Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or lengthy phrases. You'll find them in almost every discipline and area of life, from commonly used abbreviations in names or titles, such as Mr. for Mister or Pres. for President, to less commonly used abbreviations, such as the short version of the word abbreviation itself, which is abbr.
List of Commonly Used Abbreviations
There is more than one type of abbreviation. An acronym is a new word created from the initial letters of a long name or phrase, for example, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). An initialism is where a long phrase is abbreviated to its initial letters but the letters are pronounced individually, not spoken as a word - for example, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). An initialism can be considered a type of acronym.
The U.S. is itself a well-established abbreviation, as are the shortened forms of the 50 states, like NY for New York. As you will see in the following list of commonly used abbreviations they exist in all areas of life from medicine to military and geography to baking.
Written and verbal communication often includes these abbreviations:
- approx. - approximately
- appt. - appointment
- apt. - apartment
- A.S.A.P. - as soon as possible
- B.Y.O.B. - bring your own bottle, used for parties where guests are expected to bring their own drinks or restaurants that don't sell alcohol.
- c/o - care of, used when sending mail to someone who's not at their usual address
- dept. - department
- D.I.Y. - Do it yourself
- est. - established
- E.T.A. - estimated time of arrival
- min. - minute or minimum
- misc. - miscellaneous
- Mr. - Mister
- Mrs. - Mistress (pronounced Missus)
- no. - number
- R.S.V.P. - Répondez, s'il vous plait, this initialism comes from the French for "please reply." It's used on invitations to parties and events and is intended (as it says) to be responded to with a "yes, we will attend," or "no, we will not."
- tel. - telephone
- temp. - temperature or temporary
- vet. - veteran or veterinarian
- vs. - versus
Cooking and Baking
Abbreviations are also necessary for measurements for cooking and baking - after all, your cake won't come out very well if you don't know the difference between:
- tsp or t - teaspoon/teaspoons
- tbs, tbsp or T - tablespoon/tablespoons
- c - cup/cups
- gal - gallon
- lb - pound/pounds
- pt - pint
- qt - quart
If you want to find your way around, you better know location abbreviations such as:
- Ave. - Avenue
- Blvd. - Boulevard
- Cyn. - Canyon
- Dr. - Drive
- Ln. - Lane
- Rd. - Road
- St. - Street
- E - east
- N - north
- NE - northeast
- NW - northwest
- S - south
- SE - southeast
- SW - southwest
- W - west
Academic and Job Titles
Abbreviations often show up in describing academic and job titles. For example:
- BA - Bachelor of Arts
- BS - Bachelor of Science
- MA - Master of Arts
- M.PHIL or MPHIL - Master of Philosophy
- JD - Juris Doctor
- DC - Doctor of Chiropractic
- PA - Personal Assistant
- MD - Managing Director
- VP - Vice President
- SVP - Senior Vice President
- EVP - Executive Vice President
- CMO - Chief Marketing Officer
- CFO - Chief Financial Officer
- CEO - Chief Executive Officer
The advent of the internet brought about a whole new range of abbreviations into our daily lives. For the sake of brevity, our texts, tweets, and chats are now made up many abbreviations. For example:
- ACE - a cool experience
- AD - awesome dude
- AFAIK - as far as I know
- AFK - away from keyboard
- ANI - age not important
- BRB - be right back
- CUL - see you later
- CWYL - chat with you later
- IIRC - if I recall/remember correctly
- IQ - ignorance quotient
- LOL - laugh out loud
- NP - no problem
- ROFL - rolling on the floor laughing
- TY - thank you
- WC - wrong conversation
These are just a handful of innumerable abbreviations that are used online and on our phones.
During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a number of agencies to stimulate job growth in the United States. Known as "alphabet agencies," these are some of the most famous abbreviations today.
- AAA - The Agricultural Adjustment Act. This act was created in 1933 to compensate farmers for not planting crops as a way to increase the demand for certain agricultural products and raise prices. By 1936, the Supreme Court ruled that the act was to be voided.
- CCC - The Civilian Conservation Corps. Single men between 18-25 were selected to form this corps, which would work on conserving wildlife and national preservation areas, in addition to planting trees and fighting erosion.
- CWA - The Civil Works Administration. Four million people were employed by the CWA to work in renovation and construction jobs such as building repair, road building, and other infrastructural work.
- FDIC - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Since banks were widely distrusted after the many bank failures during the depression, this alphabet agency was created to encourage public confidence in banks again by insuring customers against losses of up to $5,000 if the bank happened to fail.
- FHA - The Federal Housing Administration. This organization was created to help people secure loans to buy houses.
- NRA - The National Recovery Administration. In 1933, the NRA was created to attempt to aid deflation and encourage market competition, in order to restore the economy. Unfortunately, the administration did not stimulate industrial production, although investor and consumer confidence were restored.
- SSA - The Social Security Administration. The Social Security Act, administered by the Social Security Administration, created a national pension for retired people as well as unemployment insurance and government aid for single mothers, children, and handicapped persons.
Understanding Latin-based Abbreviations
Looking at Latin, the root of much of the English language is a good way to decipher abbreviations. The most common abbreviations that we use in day-to-day life are derived from this ancient language. For example:
- AM/PM - AM, which we use to denote morning, is an abbreviation for ante meridiem (before noon), and PM stands for post meridiem (after noon).
- AD - The era in which we live, AD, is actually an abbreviation for Anno Domini, or "The Year of Our Lord."
Latin has also gifted us with other abbreviations we use so frequently that, at times, we forget what they stand for. For instance:
- e.g. - You will often see the abbreviation e.g. before someone gives an example. It stands for exampli gratia, which means, "example given."
- etc - "Etc", often seen at the end of long lists, is short for etcetera, which means "and other things."
- i.e. - Another popular abbreviation we use in daily life, i.e. stands for id est, meaning, "that is."
- n.b. - This is sometimes written at the end of a communication that needs special attention. It stands for nota bene, which means "take notice," or "note well."
- P.S. - At the end of a letter or email, people will often add a P.S. to include an additional comment or thought. It is short for post script, which means "written after."
- viz - Another Latin abbreviation you may see is "viz", which is short for videlicet, meaning "namely."
Abbreviations Save Time
Abbreviations are a common part of our lives, they save us time and space in our written communication. In other words, almost anything you want to do, from official documents to text messages, will require you to know an abbreviation or two. Remember that although an abbreviation usually consists of a letter or group of letters taken from a word or phrase, that's not always the case, especially in the case of measurements. Continue exploring abbreviations by learning how to make them plural.