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The term backronym ( English [ ˈbækɹənɪm ]) denotes a word whose individual graphemes are only subsequently interpreted as initial letters of words and combined in their entirety to form a group of words. Backronym is a portmanteau word made up of back (English for backwards ) and acronym (English for acronym ).


Backronymes are to be distinguished from apronyms as a special form of acronyms :

  • An acronym is a made-up word that is formed from the first letters or syllables of several words in a word group (e.g. laser , radar , AIDS ).
  • In the case of an apronym , the first letters of a group of words form an acronym, which at the same time represents a real existing word form of a natural language (e.g. USA PATRIOT Act ).
  • In a backronym , individual letters of a real existing word are reinterpreted as the first letters of various words in a word group, giving the word the appearance of an acronym (e.g. marriage → e rrare h umanum e st (" To err is human")).


Backronymes often arise as a reminder, e.g. B. APGAR , or as an ironic reinterpretation of a word to point out certain aspects of what is being circumscribed. It should be noted that a reinterpretation of an acronym is not a backronym in the strict sense, as this is only the case for terms that are not an acronym, i.e. the abbreviation of an original word or an original word chain. These ironic reinterpretations often fall into the category of a joke , since it plays with the meaning of words.

German-language examples

  • APGAR - named after anesthetist Virginia Apgar ; Reinterpretation of the name as a memory jogger for the evaluation of newborns based on the following points: " A tmung, P ulsfrequenz, G rundtonus, A ussehen, R eflex".
  • FIAT - car manufacturer from Italy; jokeful reinterpreted " F Ehler I n A fill T rush", " F ÜR I TALIAN A nsprüche T auglich" or " F ÜR I taliener A usreichende T technic".
  • ISDN - a technical standard for a digital telecommunications network; reinterpreted: " I mmer S iemens, d enkt N ixdorf" or " I ch s before D a N umber" - in reference to the transmission of the caller's number (see CLIP ).
  • Team - " T oll! E in a nderer m eight's ".

English-language examples

  • APGAR - named after the anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar , reinterpretation of the name as a memory jogger for assessing the health of newborns based on the following points: A ppearance, P sleeve, G rimace, A ctivity and R espiration (see also German examples).
  • ACME - actually "summit, Zenit" is the trading name of a fictitious company, which over the years including as A C ompany did M anufactures E verything ( a company that produces everything ) was reinterpreted humorous.
  • Ford - named after Henry Ford , the founder of the Ford Motor Company, reinterpretations in the positive as F irst O n R ace D ay ( first in the race ) or in the negative as F ix O r R epair D aily ( repairs daily ) or F ound O n R oad D ead (found lying on the street )
  • SOS - does not come from S ave O ur S Oul ( save our souls ), but is in Morse code simply a striking and very easy to remember signal combination.

Latin examples

  • Marriage - family law cohabitation; jokingly: " E rrare h umanum e st." ( To err is human.)
  • Spa - English for 'Heilbad', 'Bad', named after the Belgian health resort Spa , is the abbreviation for Latin S anus P er A quam ("health through water") or S anitas P er A quam ("health through water") ).

Change of meaning in translations

  • RPG - Russian for R utschnoi P rotiwotankowy G ranatomjot (hand operable anti-tank grenade launchers), in English, the Backronym was prepared from RPG R ocket P ropelled G renade.


Backronymes are occasionally used in translated works from literature or dubbed films. This usually happens with acronyms that can be seen directly on an object, but would not lead to the same sequence of letters if translated literally into another language.

One example is TARDIS from the Doctor Who series .

Individual evidence

  1. David Wilton: Word Myths: Debunking Linguisitic Urban Legends. Oxford University Press, 2008.
  2. Detlef Borchers: Sparrow in hand. How ISDN overtook fiber optics . In: c't (Heise-Verlag), No. 2, 2018, p. 118 f.