Difference Between Acronym and Abbreviation

Acronym vs Abbreviation

Abbreviations and acronyms are short forms of words and names but they are not one and the same as there are differences and if you call and you cannot call an abbreviation an acronym whereas the reverse is true. If you cannot tell an acronym from an abbreviation, this article is for you.


The word abbreviation comes from Latin word breves, which means short. Thus an abbreviation is a shortened word of phrase. Normally an abbreviation of a word begins with the initial letter of the word and contains a group of alphabets from the word. For example, govt is the abbreviation for government while add refers to address.


On the other hand, an acronym is also a shortened form of a word or phrase but it is a bit different from an abbreviation in the sense that it takes up initials of all the words in the phrase or group of words to make it convenient for people. So National Aeronautics and Space Administration becomes NASA as people find it difficult to speak up the entire phrase and it is easier when writing also. In a sense, an acronym is an attempt to reduce the size of the phrase by drawing together different parts of the word. We would have been saying Greenwich Mean Time every time we referred to a time had the acronym GMT not been used. What if one had to say United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund every time one wished to talk about the organization? But people get away easily saying UNICEF which is not only easier but also very convenient.

Difference between Acronym and Abbreviation

People have been using the word RADAR for so many years without even realizing that it is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging. But we are all aware of the acronyms used for names of countries such as US and UK, and even feel comfortable with NY for New York and NJ for New Jersey. The golden rule to remember the difference between an acronym and abbreviation is that an acronym is formed taking up the first letter of the every word in a series of words such as AIDS for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome while this is not the rule with an abbreviation. Another difference lies in the use of periods in between the initials in case of an abbreviation. Thus the abbreviation of intelligence Quotient becomes I.Q and the abbreviation of Mister is written as Mr. If you are using the abbreviation of department, you have to put in period at the end of dept or else it will not be called an abbreviation. Another interesting difference is that some of the acronyms have in themselves become words included in the dictionary such as LASER and RADAR or even SONAR.

Acronym vs Abbreviation

• Abbreviation and acronym are two ways of shortening a long group of words or a large word.

• Periods are made use of when writing abbreviations

• Initials of all the words of the group are taken up to form an acronym