation GASoline (1943, NI3)
biopic BIOgraphical PICture (12W)
boff Box OFFice (1946, NI3)
canola CANada Oil + Low Acid (1979, 10C)
ceramal CERAMic ALloy (ca. 1948, NI2+)
cermet CERamic METal (1948, NI2+)
comsymp COMmunist SYMPathizer (ca. 1961, 9C)
cyborg CYBernetic ORGanism (ca. 1962, 9C)
dorper DORset horn + blackhead PERsian (1949, NI3)
elhi ELementary school + HIgh school (1948, 9C)
gox Gaseous OXygen (1959, 9C)
hela HEnrietta LAcks (1953, 9C)
kip KIlo- + Pound (1914, NI2)
linac LINear ACcelerator (1950, 9C)
loran LOng-RAnge Navigation (ca. 1932, NI2+)
lox Liquid OXygen (1923, 9C)
mascon MASs CONcentration (1968, 9C)
maximin MAXImum + MINimum (1951, 9C)
minimax MINImum + MAXimum (1918, 9C)
modem MOdulator + DEModulator (ca. 1952, 9C)
motocross MOTOr + CROSS-country (1951, 9C)
napalm NAphthenic and PALMitic acids (1942, NI2+)
parsec PARallax SECond (ca. 1913, NI1+)
redox REDuction + OXidation (1828, NI2)
selsyn SELf-SYNchronizing (1936, NI2+)
shoran SHOrt-RAnge Navigation (ca. 1932, NI2+)
silvex SILVa + EXterminator (1961, 9C)
sitcom SITuation COMedy (1965, 9C)
teleran TELEvision-RAdar Navigation (1946, NI2+)
telex TELeprinter EXchange (ca. 1943, 9C)
vidicon VIDeo + ICONoscope (1950, NI3)
wilco WILl COmply (ca. 1938, NI3)

Acronyms from other languages:

agitprop AGITatsiya + PROPaganda (Russian, ca. 1926, NI2+)
flak FLiegerAbwehrKanonen (German, 1938, NI2+)
gestapo GEheime STAatsPOlizei (German, 1934, NI2+)
gulag Glavnoe Upravlenie ispravitel'notrudovykh LAGerei (Russian, 1974, 9C)
kolkhoz KOLlektivnoe KHOZyaistvo (Russian, 1921, NI2)
moped MOtor + PEDal (Swedish, ca. 1955, 9C)
sambo SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya (Russian, 1972, 9C)
tokamak TOroidal'naya KAMera s AKsial'nym magnitnym polem (Russian, 1965, 9C)

Selected near misses:

athodyd Aero-THermODYnamic Duct (1945, NI2+) -- blend
awol Absent WithOut Leave (1919, NI2+) -- usually capitalized
benday BENjamin DAY (1903, NI1+) -- blend
deet Di-Ethyl Tolumide (1962, 9C) -- pronunciation of D. E. T.
dew Distant Early Warning (1953, 9C) -- only in phrase "dew line"
echovirus Enteric Cytopathogenic Human Orphan VIRUS (1955, 9C) -- blend
hi-fi HIgh FIdelity (1948, NI2+) -- hyphenated
ibuprofen Iso-BUtyl PROpionic PHENyl (1969, 12W) -- PH pronounced f
jaygee Junior Grade (1943, NI3) -- pronunciation of J. G.
jayvee Junior Varsity (1937, NI3) -- pronunciation of J. V.
jeep General Purpose (1940, NI2+) -- pronunciation of G. P.
nazi NAtionalsoZIalist (German, 1930, NI2) -- shorten & alter
nystatin New York STATe + -IN (1952, NI3) -- extraneous suffix
op-ed OPposite EDitorial (1970, 9C) -- hyphenated
pixel PIX + ELement (1969, 10C) -- blend
pj's PaJamas (1951, NI3) -- punctuated
reovirus Respiratory Enteric Orphan VIRUS (1959, 9C) -- blend
sci-fi SCIence FIction (1955, 9C) -- hyphenated
siloxane SILicon + OXygen + methANE (1922, NI3) -- blend
tradevman TRAining DEVices MAN (ca. 1947, NI3) -- blend
updo UPswept hairDO (1946, NI2+) -- blend
veep Vice President (1940, NI2+) -- pronunciation of V. P.
warfarin Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation + coumARIN (ca. 1950, NI3) - blend
yuppie Young Urban Professional + -PIE (1983, 9C) -- extraneous suffix

Acronyms that should be in Webster's Tenth:

fifo First In, First Out (NI2+)
lifo Last In, First Out (NI2+)
nomic NO Metal In Composition (NI3) (John Bulten)
quango QUAsi-Non Governmental Organization (12W)
shazam Solomon Hercules Atlas Zeus Achilles Mercury (12W)
tacan TACtical Air Navigation (12W)

Self-referential acronyms:

gnu Gnu's Not Unix
nbi Nothing But Initials
swan System Without A Name

Supposed (but not real) acronyms:

fuck For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
posh Port Out, Starboard Home
spiff Sales Productivity Incentive Fund
tip To Insure (should be Ensure) Politeness (or Promptness)
wog Worthy (Wealthy) Oriental Gentleman


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