80 Acronym Examples You Should Know

Acronyms make communication easier, but who can keep track of what they mean? We can, and now you can too with these common acronym examples.

Learn these acronym examples ASAP

Sometimes we have a lot to say, but little time to say it. That’s where acronyms come in and help speed things up. What exactly is an acronym? It’s a word comprised of the first initials of the other words, which is then pronounced as its own word. Acronyms are created to shorten long phrases and speed up communication, much like abbreviations and initialisms.

While these terms are similar, they do have distinct differences to note. Abbreviations shorten a word or phrase without creating a new word to say (think of “avenue” being abbreviated to “ave.”). Initialisms are words comprised of the first letter of phrases, but you say the individual letters instead of combining them to make a new word (think “RSVP“—you don’t create a new word when reading it aloud).

You’ve likely seen these acronyms in everyday life mixed in with common texting abbreviations. But what exactly do they mean? Here’s a quick guide to keep you in the know and help you communicate faster (we also included some common abbreviations and initialisms for reference).

Common acronyms

AM/PM Abbreviations for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem”
ASAP As soon as possible
BOGO Buy one, get one
BOPUS Buy online, pick up in store
ICYMI An abbreviation meaning “in case you missed it”
FOMO Fear of missing out
FWIW An abbreviation meaning “for what it’s worth”
LASER Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation
Ms. Commonly considered an abbreviation for “miss,” but technically it’s not an abbreviation for anything. The period is there to indicate that it’s a valid title for adults to use.
P.S. An abbreviation for “postscript”
PIN Personal identification number
RADAR Radio detecting and ranging
RIP Rest in peace (this can also be an initialism, as some people say “r” “i” “p”)
SCUBA Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
SMART Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound (commonly used when setting goals)
SNAFU Situation normal, all fouled up
SOHCAHTOA Acronym used in mathematics to remember the trigonometric functions sine, cosine, and tangent.
SONAR Sound navigation and ranging
SOS Commonly assumed to stand for “save our ship”, but technically, the international distress signal doesn’t stand for anything
TASER Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle
VIN Vehicle identification number
WD-40 Water Displacement, 40th formula
YOLO You only live once
ZIP Zone improvement plan

Computer and Internet acronyms

AJAX Asynchronous JavaScript And XML
CAPTCHA Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart
CD-ROM Compact Disc Read-Only Memory
DVD Digital Versatile Disc
Fios Fiber Optic Service
GIF Graphics Interchange Format
JPEG Joint Photographic Experts Group
JSON JavaScript Object Notation
PNG Portable Network Graphics
RAM Random Access Memory
SIM Subscriber Identity Module (as in a SIM card)
URL An initialism that stands for “Uniform Resource Locator”
WiFi An abbreviation commonly thought to stand for “Wireless Fidelity”, but technically, it doesn’t stand for anything

Military and government acronyms

AWOL Absent without leave
CONUS The Continental United States
FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency
FLOTUS First Lady of the United States
FOIA Freedom of Information Act
HIPPA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
HUD Department of Housing and Urban Development
ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
OCONUS Outside the Continental United States
OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
POTUS President of the United States
SCOTUS Supreme Court of the United States
SWAT Special Weapons And Tactics
WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

Medical acronyms

AIDS Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
COVID-19 Coronavirus disease of 2019
CPAP Continuous positive airway pressure
ICU Intensive care unit
NICU Neonatal intensive care unit
Preop An abbreviation for “preoperative”
Postop An abbreviation for “postoperative”
ROM Range of motion
SARS Severe acute respiratory syndrome
STAT An abbreviation for “statim,” which is Latin for “immediately”
UTI Urinary tract infection

Brand and organizational acronyms

ABBA The name of the famous Swedish pop group combines the first initial of its members’ names—Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid.
Aflac American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus
AT&T An initialism for “American Telephone and Telegraph”
BAFTA British Academy of Film and Television Arts
CARE Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere
CVS An initialism for “Consumer Value Store”
DARE Drug Abuse Resistance Education
Epcot Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow
FIFA Fédération Internationale de Football Association
GEICO Government Employees Insurance Company
H&M An initialism for “Hennes & Mauritz”
IKEA Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnary. The first two words are the founder’s name, Invgvar Kamprad, and the second two refer to Kamprad’s family farm (Elmtaryd) and hometown (Agunnary, Sweden)
MADD Mothers Against Drunk Driving
NASDAQ National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations
Necco New England Confectionary Company
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
Yahoo! Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle

Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest covering entertainment, trivia, and history. When she’s not writing you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music, and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout New England.