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Inscription of the Zurich town hall with various abbreviations

The abbreviation is the shortened representation of a word or a group of words compared to the original length .

The synonym Abbreviatur is mainly used with reference to ancient scripts, see Abbreviatur (palaeography) , as well as for abbreviations in music, see Abbreviatur (music) .


The abbreviations include acronyms , acronyms , initialisms , strings of letters and abbreviations . What you abbreviate also depends on society. Abbreviations such as AB for answering machine or HP for homepage appear as regional, national or limited by the type of text . There are also abbreviations that are only used in a certain environment, for example in classified ads or articles in newspapers or in a specialist area that are not marked with the full name. Abbreviations make writing and reading easier, they serve for faster and more concentrated communication. In addition, abbreviations also serve to save space (e.g. in printed dictionaries). In non-literary colloquial German, the word abbreviation also describes an abbreviated way.

The word “Abbreviation” is abbreviated by the abbreviation “Abbrev.”. Abbreviations arise in regular usage in the written language and are sometimes included in everyday language (e.g. NATO , EU , UNO ). In technical languages, abbreviations often replace a large part of the terms and partly arise from the abbreviation of spoken technical terms.

History of the abbreviation

The Abbreviatur Deleatur , which is still used today to mark characters or text passages that are to be deleted
15th century Latin manuscript with abbreviations

Even the ancient inscriptions were rich in abbreviations. In Roman epigraphy , words were often shortened to the first letter. A double letter indicated the plural . Tiro , Cicero's secretary , developed his own shorthand , the Tironic notes . In books, cuts were used more cautiously. The only common abbreviations were a small superscript for a fancy final M and a dot- dash character at B (for -BUS ) and Q (for -QUE ). As early as the 2nd century AD, abbreviations for noun sacra (holy names) were used, for example ds for deus . In legal texts in particular, various abbreviations were used up to the 6th century - an inflation that was countered in 535 by a formal ban on these so-called notae iuris .

The conventions for abbreviations in medieval manuscripts also shorten common nouns sacra, continue some of the “Tironic notes” and expand the use of the abbreviations. The overwritten line is known, for example, which was used as a doubling sign of m in German Kurrent script until the 20th century. Some abbreviations were only used by a few or a few scribes.

The abbreviation system with the high demand for books became particularly rich in the late medieval universities . Although the need for abbreviations decreased significantly when printing with movable type, the type set of the Gutenberg Bible still includes many abbreviations.

Apart from these more technical abbreviations, abbreviations with initials were rare in social or political life. The association for the defense of anti-Semitism was briefly called the defense association, the National Liberal Party not about NLP, but Nat. Lib. Konrad Adenauer, born in 1876, abbreviated the FDP with Dem. And the SPD with Soz. Dem. From. It was common to abbreviate first names, which were often easy to decipher because of the small number of choices: Frd. for Friedrich, Joh. for Johann etc.

In the 20th century there was a plethora of abbreviations, which contemporaries already noticed. Large bureaucratic organizations (UN, SED states, public administrations in general, the military, large companies, etc.) in particular have or had extensive abbreviation systems in use. Since the Stasi reports should not be read so easily by everyone, they used up to 2,600 abbreviations. There are also preferences for abbreviations in individual national languages ​​and political systems, e.g. B. in the Russian language, Russian words and official names are often very long in their unabridged form. Abbreviations, like written language, require systems of convention so that they can be understood by the group concerned.

Spelling and pronunciation after the spelling reform 1996/2004/2006

Whether an abbreviation is written with or without a period basically depends on whether it is also pronounced abbreviated. Current rules and recommendations for spelling can be found, for example, in the new features of the German spelling reform of 1996 and in DIN 5008 .

Abbreviations without periods and spaces

If an abbreviation is spoken as a sequence of individual letters, it is generally written without a period and always without spaces .

Examples: ARD , GmbH , StGB , StVO , USSR , UNHCR

Units of measure are spoken as a word, but are still abbreviated without a point (note the space between the measure and unit to improve readability). In this space, it should be possible, a narrow , non-breaking space act (narrow non-breaking space) to prevent a line break at the location.

Example: 10 m (pronounced "10  meters ")

In the Bundeswehr , in the Austrian Armed Forces , in the Swiss Army and in civil and disaster control, constitutional bodies, ranks, weapons and vehicles are often abbreviated without a point.

Examples (Switzerland): Lt (lieutenant), Flösch (fire extinguisher), Hptm (captain), Stgw (assault rifle, but in Austria: StG), Spz (armored personnel carrier) ...

In the case of station names, the addition in brackets (in the example: (Westf)) and the abbreviation of the station type (in the example: Hbf) are written without a point.

Examples: Münster (Westf) Hbf, Brake (b Bielefeld), Herborn (Dillkr)

In Austria, for example , it is allowed to abbreviate as , for example , without periods and spaces .

Abbreviations with a point

Abbreviations that are not pronounced abbreviated are always abbreviated with dots, for example "Dr."

Multi-part abbreviations

If the abbreviation consists of several parts, there are narrow spaces between the parts in the German-speaking world , e.g. B., d. Hi. d. R., sat. gesch., but not in English (eg, am).

Exceptions are the widespread “etc.”, which appears instead of the actually correct “u. s. w. ”as an abbreviation for“ and so on ”, as well as the Latin variant“ etc. ”or“ & c. ”for“ et cetera ”as well as the increasing form“ etc. ” pp. ”for“ et cetera perge perge ”and“ ff. ”for“ following (pages) ”(not“ following ”). Further exceptions are "svw." For "as much as" and (especially in logic) "if and so" for "exactly if".

Line breaks within these abbreviations should be avoided. In word processing , a protected space or the omission of a space can be implemented. If available, the space should be narrower than that used between normal words, a narrow space that also prevents a line break at this point. In HTML , the code for a non-breaking space  , a small non-breaking space is  (decimal), or  (hexadecimal). Instead z. B.of “z. B. "or z. B.for" z. B. “can be used in HTML z. B.for“ z. B. “write.

However, the abbreviation with periods but no spaces is often used. This spelling cannot be found in the spelling rules in Duden.

At the end of a sentence

The last period of an abbreviation is merged with the period at the end of a sentence. However, the last period of an abbreviation does not merge with any other punctuation mark than the period.


  • A rainbow contains the colors blue, purple, red, etc. These are the spectral colors.
  • Spectral colors are the colors blue, purple, red, etc.!

Lower case abbreviations

Latin expressions that are abbreviated, in particular, are abbreviated with a point, although the abbreviations are often spoken in abbreviated form. They are usually written in lower case and would therefore not be easily recognizable as abbreviations without dots.

Examples: c. t., s. t. (see  academic time )

Mixing abbreviations

It is also possible to combine abbreviations with and without a point.

Examples: Gebäudereinigungsges. mbH

Plural formation and declension

The declination of abbreviations is rather unusual, but basically possible. A distinction is made between abbreviations with a point: If they end (undeclined) with the last letter of the full form (e.g. Hr. ), The declination ending is appended immediately (e.g. Hrn. (= Mr.)), otherwise the ending is added after the point ( e.g. century becomes century e (= centuries)), for abbreviations without a point the ending is simply added (e.g. the bra ). The same rules apply to the formation of the female form (e.g. (= professor)).

The plural of abbreviations is still occasionally expressed by a letter doubling (z. B. Jgg. (= Grades), et seq. (= Following)). In addition, unless the abbreviation is used unchanged, the plural is always formed by an appended s (e.g. CDs ), even if the full form has a different plural ending (e.g. AGs, PKWs ). Exceptions are only a few (mostly technical) abbreviations that are never used in the spoken language (e.g. RAe (= lawyers)). Especially with female abbreviations that you use the plural recommends s to prevent confusion with the singular (eg. As the GmbH / LLCs ).

writing style

Excessive use of abbreviations in normal reading texts (as opposed to technical or reference texts) is considered a bad writing style . For a better understanding, authors should use the written terms. Are abbreviations for phrases like “u. a. ”or for filler words , these can be avoided with elegant wording.

Abbreviations in individual subject areas

Abbreviations in the legal field

It is common practice for laws , ordinances and the like to save space and thus pages, abbreviations without periods and spaces and often also with inner capitals:

Examples: UStG ( Value Added Tax Act ), but BGBl. ( Federal Law Gazette )

In some legal commentaries , for example in Palandt , this procedure is radically expanded:

Examples: DarlN (for borrowers), ZusHang (for context), NebenBest (for ancillary provision).

This abbreviation serves the special requirements of these works. The 79th edition of Palandt already has around 3400 pages in thin print and is at the limit of manageability.

Some of these abbreviations are also used outside of the comments in everyday legal practice. For example: iSd (in the sense of), hM ( prevailing opinion ), aA (different opinion).

Abbreviations in the documentation

Special encyclopedias and manuals have their own abbreviation systems in order to save space and improve the overview. It is common, such abbreviations not commonly used mostly at the end or beginning of the book using a shortcut directory to explain.


ISO 4 defines clear abbreviations for abbreviations in publications, for example in bibliographies . This is particularly applied and used in scientific journals .

Abbreviations of parties

Most German parties have abbreviations. However, the use of such is not mandatory. It must be explicitly stipulated in the articles of association. The abbreviations are so prominent on ballot papers that an empty field is perceived as a disadvantage in the voting process.

In the three-party system of the 1960s and 1970s, the three major parties each had three-letter acronyms. The younger parties Green and Die Linke use different words as short names; the latter is identical to the long name .

While the situation in Austria and Switzerland is similar to that in Germany, the parties in Denmark use a single party letter as electoral list designation , which is not always used to abbreviate the party name.

Word types

The word types fall under the generic term abbreviation:

  • Acronym : word created from letters of several words or several parts of words that can be pronounced as a separate word.
  • Letter chain : a series of letters that cannot be pronounced as a word.
  • Initial word : word formed from the first letters of several words.
  • Abbreviation: a defined sequence of letters as identification, for example security abbreviation and a variety of codes ; In shorthand , an abbreviation is a fixed and strongly abbreviated abbreviation, usually in the form of a character
  • Short term : arisings by abbreviating or omitting parts of words word.
  • Syllable word : such as Persil or Buga.

Acronyms and initial words belong to the generic term short words , while the letter strings only fall under the general term abbreviations .

See also

Portal: Abbreviations  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of abbreviations


  • DIN 2340 (short forms for designations and names; formation of abbreviations and substitute abbreviations; terms and rules).
  • Paul Arnold Grun : Key to old and new abbreviations , floor plan of the Genealogy Volume 6, CA Starke, Limburg 1966.
  • Anja Steinhauer and Josef Werlin: Duden - The Dictionary of Abbreviations [Electronic Resource]: Over 50,000 national and international abbreviations and acronyms with their meanings , 6th edition. Bibliographisches Institut GmbH, Mannheim 2011, ISBN 978-3-411-90269-9 .
  • Anton Schäfer : Abbreviations, terms, suggested citation (acronyms; international introduction and extensive collection of abbreviations) . 1st edition. Verlag Österreich , Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-7046-5112-9 .
  • Heinz Koblischke: Small book of abbreviations: [6500 abbreviations and acronyms from science, technology, economy, politics, culture and sport] , bibliograph. Inst., Leipzig 1990, ISBN 3-323-00035-8 .
  • Pascal Ladner : Abbreviations . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , Sp. 41-43.
  • Raimund Schmelzer: B. d. Abbrev .: The Book of Abbreviations. 2nd Edition. Gute Gesellschaft Verlag mbH, Düsseldorf 2011, ISBN 978-3-9809429-8-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Abbreviation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Julia Boek: taz?sachen: FEZ on the ALM with ALE from ALDI. In: The daily newspaper . June 4, 2019, accessed June 9, 2019 .
  2. a b c d e Abbreviations. Language knowledge> Spelling rules> Abbreviations. In: Retrieved April 24, 2019 .
  3. ↑ List of Abbreviations. (PDF) In: October 2018, accessed April 24, 2019 .
  4. Bundesheer - Glossary - Glossary. Retrieved April 24, 2019 .
  5. Military Abbreviations - sorted by abbreviation. July 27, 2010, accessed April 24, 2019 .
  6. 43rd edition of the ÖWB
  7. Amelie Solbrig: Bilingual Microtypography: A set of rules for German / English typesetting. Diploma thesis, HTWK Leipzig, 2008, p. 58.
  8. Plural and inflection of abbreviations .
  9. Compare § 6 (2) PartG (PDF)
  10. WORLD: Free horizon fails: No new ballot papers . August 23, 2016 ( [accessed March 30, 2019]).