Difference Between Acronym and Abbreviation

Main Difference – Acronym vs Abbreviation

Abbreviation refers to any shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase. Abbreviations may consist of initialisms, acronyms, contractions as well as some other shortened word forms. An acronym is a type of abbreviation where a new word is formed from the first letters of a series of words. All acronyms are abbreviations, but not every abbreviation is an acronym. This is the main difference between acronym and abbreviation. We’ll explore more differences between acronyms and abbreviations in this article. Difference Between Acronym and Abbreviation - infographic

What is an Acronym

An acronym is made from the first letters of a series of words. Acronym is often treated as a separate word. The most significant feature of an acronym is that it can be pronounced as if it a separate word. Acronyms contain both vowels and consonants since vowels facilitate the pronunciation of the word.

For example, we pronounce AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) as a single word, not as separate letters.  (/eɪdz/)  Acronyms are usually written in capital letters. However, some acronyms have been in the usage for so long that they are accepted as ordinary words. Words like (scuba – self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) and laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) are examples of such instances.

Some other examples of acronyms include,

NAT – North Atlantic Treaty Organization

RAM – Random Access Memory

FIFA – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football))

OPEC -Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

LOL – Laugh out loud

UNICEF – The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund

RIP – Rest in peace

SIM  – Subscriber identification module

In addition, not all acronyms are formed by the initial letters; some acronyms contain non-initial letters as well. For example, the word radar is the shortened form of radio detection and ranging.Difference Between Acronym and Abbreviation

What is an Abbreviation

Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or phrases. An abbreviation consists of a group of letters taken from the original word or phrase itself. A word can be abbreviated by using a lot of techniques. Acronym, initialism, and contractions are some of these methods.

An acronym is made out of the first letters of a series of words. It is pronounced as a separate word.


An initialism is also made out of the first letters of a series of words. The letters are pronounced separately.


A contraction is a shortened form of a word created by omitting certain sounds and letters.

Ex: Won’t, Isn’t, I’ve 

In addition, abbreviations also include shortened forms like Mr., Dr., Rev., Prof., St., etc.

Main Difference - Acronym vs Abbreviation

Difference Between Acronym and Abbreviation


Acronym is a type of abbreviation where a new word is formed from the first letters of a series of words.

Abbreviation refers to any shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase.


Acronym is pronounced as a separate word.

Some abbreviations are not pronounced as new words.


All acronyms are abbreviations.

But not every abbreviation is an acronym.

Image Courtesy:

“Mr.Pizza logo” By In Jun Hwang – Own work via  

“UNICEF Logo” By United Nations – United Nations (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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