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An acronym (from ancient Greek ἄκρος ákros , German 'top' , 'edge' and ὄνομα ónoma , Doric and Aeolian ὄνυμα ónyma , German 'name' ) is a special case of the abbreviation . Acronyms are created by reducing words or groups of words to their initial components.


There are two competing definitions of the term acronym :

According to the great German dictionaries, e.g. B. Duden and Truig , is an acronym for a short word composed of the first letters of several words, EDV (electronic data processing) being cited as an example. ADAC , PC and TÜV are acronyms, as they consist of the first letters of the expressions on which they are based. No acronyms are abbreviations such as Abb. , Lt. , Betr. or cpl.

Further definitions can be found in specialist linguistic lexicons : “An abbreviation formed from the initial letters or syllables of a word group or compound that is used as a word.” The linguist Hadumod Bußmann defines the term accordingly. In contrast to the first definition, not only initial letters but also (abbreviated) initial syllables are taken into account here.

Bußmann divides acronyms into different types:

  • Acronyms that are spelled out and pronounced with final emphasis, such as WM
  • Acronyms whose letters take on a syllabic value with an initial stress, such as NATO
  • Acronyms whose initials combine to form a phonetic word, like AIDS
  • Mixed forms of initials and syllables, such as trainee or BAföG .

Forms of the acronym

Initial word

Duden, Wahrig as well as Bußmann and Glück treat the initial word as a synonym for acronym . According to Duden and Wahrig, an initial word is a special form of the letter word (see below), which is composed only of the first letters, i.e. the initials of the words. So is, for example, the initial word LASER for L ight A mplification by S timulated E mission of R adiation . After Bußmann and Glück, the short syllable is also an acronym.

Names can also be used as the basis for initial words. When by A xel L ennart We nner- G reindeer named Alweg was also an association with "all roads" quite intended.

Syllable abbreviation

Syllable short words (even syllable words) are abbreviations consisting of the first syllables of the underlying expressions exist: CID for Kri minal po lizei, transformer for Tra ns fo rmator, Elko for El ektrolyt ko ends sator. These are related to the head words such as Auto for auto mobile, Antifa for Antifa ski tables action or battery for battery mulator, and the tail of words such as bus for Omni bus .

A similar acronym form is formed from the beginning of several words. For example, is Haribo for Ha ns Ri egel from Bo nn (confectioners) and Great Lakes Megalopolis for the region around the towns Chi cago and Pitts burgh in the United States. Compositions that are easy to speak are often used here.

More examples of syllable abbreviations:

  • Adidas - Adolf " Adi " Das sler
  • Aldi - Al brecht- Di discount
  • Stasi - Sta ats si certainty
  • Unimog - Uni salinization Mo gate G et up instrument
  • Nystatin - N ew Y ork Stat e In stitute

Special forms of the acronym


An apronym is an acronym that results in an already existing word . This means that potentially every word can become an apronym if the individual letters can be used as the first letter of a phrase. Most apronyms have a deliberate reference to the thing they designate. Examples:

  • BIOS , for the B asic I nput O utput S ystem, computer operating system; so that life ( ancient Greek βίος bios ) is breathed intothem, so to speak.
  • BUND , "for B and U nvironment and N aturschutz D erm" is an environmental organization based in Germany.
  • Elster , abbr. For " EL ektronische ST euer- ER clarification"; "Thieving" raven bird, which, according to folklore, brings glittering valuables to itself and collects it in the nest, is also considered a harbinger of doom in parts of Europe.
  • LAVES , abbr. For "Lower Saxony L andes a mt for Ve rbraucherschutz and food s ecurity" is the name of the Hanover architect Laves .

Apronyms often serve as names for EU funding programs or US laws. For example, ERASMUS stands for E u r opean community a ction s cheme for the m obility of u niversity s tudents or LEADER for L iaison e ntre a ctions de d éveloppement de l ' é conomie r urale . The acronym USA PATRIOT Act stands for U niting and S trengthening A merica by P roviding A ppropriate T ools R equired to I ntercept and O bstruct T errorism .

First letters do not always fit as suitable letters. Letters from the middle of a word are then used to find an apronym, for example in the EU research project BADGER . badger is the English word for ' Dachs ' and stands as a fitting Apronym for ro B ot for A utonomous un D he G round trenchless op ER ations, mapping and navigation for the construction of autonomous actions tunnel - robot with concrete mortar processing by a 3D -Printer .


The backronym [ ˈbækɹənɪm ] ("backwards apronym ") refers to words that have only subsequently been given the (often joking) meaning of an abbreviation. Examples:

  • Marriage - joking: Latin E rrare h umanum e st ' To err is human'
  • Team - jokingly: " T oll, e in a nderer m eight's"
  • Fiat - jokingly: " F ault i n a fill t rush"
  • Drag - originally probably from long pieces of skirt dragging on the floor; Today the term refers to both Dr essed a s a g irl (cf. Dragqueen ) and Dr essed a s a g uy (cf. Dragking ).

Layered acronym

An acronym can be multilayered (nested). An example is BDSM : B & D, D & S, S & M stand for B ondage & D iscipline, D omination & S ubmission, S adism & M asochism .

Recursive acronym

A recursive acronym is an acronym or abbreviation that refers to itself in the explanation of its meaning. Recursive acronyms are often found in computer technology. Examples:

  • GNU : G NU’s N ot U NIX
  • PHP : P HP: H ypertext P reprocessor
  • Wine : W ine I s N ot to E mulator
  • XNA : X NA’s N ot A cronymed

Word forms similar to acronyms

There are several different word forms that resemble the acronyms without satisfying either of the two definitions given.

Letter word / letter short word

A letter word is similar to the initial word, but is made up of any single letters of the full form of the words: for example, DAX as an abbreviation for D eutscher A ktieninde x , where the last letter of the abbreviated source word is taken into account.


The spelling of acronyms usually consists of a string of capital letters. In the case of acronyms that are pronounced like a word, however, a spelling has developed over time that is similar to that of normal nouns (e.g. Radar , Laser , Aids , Nato , Unicef ; but not KKW , SMS , HIV , USA ). Since acronyms are written without a period, in such cases neither the pronunciation nor the typeface can tell that it is originally an artificial word ; however, this reflects the pronunciation in the typeface.

Acronyms in the chat language

Acronyms are often used on the Internet to express an action or a mood. So LOL ( Laughing Out Loud ) the name when a chatter have to laugh. ROFL ( Rolling On [the] Floor Laughing ) is another step up, in which case the chatter can barely hold his own with laughter. Like these two examples, most chat acronyms are borrowed from the English language. Another commonly used acronym is AFK ( Away From Keyboard ), which is used to indicate a temporary absence. Also frequently used in forums are IMHO ( In My Humble / Honest Opinion ) and AFAIK ( As Far As I Know ).

Terms like “cu” or “l8r” are not acronyms, but homophonic abbreviations , that is, when read they sound like the sentence to be expressed ( see you , later ), but are not initial words.

Acronyms on the WWW

To mark words as abbreviations on websites , the two HTML elements abbr(from English abbreviation , 'abbreviation' ) and acronymare available. Screen readers recognize these elements. You no longer need to “guess” whether a word is an abbreviation, but adjust the pronunciation accordingly. Both elements can be assigned what the abbreviation stands for. This can then be played back by a screen reader instead of the short form. The choice between abbrand acronymgives the program an indication of whether the abbreviation should be read out as a word - acronym- or in individual letters - abbr-.

The World Wide Web Consortium recommends abbrusing it as a priority . However, this simplification comes at the expense of accessibility . Acronyms that should actually be spoken as words are no longer recognized as such.

Application examples

The abbreviations are marked as elements using start and end tags . The titleattribute is used to indicate the meaning. For reading programs that are not set up to read out the meaning, the choice of element matters.

<abbr title="Hypertext Markup Language">HTML</abbr>

The computer reads “Haa Tee Emm El”.

<acronym title="National Aeronautics and Space Administration">NASA</acronym>

With the label as acronym, the screen reader reads “Nasa” and not “Enn Aa Ess Aa”.

Specific aspects of the use of acronyms

In general, short words , including acronyms, are used with the same meaning as the expressions on which they are based (= full forms). In contrast to this, the plural can also be formed with -s . The word formation also opens up special possibilities for acronyms: So you can create a -ler -Derivation that is not possible with the full form: SPDler.

However, the principle of equivalence of full form and acronym with regard to their meaning assumes that the user is also familiar with the full form. If this is not the case, it can lead to a change in meaning and lexicalization . Lexicalization tendencies can be seen, for example, in the designation BAföG , which is mostly understood as a monetary benefit and no longer as the Federal Training Assistance Act behind it .

It is similar with "SMS": "SMS" means Short Message Services and describes the service that enables the sending of short messages. The message itself would be more of an “SM” (or “short message”). Nevertheless, it has become common to refer to the message as “SMS”, especially since the correct abbreviation (“ SM ”) is already used in common parlance.

Redundant acronym

There are critics who reject word formations such as LCD display , since the "D" in the abbreviation already stands for display ( Liquid Crystal Display ). The situation is similar with the HIV virus , where the “V” already stands for “virus”, the IGeL service (IGeL = individual health service), the ABM measure (ABM = job creation measure ), the CSS stylesheet (CSS = Cascading Style Sheet), the ISBN number (ISBN = International Standard Book Number ), the PDF format (PDF = Portable Document Format ) or the PIN number (PIN = Personal Identification Number).

For this reason, in German commercial law, a GmbH ( limited liability company ) is referred to as an mbH if the term “company” is already in the company's proper name (e.g. Württembergische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft mbH ).

In English, this redundancy is recursively referred to as "RAS syndrome" ( Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome ). These doublings can be seen rhetorically as a tautology (as a statement) or as a pleonasm (as an expression).

DIN-Norm ( German Institute for Standardization ) is often mistakenly mistaken for a redundant acronym, as the abbreviation “DIN” used to stand for “German Industrial Norm”.

See also


  • DIN 2340 (short forms for designations and names; formation of abbreviations and substitute abbreviations; terms and rules).
  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • 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 .

Web links

Wiktionary: acronym  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Initial word  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary . G. Freytag Verlag / Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Munich / Vienna 1965.
  2. Renate Wahrig-Burfeind (Ed.): True. German dictionary. Bertelsmann Lexicon Institute, Gütersloh / Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-577-10241-4 .
  3. Duden. German universal dictionary. 6th, revised and expanded edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-411-05506-7 .
  4. Helmut Glück (ed.), With the assistance of Friederike Schmöe : Metzler-Lexikon Sprach. 4th edition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-476-02335-3 .
  5. ^ Hadumod Bußmann : Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, keyword “Abbreviation”, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 .
  6. See bibliography and individual references
  8. What is the BADGER project?
  9. Robot BADGER Can Drill Underground and 3D Print Tunnels
  10. ^ About the term: Anja Steinhauer: Sprachökonomie durch Kurzworts. Education and use in professional communication . Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-8233-5361-6 , p. 52.
  12. Heide Wegener: The nominal inflection of German - understood as a learning object . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-484-31151-7 , p. 24.