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Encyclopedia > Abbreviation

An abbreviation (from Latin brevis "short") is a shortened form of a word or phrase. Usually, but not always, it consists of a letter or group of letters taken from the word or phrase. For example, the word "abbreviation" can itself be represented by the abbreviation "abbr." or "abbrev." Image File history File links Question_book-3. ... For other uses, see Latin (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Word (disambiguation). ... Look up phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Types of abbreviations

Apart from the common form of shortening one word, there are other types of abbreviations. These include acronym and initialism (including three-letter acronyms), apocope, clipping, elision, syncope, syllabic abbreviation, and portmanteau. Look up acronym, initialism, alphabetism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... TLA is a three-lettered abbreviation for Three-Letter Abbreviation. ... An apocope or apocopation is a type of metaplasm that refers to a word formed by removing the end of a longer original word. ... In phonetics, clipping is the process of shortening the articulation of a phonetic segment, usually a vowel. ... In music, see elision (music). ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A portmanteau (IPA: ) is a word or morpheme that fuses two or more words or word parts to give a combined or loaded meaning. ...

Syllabic abbreviation

Related article: Clipping (morphology)

A syllabic abbreviation (SA) is an abbreviation formed from (usually) initial syllables of several words, such as Interpol for International police, but should be distinguished from portmanteaux. They are usually written in lower case, sometimes starting with a capital letter, and are always pronounced as words rather than letter by letter. For other uses, see Clipping. ... For the computer operating system, see Syllable (operating system). ... A word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... A portmanteau (IPA: ) is a word or morpheme that fuses two or more words or word parts to give a combined or loaded meaning. ... Minuscule, or lower case, is the smaller form (case) of letters (in the Roman alphabet: a, b, c, ...). Originally alphabets were written entirely in majuscule (capital) letters which were spaced between well-defined upper and lower bounds. ... Majuscules or capital letters (in the Roman alphabet: A, B, C, ...) are one type of case in a writing system. ... Look up pronunciation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Use in various languages

Syllabic abbreviations are not widely used in English or French, but are common in certain languages, like German and Russian. The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ...

They prevailed in Germany under the Nazis and in the Soviet Union for naming the plethora of new bureaucratic organizations. For example, Gestapo stands for Geheime Staats-Polizei, or "secret state police". This has given syllabic abbreviations a negative connotation, even though they were used in Germany before the Nazis, such as Schupo for Schutzpolizist. Even now Germans call part of their police Kripo for Kriminalpolizei. Syllabic abbreviations were also typical of German language used in the German Democratic Republic, for example, Stasi for Staatssicherheit ("state security", the secret police and secret service) or Vopo for Volkspolizist ("people's policeman"). Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, commonly refers to Germany in the years 1933–1945, when it was under the firm control of the totalitarian and fascist ideology of the Nazi Party, with the Führer Adolf Hitler as dictator. ... The   (contraction of Geheime Staatspolizei: “secret state police”) was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. ... The Kriminalpolizei was the professional detective service of Germany between 1936 and 1945. ... “East Germany” redirects here. ... Logo of East Germanys Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS or Stasi) / Ministry for State Security This article is about Stasi, the secret police of East Germany. ...

Some syllabic abbreviations from Russian that are familiar to English speakers include samizdat and kolkhoz. The English names for the Soviet "Comintern" (Communist International) and "Milrevcom" (Military Revolution Committee) are further examples. Samizdat, book published by Pathfinder Press containing a collection of forbidden Trotskyist Samizdat texts. ... A kolkhoz (Russian: IPA: ), plural kolkhozy, was a form of collective farming in the Soviet Union that existed along with state farms (sovkhoz). ... The Comintern (Russian: Коммунистический Интернационал, Kommunisticheskiy Internatsional – Communist International, also known as the Third International) was an international Communist organization founded in March 1919, in the midst of the war communism period (1918-1921), by Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), which intended to fight by all available means, including... Military Revolutionary Committee (Russian: ) was the name for military organs under soviet (council)s during the period of the Russian Revolution. ...

Orwell's novel 1984 uses fictional syllabic abbreviations like "Ingsoc" (English Socialism) to evoke the use of language under the Nazi and Soviet regimes. Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 [1] [2] – 21 January 1950), better known by the pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. ... This article is about the Orwell novel. ...

East Asian languages whose writing uses Chinese-originated ideograms instead of an alphabet form abbreviations similarly by using key characters from a term or phrase. For example, in Japanese the term for the United Nations, kokusai rengō (国際連合) is often abbreviated to kokuren (国連). Such abbreviations are called ryakugo (略語) in Japanese. SAs are frequently used for names of universities: for instance, Beida (北大, Běidà) for Peking University (Beijing), Yondae (연대) for the Yonsei University, Seouldae (서울대) for the Seoul National University and Tōdai (東大) for the University of Tokyo. East Asia Geographic East Asia. ... A Chinese character. ... UN and U.N. redirect here. ... Peking University (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: ), colloquially known in Chinese as Beida (北大, BÄ›idà), was established in 1898. ... Peking redirects here. ... Yonsei University is a private university located in Seoul, South Korea. ... Not to be confused with the University of Seoul. ... Todai redirects here. ...

Syllabic abbreviations in names of organizations

Syllabic abbreviations are preferred by the US Navy as it increases readability amidst the large number of initialisms that would otherwise have to fit into the same acronyms. Hence DESRON 6 is used (in the full capital form) to mean "Destroyer Squadron 6," and COMNAVAIRLANT means "Commander, Naval Air Forces, Atlantic". Naval redirects here. ... Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations formed from the initial letter or letters of words, such as NATO and XHTML, and are pronounced in a way that is distinct from the full pronunciation of what the letters stand for. ... DESRON is the USN abbreviation for Destroyer Squadron. ...

Style conventions in English

In modern English there are several conventions for abbreviations and the choice may be confusing. The only rule universally accepted is that one should be consistent, and to make this easier, publishers express their preferences in a style guide. Questions which arise include those in the following subsections. Note: This page or section contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... An Identity Standards Manual page—for the graphic design branch of corporate identity design and branding. ...

Lower case letters

If the original word was capitalized, then the first letter of its abbreviation should retain the capital, for example Lev. for Leviticus. When abbreviating words spelled with lower case letters, there is no need for capitalization, therefore no need for a consistent rule.

Periods (full stops) and spaces

A period (full stop) is sometimes written after an abbreviated word, but there is much disagreement and many exceptions.

There is never a stop/period between letters of the same word. For example, Tiberius is abbreviated as Tb. and not as T.b..

In formal British English it is more common to write abbreviations with full stops if the word has been cut at the point of abbreviation but not otherwise: for example, Street"St[reet]" — becomes "St."[citation needed], but "Saint""S[ain]t" — becomes "St"[citation needed]. British English (BrE, BE, en-GB) is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere in the Anglophone world. ...

In American English, the period is usually added if the abbreviation might otherwise be interpreted as a word, but some American writers do not use a period here. Sometimes, periods are used for certain initialisms but not others; a notable instance in American English is to write United States, European Union, and United Nations as U.S., EU, and UN respectively. For other uses, see American English (disambiguation). ... UN and U.N. redirect here. ...

A third standard removes the full stops from all abbreviations (both "Saint" and "Street" become "St") .

Acronyms that were originally capitalized (with or without periods) but have since entered the vocabulary as generic words are no longer abbreviated with capital letters nor with any periods. Examples are sonar, radar, lidar, laser, and scuba. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Backronym and Apronym (Discuss) Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations, such as NATO, laser, and ABC, written as the initial letter or letters of words, and pronounced on the basis of this abbreviated written form. ... This article is about underwater sound propagation. ... For other uses, see Radar (disambiguation). ... A FASOR used at the Starfire Optical Range for LIDAR and laser guide star experiments is tuned to the sodium D2a line and used to excite sodium atoms in the upper atmosphere. ... For other uses, see Laser (disambiguation). ... A scuba diver in usual sport diving gear SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. ...

Spaces are generally not used between single letter abbreviations of words in the same phrase, so one almost never encounters "U. S.".

When an abbreviation appears at the end of a sentence, use only one period: The capital of the United States is Washington, D.C.

Plural Forms

To form the plural of an abbreviation, a number, or a capital letter used as a noun, simply add a lowercase s to the end.

  • A group of MPs
  • The roaring '20s
  • Mind your Ps and Qs

To form the plural of an abbreviation with periods, a lowercase letter used as a noun, and abbreviations or capital letters that would be ambiguous or confusing if the 's' alone were added, use an apostrophe and an s.

  • A group of Ph.D.'s
  • The x's of the equation
  • Sending SOS's

While some authors use the apostrophe in all plural abbreviated forms, it is generally best avoided except as above to prevent ambiguity with the possessive form.[1] [2] [3]

Conventions followed by publications and newspapers

In the United States

Publications based in the U.S. tend to follow the style guides of the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press. The U.S. Government follows a style guide published by the U.S. Government Printing Office. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is a highly regarded style guide for American English, dealing with questions of style, manuscript preparation, and, to a lesser degree, usage. ... The Associated Press, or AP, is an American news agency, the worlds largest such organization. ... ... The logotype of the United States Government Printing Office In the United States, the Government Printing Office (GPO) provides printed (and now electronic) copies of documents produced by and for all federal agencies, including the Supreme Court, the Congress, and all executive branch agencies like the FCC and EPA. Court...

However, there is some inconsistency in abbreviation styles, as they are not rigorously defined by style guides. Some two-word abbreviations, like "United Nations", are abbreviated with uppercase letters and periods, and others, like "personal computer" (PC) and "compact disc" (CD), are not; rather, they are typically abbreviated without periods and in uppercase letters. A third variation is to use lowercase letters with periods; this is used by Time Magazine in abbreviating "public relations" (p.r.). Moreover, even three-word abbreviations (most U.S. publications use uppercase abbreviations without periods) are sometimes not consistently abbreviated, even within the same article.

The New York Times is unique in having a consistent style by always abbreviating with periods: P.C., I.B.M., P.R. This is in contrast with the trend of British publications to completely make do without periods for convenience. The New York Times is a daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed internationally. ...

In Britain

Many British publications follow some of these guidelines in abbreviation:

  • For the sake of convenience, many British publications, including the BBC and The Guardian, have completely done away with the use of full stops or periods in all abbreviations. These include:
    • Social titles, like Ms or Mr (though these would usually not have had full stops — see above) Capt, Prof, etc.;
    • Two-letter abbreviations for countries ("US", not "U.S.");
    • Abbreviations beyond three letters (full caps for all except initialisms);
    • Words seldom abbreviated with lower case letters ("PR", instead of "p.r.", or "pr")
    • Names ("FW de Klerk", "GB Whiteley", "Park JS"). A notable exception is the newspaper The Economist which writes "Mr F. W. de Klerk".
    • Scientific units (see Measurement below).
  • Acronyms are often referred to with only the first letter of the abbreviation capitalised. For instance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation can be abbreviated as "Nato" or "NATO", and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome as "Sars" or "SARS" (compare with "laser" which has made the full transition to an English word and is rarely capitalised at all).
  • Initialisms are always written in capitals; for example the "British Broadcasting Corporation" is abbreviated to "BBC", never "Bbc". An initialism is similar to acronym but is not pronounced as a word.
  • When abbreviating scientific units, no space is added between the number and unit (100mph, 100m, 10cm, 10°C). (This is contrary to the SI standard, see below.)

For other uses, see BBC (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Guardian. ... The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd and edited in London. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Backronym and Apronym (Discuss) Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations, such as NATO, laser, and ABC, written as the initial letter or letters of words, and pronounced on the basis of this abbreviated written form. ... NATO 2002 Summit in Prague The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, the Atlantic Alliance or the Western Alliance, is an international organisation for collective security established in 1949, in support of the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, DC, on 4 April 1949. ... SARS redirects here. ... For other uses, see Laser (disambiguation). ... Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations formed from the initial letter or letters of words, such as NATO and XHTML, and are pronounced in a way that is distinct from the full pronunciation of what the letters stand for. ...

Miscellaneous and general rules

  • Plurals are often formed by doubling the last letter of the abbreviation. Most of these deal with writing and publishing: MS=manuscript, MSS=manuscripts; l=line, ll=lines; p=page, pp=pages; s=section, ss=sections; op.=opus, opp.=opera. This form, derived from Latin is used in Europe in many places: dd=didots. "The following (lines or pages)" is denoted by "ff". One example that does not concern printing is hh=hands.
  • A doubled letter also appears in abbreviations of some Welsh names, as in Welsh the double "l" is a separate sound: "Ll. George" for (British prime minister) Lloyd George.
  • Some titles, such as "Reverend" and "Honourable", are spelt out when preceded by "the", rather than as "Rev." or "Hon." respectively. This is true for most British publications, and some in the United States.
  • It is usually advised to spell out the abbreviation where it is new or unfamiliar to the reader (UNESCO in a magazine about music, because it refers to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, whose work does not concern the music).

For other uses, see Latin (disambiguation). ... Point, in typography, may also refer to a dot grapheme (e. ... A hand (or handbreadth) is a unit of length measurement, usually based on the breadth of a male human hand and thus around 1 dm, i. ... Welsh redirects here, and this article describes the Welsh language. ... David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, OM (January 17, 1863–March 26, 1945) was a British statesman and the last Liberal to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. ... UNESCO logo UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established in 1945. ...


The International System of Units (SI) defines a set of base units, from which other "derived" units may be obtained. The abbreviations, or more accurately "symbols" (using Roman letters, or Greek in the case of ohm) for these units are also clearly defined together with a set of prefixes, themselves symbolised (abbreviated) with Roman letters (except only for micro, which uses the Greek letter µ), denoting powers of ten. The system is internationally recognised. Periods are not used, except as described below. Unit symbols do not have plural forms. “SI” redirects here. ... A multimeter can be used to measure resistance in ohms. ...

Units are written either in full, including the base units and their prefixes, or with all symbols. When a unit is written in full, it is written in all lower case. For example, megaampere for MA.

There should never be a period after or inside a unit; both '10 k.m.' and '10 k.m' are wrong — the only correct form is '10 km' (only followed with a period when at the end of a sentence).

A period "within" a compound unit denotes multiplication of the base units on each side of it. Ideally, this period should be raised to the centre of the line, but often it is not. For instance, '5 ms' means 5 millisecond(s), whereas '5 m.s' means 5 metre·second(s). The "m.s" here is a compound unit formed from the product of two fundamental SI units — metre and second.

There should always be a (non-breaking) space between the number and the unit — '25 km' is correct, and '25km' is incorrect.

The case of letters (uppercase or lowercase) has meaning in the SI system, and should never be changed in a misguided attempt to follow an abbreviation style. For example, "10 S" denotes 10 siemens (a unit of conductance), while "10 s" denotes 10 seconds. Any unit named after a person is denoted by a symbol with an upper case first letter (S, Pa, A, V, N, Wb, W), but spelt out in full in lower case, (siemens, pascal, ampere, volt, newton, weber and watt). By contrast g, l, m, s, cd, ha represent gramme, litre, metre, second, candela and hectare respectively. The one slight exception to this rule is that the symbol for litre is allowed to be L to help avoid confusion with an upper case i or a one in some typefaces — compare l, I, and 1. In orthography and typography, letter case (or just case) is the distinction between majuscule (capital or upper-case) and minuscule (lower-case) letters. ... This article is about the number one. ... “Font” redirects here. ...

Likewise, the abbreviations of the prefixes denoting powers of ten are case-sensitive: m (milli) represents a thousandth, but M (mega) represents a million, so by inadvertent changes of case one may introduce (in this example) an error of a factor of 1 000 000 000. When a unit is written in full, the whole unit is written in lowercase, including the prefix: millivolt for mV, nanometre for nm, gigacandela for Gcd.

The above rules, if followed, ensure that the SI system is always unambiguous, so for instance mK denotes millikelvin, MK denotes megakelvin, K.m denotes kelvin.metre, and km denotes kilometre. Forms such as k.m and Km are ill-formed and technically meaningless in the SI system, although the meaning might be inferred from the context.


After World War II, the British greatly reduced their use of the full stop and other punctuations after abbreviations in at least semi-formal writing, while the Americans more readily kept its use until more recently, and still maintain it more than Britons. The classic example, considered by their American counterparts quite curious, was the maintenance of the internal comma in a British organization of secret agents called the "Special Operations, Executive" — "S.O.,E" — which is not found in histories written after about 1960. Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000...

But before that, many Britons were more scrupulous at maintaining the French form. In French, the period only follows an abbreviation if the last letter in the abbreviation is not the last letter of its antecedent: "M." is the abbreviation for "monsieur" while "Mme" is that for "madame". Like many other cross-channel linguistic acquisitions, many Britons readily took this up and followed this rule themselves, while the Americans took a simpler rule and applied it rigorously. For the Thoroughbred racehorse of the same name, see English Channel (horse). ...

Over the years, however, the lack of convention in some style guides has made it difficult to determine which two-word abbreviations should be abbreviated with periods and which should not. The U.S. media tend to abbreviate two-word abbreviations like United States (U.S.), but not personal computer (PC) or television (TV), which is[citation needed] a source of confusion. Many British publications have gradually done away with the use of periods in abbreviations completely.


The following list contains a selection from the Latin abbreviations that occur in the writings and inscriptions of the Romans. ... Examples of sigla in use in the Middle Ages: This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it. ... Based on a British encyclopaedia published in 1911, this is a list of abbreviations in use at the time. ... This list contains acronyms, initialisms, and pseudo-blends. ...

External links

  • Abbreviations.com — a human edited database of acronyms and abbreviations
  • Acronym Finder — a human edited database of acronyms and abbreviations (over 550,000 entries)
  • AuctionSlanguage.com — a human edited database of auction related acronyms and abbreviations

  Results from FactBites:
Abbreviation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1833 words)
Abbreviation (from Latin brevis "short") is strictly a shorter form of a word, but more particularly, an abbreviation is a letter or group of letters, taken from a word or words, and employed to represent them for the sake of brevity.
Syllabic abbreviations are not widely used in English or French, but are common in German.
Syllabic abbreviations are preferred by the US Navy as it increases readability amidst the large number of initialisms that would otherwise have to fit into the same acronyms.
  More results at FactBites »



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