Do you know these 50 famous acronyms?
Humans have been using acronyms for centuries. One of the earliest examples can be seen in the Greek word “ichthys” which stands for “Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr” (or “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”). The word, meaning “fish” in Greek, is often used today to describe the Jesus fish symbol. Ancient governments used acronyms, too. The Roman Empire, for example, often referred to itself as SPQR (“Senatus Populusque Romanus”).
Today, acronyms are used for a variety of purposes. Government agencies often use them to make their names more easily recognizable, as do private organizations. For example, places like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and National Rifle Association (NRA) are all more commonly known by their abbreviations. When establishing new companies, business owners sometimes use acronyms to come up with a name. IKEA, for example, is a shortening of “Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd,” the founder’s name and the farm he grew up on. Similarly, M&M's stands for “Mars & Murrie's,” an ode to founder Forrest Mars and Hershey's Bruce Murrie.
Beyond businesses and organizations, acronyms are sometimes used to describe basic actions or scenarios. MIA, for instance, is a military term that means someone is “missing in action,” while “ASAP” is used to indicate “as soon as possible.” In the modern age, computer and text acronyms have popped up everywhere too with phrases like IDK (“I don’t know”), ROFL (“rolling on the floor laughing”), and BFF (“best friends forever”). Examples of general shorthand phrases have also become part of the English language—terms like DIY (“do it yourself”), RIP (“rest in peace”), and DOB (“date of birth”). Even people’s names are sometimes abbreviated, as in the cases of JFK or MLK.
Acronyms are so common, in fact, that often people recognize the concept without knowing what all of the letters stand for. To help you test your own personal acronym knowledge, Stacker has put together a slideshow featuring 50 of the most common abbreviations, along with their definitions. Take a scroll though to see which ones you can identify.
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- Stands for: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Founded in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the United States space agency that conducts all of the nation’s high-level aeronautics research and runs the civilian space program. The agency was responsible for sending Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969 and deploying the Curiosity rover to Mars in 2012.
- Stands for: Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus
Scuba diving is coined after the “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” that allows you to breathe underwater. The equipment, which has been around since the nineteenth century, was popularized during World War II when the U.S. military used it in combat. In the 1960s, the sport became popular as a recreational activity when the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) was established.
- Stands for: Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was often referred to as”FDR,” was the 32nd president of the United States. He served from 1933 to 1945; however, he had a stroke during his fourth term and died just 11 weeks in. He led the country during the majority of World War II, passing away only months before the Axis Powers surrendered. During his first inauguration, he famously said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
- Stands for: National Broadcasting Company
Established in New York in 1926, the National Broadcasting Company is the oldest major broadcasting company in the United States. Today it is widely recognized by its colorful peacock logo. However, the emblem wasn’t officially introduced until the late ‘70s when the station launched color broadcasting—a new technology at the time.
- Stands for: Sun Protection Factor
When you see the term SPF on a bottle of sunscreen, it’s referring to the “sun protection factor.” The number signals how long you can sit in the sun before your skin burns. An SPF rating of 15, for example, allows you to be exposed for approximately 150 minutes before burning. Experts note, however, that this timeframe can vary widely according to your skin type and previous sun exposure.
- Stands for: Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart
CAPTCHAs are those symbols that sometimes pop up after you enter a password or attempt other login activities. They prompt you to enter a number sequence or click images to verify you are a human. Short for “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart,” the term was developed in the early 2000s to help distinguish people from robots.
- Stands for: Absent Without Leave
AWOL is a military term that stands for “absent without leave.” It refers to soldiers who are absent but without the intent to desert (as opposed to those permanently abandoning their posts). Over the years, the phrase has evolved beyond the military and can refer to anyone who is missing or absent from school, work, or other obligations.
- Stands for: You Only Live Once
Although the term YOLO, which means “you only live once,” has been around for many years, it was popularized in 2011 by the rapper Drake when he used it on a bonus track, “The Motto,” for his album “Take Care.” The phrase is used similarly to “carpe diem” or “seize the day,” meant as an encouragement to live boldly and take risks.
- Stands for: American Telephone and Telegraph
Although its name today has been shortened, AT&T began as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. It was established in 1877 as the Bell Telephone Company—sometimes referred to as “Ma Bell”—and held a monopoly on U.S. telephone communications for the majority of the 20th century until the United States Justice Department forced it to break up in 1984.
- Stands for: American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 just after World War I, springing from the National Civil Liberties Bureau established three years earlier. The organization assists individuals who’ve experienced civil rights violations and lobbies the legislature and criminal justice system to preserve and promote equal rights.2018 All rights reserved.