50+ Acronym Examples and Texting Abbreviations

Abbreviations and acronyms are meant to make communication easier. But who can keep track of what they all mean? Well, we can, and now, so can you.

Abbreviations (shortened versions of words) and acronyms (shortened versions of phrases that are made up of the first initials of the words making up the phrase) are supposed to make communicating easier. TBT, however, confusing abbreviation and acronym examples abound. Take TBT, for instance. It can mean “truth be told,” but it also can mean “Throwback Thursday.” Ergo (which is not an acronym but a Latin word meaning “therefore”), abbreviations can lead to TCB. And if you were thinking we meant “taking care of business,” then clearly we are having a “Total. Communication. Breakdown.”

Of course, if everyone involved in a conversation is on the same page, it’s AG (all good). But if not, things can quickly get awk (awkward). And TBH (to be honest), there’s nothing worse than being the one who’s OOTL (out of the loop). So, read on…because we’re about to break down a whole lot of acronyms and texting abbreviations that are currently on your radar (yet another acronym example, as you’ll see below). But first, here’s more on the difference between abbreviations and acronyms.

Radar

In everyday speech, when we refer to something as being on the radar, we mean that the thing we’re talking about is being talked about by others as well. In other words, the topic is detectable in people’s conversations. That makes perfect sense when you consider the origins of the word, which isn’t really a word so much as an acronym for Radio Detecting And Ranging, which is an object-detection system that uses radio waves. Although the system was invented in 1935, it took another five years before it found its way onto the radar, so to speak, because that’s when the U.S. Navy coined the acronym. Do you know the origins of these other everyday abbreviations?

FAQ

Back in the day, providing answers in advance of being asked was known as offering unsolicited advice. Now, it’s called FAQ, as in “frequently asked questions.” Generally pronounced as “fack,” FAQ began as an initialism, which is to say it was pronounced by its letters, rather than as a word, which it now is.

FOMO

The fear of missing out on experiences other people are having dates back to the dawn of humanity. However, it was only coined as a phrase that came with its own acronym (FOMO) in the early 2000s. That’s when the Internet and social media revealed that everyone else was, in fact, having more fun than you. And they still are. Just check out their Instagram stories about their adoring spouses, their fabulous vacations, and their hilarious coworkers, and you’ll never again need to be told what FOMO is. If this is driving you crazy, read up on these ways to finally stop comparing yourself to others.

YOLO

It used to be that people used the phrase “you only live once” to rationalize their whimsical, impulsive, or otherwise irrational behavior. Starting in the early aughts, the phrase was shortened and became an acronym. Some attribute the coining of YOLO to Canadian rapper Drake. But it appears the acronym was uttered by a reality television personality, Adam Mesh, all the way back in 2004 on the show The Average Joe.

POTUS, FLOTUS, and SCOTUS

The President of the United States (POTUS) is married to the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the country.

BLM

Though BLM was founded in 2013, the term may have only come to your attention within the last year or two. It stands for “Black Lives Matter,” a movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to protest incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against Black people. Here’s what you can do to support BLM and become anti-racist.

BOPUS

BOPUS stands for Buy Online, Pick Up in Store. This acronym, as well as the action it refers to, appears to have picked up considerable steam thanks to the pandemic keeping people home, even while shopping.

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BOGO

You’ll definitely want to remember this acronym example when things start to go on super sale in January. BOGO is short for “buy one, get one,” as in “buy one, get one free.”

GIF

GIF stands for “graphics interchange format.” That’s really just a fancy way of saying it’s a type of image file. Other types are JPEGs and PNGs, but a GIF has something those other two haven’t got: It can be used to animate photo images. Still wondering how to pronounce GIF? The guy who invented it, Steve Wilhite, says it’s meant to be pronounced with a soft “g” like “gem.”

GTG and BRB

If you’re ever in the middle of chatting with someone on text and they suddenly shoot you a GTG message, you should probably assume you’ve heard the last from the person you’ve been texting with, at least for the foreseeable future. This abbreviation means “got to go,” but it implies that the situation has changed suddenly, with no time left to engage in typical conversation closers such as TTYL (talk to you later) or a well-chosen emoji.

When someone says BRB, which means “be right back,” it also speaks to a situation in which the other person is going to dip out for some length of time, but that person will likely be back sooner than if they send you a GTG. Here are 13 texting etiquette rules you should be following by now (but probably aren’t).

SMH

A principal rule of storytelling is to show, not tell. Thanks to texting and other forms of remote communication, that’s not always feasible. To address this gap, a shorthand has developed by which people can quickly describe their body language, and that shorthand includes SMH, which generally means “shaking my head” (as if in disbelief). But it can also mean “smack my head.”

LOL

If you aren’t familiar with the acronym LOL, which means “laughing out loud,” it’s difficult to imagine where you might have been during the last three to four decades. That’s how long this acronym has been in use. It first appeared during the age of Usenet in the 1980s and has been going strong ever since. Check out these other everyday words that were coined the year you were born.

ROTFL and ROTFLMAO

ROTFL means “rolling on the floor laughing,” and ROTFLMAO means “rolling on the floor laughing my a— off.” Both are offshoots of LOL and originated during the days when people communicated over the Internet via Usenet. It’s worth noting that not everyone considers these two to be an improvement of LOL. Ditch these other annoying texting habits that bother almost everyone.

IMHO

IMHO means “in my humble opinion,” and like ROTFL and ROTFLMAO, it has at least as many detractors as fans. However, there is something to be said for confirming in a text message that what you are saying is solely your opinion, and a humble one at that.

ICYMI

ICYMI means “in case you missed it.” It’s often used to convey this idea: “You may already know this, but I wanted to make sure.” But it’s also frequently used to introduce a social media post that is a reposting of an older post.

DM

This term refers to “direct message,” which was and remains the equivalent of a private message sent from user to user on social media. Although it originated on Twitter, it’s now used on all platforms. These days, reaching someone via DM has become harder unless you actually know them, but it’s still possible. Here are 13 social media etiquette rules you really need to stop breaking.

PAW

Teenagers tend to keep only one eye on whatever it is they’re doing. The other is on their parents, because when “parents are watching,” it’s time to take things down a notch…but not before texting “PAW” to their friends to make sure they know that whatever they text could be the subject of parental scrutiny. With so many parents working from home during the pandemic, there’s a lot of PAW happening these days, along with these other text abbreviations in the same vein:

  • PITR (parent in the room)

  • PBB (parent behind back)

  • POMS (parent over my shoulder)

  • PAH (parent at home)

Can you relate to this? If so, you won’t want to miss these 9 ways to deal with a moody teen without losing your mind.

NRN

When a teen sends a PAW (or a PITR, PBB, POMS, or PAH) text to a friend, the friend implicitly knows that “no reply is necessary.” However, texting “NRN” can actually go a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings.

DIY

DIY refers to “do it yourself,” as in decorating or repairing your home, and the phrase goes way back to the mid-20th century (though the concept was around long before that). However, the acronym likely came into use at the turn of the millennium. It’s used mainly as an adjective (for example, to modify the word project), but it is also occasionally used as a verb (for example, “I’m going to DIY it”). By the way, here are 24 acronyms home DIYers should know.

CARE

Since 1945, CARE has been helping the world’s neediest people in over 100 countries and reaching more than 90 million people through 1,300 projects. This is pretty self-explanatory, which makes it, in our opinion, the best kind of acronym because there’s rarely confusion when someone uses the term. But here’s what it actually stands for: Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (and formerly, Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe).

Care package

Yes, we realize that’s not an acronym…except it kind of is. When the term was first used, “care package” referred to a package sent by CARE. But over time, people began conflating the acronym CARE with the verb care (as in, to care about someone else). While we’re on the subject, take a look at these 25 great care packages to send to friends who are stuck at home.

COVID-19

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization took to Twitter to announce that the novel coronavirus disease first observed in 2019 would henceforth be officially known as COVID-19. Some say that COVID-19 qualifies to be an acronym because it is comprised of letters from the underlying words (albeit not the first letter: CO-rona VI-rus D-isease and then the number 19, short for 2019). Some argue, however, that COVID is not an acronym but a simple abbreviation. So, acronym or no? It’s almost impossible to answer because some dictionaries define an acronym as a word comprised of the first letters of each word in a phrase, while other dictionaries define it as a word comprised of any letters from each word of a phrase. Either way, we’re all very familiar with this word, along with these other words and phrases that defined 2020.

SARS

SARS, which stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome,” was first identified by scientists at the end of February 2003, during an outbreak that began in China. When you hear someone referring to SARS, they’re probably talking about that particular outbreak, but occasionally, someone might be referring to the current pandemic, whose scientific name is SARS-CoV-2, which makes sense considering the illness notably involves severe acute respiratory distress. Now that we’ve cleared that up, turn your attention to these 12 coronavirus mysteries that still can’t be explained.

Slack

When the coronavirus pandemic transformed the business world into a work-from-home experiment, the popular messaging service Slack, which was created in 2009 to replace existing in-office communication, became ubiquitous. Nowadays, “slacking” doesn’t refer to goofing off (as it used to) but to communicating on Slack (as part of your workday!). But here’s something you probably didn’t know: Slack is an acronym. It stands for Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge.

NSFW

NSFW stands for “not safe for work,” and if you have any question as to whether something is or is not NSFW, you should probably assume that it is. Here are 21 times when Googling led to instant regret.

TIA

If someone texts to ask you for a favor and then signs off with TIA, they probably mean “thanks in advance.” However, you should be aware that in science-y circles, TIA stands for “transient ischemic attack,” which is the clinical term for a stroke.

LMK

We’ve been using LMK to mean “let me know” for so long that it almost feels weird now to actually say the words “let me know.” But feel free to LMK if you disagree.

WFH

When you’re WFH, you’re working from home. Like many of the acronym examples mentioned here, WFH is an initialism, in that it’s pronounced by its letters, rather than as a word in and of itself. Want to get more done while WFH? Try these 13 tips for boosting your WFH efficiency.

OOO

Pronounced “Oh, Oh, Oh” and meaning “out of office,” this is another example of an initialism acronym. The acronym OOO predates COVID-19, but it is now in common usage, particularly since so many people are OOO while WFH.

PIN

If you really want to annoy your teen, just let them overhear you referring to a PIN number. There’s a pretty good chance your child will interrupt whatever conversation you’re having to inform you that PIN stands for “personal identification number.” Accordingly, PIN does not require the word number tacked onto the end. So, how safe is your PIN?

VIN

VIN, which refers to “vehicle identification number,” is like PIN in that it has the word number built right into it. In other words, don’t even think about referring to a VIN number unless you don’t mind being called out (usually by one of your wiseacre teenage kids) for being redundant.

RAS

RAS refers to “redundant acronym syndrome,” which is a tendency to add a word that is not needed after an acronym because the last letter of the acronym refers to the word. In other words, if you were to refer to a VIN as a VIN number, you could be said to be experiencing RAS. That’s right—RAS, not RAS Syndrome.

PDF

PDF stands for “portable document format.” It refers to a particular electronic document format that exists almost as a photo in that it can only be viewed and printed as a whole (i.e., it can’t be revised or cut or pasted from).

A word cloud of different acronymsrd.com

Snafu

This word is actually an acronym for “situation normal, all fouled up.” Coined by U.S. soldiers in World War II both to mock the Army’s overuse of acronyms and highlight the bizarre circumstances of living on the front lines of a world war (where the “normal situation” is one that is incredibly “fouled up”), it’s now typically used to refer to a problematic situation. Check out these 15 everyday phrases with surprisingly dark origins.

Laser

This acronym refers to “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” and it is exactly as described. Even if you don’t quite understand the science behind how a laser is created, you’d likely recognize a laser if you saw one, especially in a Star Wars movie. But lasers aren’t fictional, and they’re very important in many scientific fields, including surgery, and at various levels in the manufacturing process.

Taser

The taser was invented to be a non-lethal weapon for use in place of an actual firearm. It causes paralysis but does not break the skin. The man who invented it, Jack Cover, gave it that name as an acronym of his favorite book from childhood, a 1911 sci-fi novel called Tom A. Smith and His Electric Rifle.

Scuba

Say, have you heard the one about the scuba diver in the burnt forest? It’s a riddle, and you should be able to figure it out even if you had no idea that scuba is an acronym that stands for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.”

ZIP

The ZIP in ZIP code stands for “zoning improvement program.” It apparently has its roots in World War II, when it was used to help new postal workers (who were stepping in for the veteran postal workers who had gone off to war) to more easily locate and identify addresses. Learn more about why we use ZIP codes and what the numbers mean.

SPAM

It is widely believed that SPAM is an acronym, and by SPAM, we mean the canned meat that existed long before junk electronic mail came to be known by the same name. So, what is it an acronym for? That’s anyone’s guess. The SPAM website FAQ suggests that it’s a big secret known only to a small circle of Hormel Foods executives. But arguably, it could mean “Special Processed American Meat” or just plain ol’ “spiced ham.”

CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA refers to a “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” The “Turing” in the name refers to World War II code breaker Alan Turing, who devised the first known computerized test designed to differentiate between a machine and a person interacting with a machine. Although we often hear people refer to “CAPTCHA codes,” it’s technically wrong to call it a code, since it is a test and not a code. The test consists of jumbled letters, and your task is to identify them. If you can’t, you might be a robot—or you might need reading glasses.

Yahoo!

It stands for “Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle,” which is the name the Internet index turned search engine was given after its founders, Jerry Yang and David Filo, realized that “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” wasn’t particularly catchy. Check out these other fascinating origins of famous company names.

Epcot

Walt Disney conceived of Epcot as a technologically advanced city where people worked, played, and lived. The acronym stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. When Epcot was finally created, it wasn’t exactly what Disney had in mind. Rather, it was a theme park focused on the world and the future of the world.

IKEA

IKEA stands for “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).

GEICO

The Government Employees Insurance Company, now known by its acronym, GEICO, was first marketed to federal employees and certain categories of enlisted military officers. Here are another 22 words and phrases you had no idea originated in the military.

Aflac

Aflac stands for the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, and it’s the biggest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States. It’s also Japan’s largest insurance company, which made it super awkward when its spokesperson, Gilbert Gottfried, made a tasteless joke on Twitter at Japan’s expense. Here are more social media posts that have gotten people fired.

Arby’s

When you go to Arby’s, there’s a pretty good chance you’re craving a roast beef sandwich. In other words an “RB” sandwich. And when you say it out loud, it sounds like “Arby.” That would technically be an initialism that came to be pronounced as word. But here’s the thing: The “RB” of Arby’s doesn’t actually stand for “roast beef,” but rather “Raffel brothers.” And just to make things even more complicated, in the 1980s, an advertising agency came up with a campaign for Arby’s that reimagined its name as a classic acronym referring to “America’s Roast Beef, Yes Sir!” Learn the funny story behind the name of another famous fast-food chain: Taco Bell.

Nabisco

Nabisco is the maker of Oreo sandwich cookies, among other things. Its name is another one of those acronyms that doesn’t rely on just the first letter of each underlying word but grabs two or more letters from the words themselves. Only infrequently spelled in all caps, Nabisco refers to the “National Biscuit Company.” That became the company’s name by the 1970s. Before that, it had been referred to by the names of the companies that merged to create it starting in 1972, including Pearson & Sons Bakery, New York Biscuit Company, and the American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company.

Necco

If you’ve never tried Necco wafers, it’s time to get on that. Even though it might seem like they’ve been around forever (since 1847, actually), they may not be around forever. After all, there was talk of pulling the plug on the candy in 2018, when the company that started it, the New England Confectionary Company (get it? NECCo!) closed its factory in 2018. Lucky for Necco fans everywhere, the brand has since been purchased by the Spangler Company, and production resumed (and the name remained Necco, as opposed to, say Spanco). Here are some food names you’re probably pronouncing all wrong.

AC/DC

While it is true that AC/DC is one of the greatest rock bands of all time, it’s also true that AC/DC is an acronym that stands for “alternating current and direct current.” These are the two types of currents used in conducting electricity. In the mood for a little AC/DC now? Go for it—listening to heavy metal can actually make you feel calmer.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.