Acronym vs. Initialism

There are a multitude of these short forms all over the place. They’re all acronyms right?
Nope, sorry. They’re not. Most of them are actually initialisms. They are quite similar, but they are still different.


Initialisms, if you didn’t guess already, are when you pronounce each single letter of the short forms. For FBI, no one says “febie” and no one says for CIA “sia”. One thing I’ve noticed is that Americans are very good at coming up with initialisms: I can think of at least 30. (If you don’t believe me; government agencies, universities, sports leagues, they all have them)


Acronyms are much more well known by the general public than initialisms. SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) and LASER (Light amplification by the stimulation of emitted radiation) are acronyms, cause we say them all as complete words, and not as their individual letters. I find scientists are quite fond of these.

Hopefully you won’t mix them up anymore. To be honest, I don’t mix the two up, I mix up acronyms and anachronisms (an object or expression in the wrong time and/or place). It’s really quite annoying, because most people know what an acronym is, but not many people know what an anachronism is. So I’m talking to someone, and we get into a conversation like the above post, and it goes a little like this:

“So did you know that FBI is actually an Initialism and not an anachronism?” Cue the strange glances and questions of my sanity. I meanwhile thought I said acronym, and so I don’t have a clue as to why they’re looking at me so strangely.
“Uh okay, but what’s an anachronism?”
“You said that FBI was actually an initialism and not an anachronism.”
“Ugh. I’ve done it again. Sorry, anachronism isn’t the word I want. What do you call words like SCUBA or LASER?”
“Yeah that’s it. Thanks.”
So yeah, that’s kinda annoying.



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