Difference Between Mnemonic and Acronym

Mnemonic vs Acronym

It is important to know the difference between mnemonic and acronym as, during the process of learning, one apparently meets with much new information in the forms of words, phrases or chains of words. Some of this may be easy to learn whilst the rest of it would be quite challenging to learn and retain in your memory. Recalling what you learnt is an essential fundamental in the process of learning. When something is difficult to be retained in your memory, it would make it difficult to recall. To recall what you learnt easily, one must be blessed with an outstanding power of memory, which is not one and the same to every learner. This is where mnemonics and acronyms come into action. Both mnemonics and acronyms are ways of converting complicated words, phrases or word sequences into simple and easily comprehensive and retainable ones. Although both mnemonics and acronyms functions in a similar manner to help the learners to memorize some word strings easily, there is a distinctive difference between mnemonic and acronym that is explored in this article.

What is a Mnemonic?

Mnemonic, or formally known as a mnemonic device, is a technique designed for learners which aids to retain information. Its objective is to transfer, usually, a string of words, into a format that retention of the original form is better retrieved by the brain. That is to say, mnemonics transform data into easily retrievable formats making the original forms easier to be memorized. Mnemonics are commonly used to memorize long lists, quiet long phrases, and numerical patterns and they are generally seen in forms of short and simple poems, rhyming lines which are memorable or even as fake names. For example, the first two rhyming lines and the next fake name are used to memorize the colours of the rainbow. ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’ or ‘Run over your granny because it’s violent’ and ‘Roy G. Biv.’ These allow learners to retrieve the colours of the rainbow easily in the proper order when they take the first letter of each word; R for red, O for orange, etc.

What is an Acronym?

An acronym is a variety of abbreviation in the sense that it is a shortened word constructed by taking the first letters of each word of the words appearing in the sequence that you wish to memorize. The specialty in acronyms is that an acronym is a made up word and it is pronounced as a separate word, not by the name of the letter. Acronyms too are used to memorize long word strings that are otherwise difficult to be memorized. Unlike mnemonics, acronyms are a type of word formation process in English as they are considered as words. Moreover, all acronyms are written in upper case letters. For example, AIDS is a well-known acronym and it stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in length. We do not pronounce AIDS as /A-I-D-S/, but we rather pronounce it as /eɪdz/. Acronyms are usually taught as a means of mnemonics as it is similar to mnemonics in the function they perform, to help aid memorizing and retention. Some other examples include:

• FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation

• NEWS – North East South West

• JPEG – Joint Photographic Expert Group

• NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Difference Between Mnemonic and Acronym 

What is the difference between Mnemonic and Acronym? 

• Mnemonics are found in the form of rhyming lines, poems or as fake names while acronyms are made up words formed by all first letters of every word in a long phrase.

• Mnemonics are not acronyms, but acronyms could be considered as a type of mnemonics when both aid quick memorizing and easy retention.

• Mnemonics are not a type of abbreviation, yet acronyms are.

• Mnemonics are used to memorize anything that is difficult to memorize such as long phrases, word chains, numerical patterns, long lists and sequences of just about anything. Acronyms are used to memorize a string of words that make up the name of something.

• A mnemonic is not considered as a separate word, rather they are phrases. On the other hand, an acronym is considered as a separate word. Hence, it is pronounceable as a word.

Taking the above notions into consideration, it is comprehensive that although both mnemonics and acronyms serve a similar purpose, they are distinctly different.


Further Reading:

  1. Difference Between Acronym and Acrostic
  2. Difference Between Acronym and Abbreviation
  3. Difference Between Acronym and Initialism