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Acronym vs anacronym

Acronym and anacronym are two words that are spelled and pronounced in a similar manner, but have slightly different meaning. In this post we’ll look at the difference between these two words, their origins, and some example of their use.

An acronym is an abbreviation that is formed by taking the initial letters of the words in a phrase and creating a new word that is pronounceable. Examples of acronyms are UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Sometimes, acronyms are used so often they become words. Examples of words that were once acronyms are radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) and scuba (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). The word acronym is not as old as you might think. It first appears in the 1940s, coined from the Greek word akron which means end and onuma meaning name.


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An anacronym is an acronym made of the initial letters of the words in a phrase that create a new word that is pronounceable, however, the original words that made up that acronym are unknown or forgotten by most people. Scuba might be considered an anacronym, as well as URL (Uniform or Universal Resource Locator). The word anacronym first appeared in the 1980s, it is a portmanteau of the words anachronistic and acronym. A portmanteau is a word that is composed by blending the sounds and the meaning of two different words.

Examples

But the STEM acronym that began to gain traction about a decade ago isn’t just a buzzword or a trend on the downswing, experts say. (The Dallas Morning News)

“They are working with us to defeat ISIL and are an important partner on a whole range of security issues in the region,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. (Reuters)

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