Difference Between Acronym and Acrostic

Acronym vs Acrostic
 

Two very similar sounding words, acronyms and acrostics are easily confused with each other for the same reason. Although both appear to be the same, the key difference between acronym and acrostic is in their definitions itself; acronym is a kind of abbreviation while acrostic is a form of writing. 

What is an Acronym?

An acronym can be described as an abbreviation of a word that has been composed of the initial letters or components of a phrase or word. These components can be parts of words or individual letters. However, although an acronym is usually an abbreviation formed from the initial components of a phrase, in certain dictionaries, an acronym is often defined as a word in its original sense. In certain cases, an acronym is often given the same definition of an initialism, an abbreviation used as a string of initials. There is no universal standardization for such abbreviations and although their usage had been limited in the past, they came into wide usage during the 20th century. Acronyms can be viewed as a word formation process and is also a subtype of blending. Following are some examples of acronyms.

NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Laser – light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

FAQ – frequently asked questions

BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation

IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

What is an Acrostic?

An acrostic is a form of writing in which a recurring feature or the first word, syllable or letter in each paragraph or a line spells out a message or sentence. It can also be a poem. The term is derived from the French word acrostiche from post-classical Latin acrostichis which in turn is derived from the Greek word ἄκρος meaning “highest, topmost” and στίχος meaning “verse.” It is also used as a form of constrained writing and can also be seen to be used as a mnemonic device that aids memory retrieval. The most famous acrostic made in history is the acclamation made in Greek for JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, SAVIOUR that spell ICHTHYS, Greek for fish.

An example for an acrostic can be taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem titled “An Acrostic”

Elizabeth it is in vain you say

“Love not”—thou sayest it in so sweet a way:

In vain those words from thee or L.E.L.

Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:

Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,

Breath it less gently forth—and veil thine eyes.

Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried

To cure his love—was cured of all beside—

His follie—pride—and passion—for he died.

What is the difference between an Acronym and an Acrostic?

Although easily confused due to the appearance of the two words, an acronym and an acrostic are entirely different things. However, they are both capable of acting as mnemonics.

• An acronym is an abbreviation of a word that has been composed of the initial letters or components of a phrase or word. An acrostic is a form of writing in which a recurring feature or the first word, syllable or letter in each paragraph or a line spells out a message or sentence.

• An acronym cannot form a poem or a sentence whereas an acrostic can form a poem, a puzzle or a sentence.

 

Further Reading:

  1. Difference Between Acronym and Initialism
  • MarkySparky

    So, considering ICHTHYS, is it “an abbreviation of a word that has been composed of the initial letters or components of a phrase (or word)”? YES – so it’s an acronym. Is it “a form of writing in which a recurring feature or the first word, syllable or letter in each paragraph or a line spells out a message or
    sentence”? NO – (because it’s constructed from a recurring feature – the first letter – in a sequence of WORDS, not in paragraphs or lines) so it isn’t an acrostic as claimed. BUT – “An acronym cannot form a (poem or a) sentence whereas an acrostic can form a (poem, a puzzle or a) sentence.” So it is it not then an acronym after all, because it forms a sentence? I don’t think that would be a correct statement, because “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” isn’t really a sentence (it has no verbs) – it’s rather an ‘extended name’, or title. So according to your definitions, I would say that it comes out as an acroynm, not an acrostic.