Mike MacDonagh's Blog

Somewhere in the overlap between software development, process improvement and psychology

The difference between initialisms and acronyms

Yes “initialisms” is a real word and not all abbreviated terms are acronyms! Taking the first letter (or syllable) of a set of words and combining them is generally an initialism. For example EETC = Estimated Effort To Complete and it is not an acronym!

DOS = Disk Operating System and although it’s an initialism it’s also an acronym. That’s because the resulting “word” is pronounced as a single term.

Acronym: An abbreviation composed of the initial letters or syllables of a compound term and which is pronounced as a single word

Initialism: 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.

So all acronyms are initialisms but not all initialisms are acronyms. Both are abbreviations and the difference is in how they are pronounced.

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3 responses to “The difference between initialisms and acronyms

  1. Pingback: UNTHINK – first impressions and screenshot « The Mac Daddy

  2. Pingback: Manipulating web content in Excel, or, My Excel can haz ajax? « The Mac Daddy

  3. Pingback: EAC = Estimated cost at Completion « The Mac Daddy

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