Ideas

What These Popular Acronyms And Initialisms Stand For

Did you know the stories behind all of these?

Adobe | Saharrr

Acronyms and abbreviations are a common part of modern communication. We regularly use LOL, OMG and IDK online, in text messages and even in person. Our days are peppered with DIYs, N/As and TGIFs. These everyday shortcuts are familiar and easy to interpret.

However, there are many others we use that are not as simple to expand. In fact, you might not have realized that some commonly used words are stand-ins for longer descriptions. Check out these popular acronyms and initialisms to learn what they actually stand for.

FICO


FICO is the name of a company that analyzes consumer information to create credit scores. The original name of the company was the Fair Isaac Corporation. Founded by engineer Bill Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac in 1956, the company was frequently called FICO and officially changed its brand name in 2009.

LASER


It’s become such an ordinary word, you might be surprised to learn it is, in fact, an acronym. LASER stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. The first working laser was developed at Hughes Research Laboratories in 1960.

DNA


This acronym has become a household word thanks to platforms such as “Maury” and genealogy research websites. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA carries the instructions that tell an organism how to live and develop.

ACT


One of the two admissions tests accepted by colleges across the United States, the ACT was launched in 1959. ACT originally stood for American College Testing. The ACT is the only college entrance exam that includes a science knowledge assessment.

SAT


The other widely-used college entrance exam is known as the SAT. The acronym stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test. The three-hour, standardized test has reading, writing and language, and math.

PDF


A PDF is a Portable Document Format. This is because the file format lets people create, exchange and view documents easily and consistently no matter what software or operating system they’re using. Adobe developed PDF files in the early 1990s.

IT


Nope, we’re not making a reference to Pennywise. In business, IT stands for information technology. The term actually originated in the 1970s but became more commonplace as computer-based information systems were used more frequently in organizations of all sizes.

URL


A URL is the “address” of a website, but what do the letters stand for? In its longest form, a URL is a Uniform Resource Locator. A URL identifies the location of an internet file and allows you to download resources hosted on a server, such as images, videos or software.

Wi-Fi


Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity. It’s a radio transmission frequency that allows communications between digital devices. A standard Wi-Fi network has a range of up to 100 meters (about 328 feet) in the open air.

CARE Package


The name of the boxes we might send to college students or family and friends far away has a warm, fuzzy feeling to it. However, CARE actually stands for Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe. Initially, the packages contained military surplus foods donated for emergency food relief at the end of WWII.

GIF


Whether you pronounce it with a hard G or like the name of the peanut butter brand, you’re likely familiar with GIFs. The animated images are fun to use on social media or in messages. What you might not know is that GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format.

JPEG


A JPEG is a common type of image file that is actually named for a committee. The initials stand for Joint Photographic Experts Group. The organization of the same name meets to create and discuss standards for still image compression and processing.

RAM


Upgrading a computer’s RAM is often recommended when the machine is running slowly. RAM stands for random access memory. It’s one of the most important components of a computer, temporarily storing whatever information the system requires to work properly.

SOS


The initials used for this distress signal are rather tricky because there really is no definition. While many people have come to believe SOS stands for save our ship or even save our souls, the letters don’t actually stand for anything. The continuous string of dots and dashes used to spell SOS in Morse code were simply created as a fast way to signal for help.

GOP


The political acronym used to denote the Republican Party stands for Grand Old Party. Newspapers used GOP as far back as the 1870s as a way to emphasize the party’s role in preserving the Union during the Civil War. The Republican Party was formed by former Whig Party members in 1854.

YAHOO!


Yes, this well-known web service provider’s name is indeed an acronym. YAHOO stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. The original name of the Yahoo search engine was actually “David’s and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” They decided to give it a descriptive yet catchier name and came up with Yahoo.

OK


This familiar acronym is difficult to break down into words because the words that led to the acronym in the first place were intentionally misspelled. In the 1830s, acronyms were as popular as they are today. OK first appeared in a satirical article about grammar. The initials were an abbreviation for Oll Korrect, a deliberate play on All Correct.

SCUBA


Scuba diving requires scuba gear, such as a scuba suit and a scuba tank, but what does scuba mean? SCUBA is in fact an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Dr. Christian Lambertsen first used the term in 1954 while working on the first prototypes of rebreathers for military frogmen.

STEM


STEM has become a popular field of study for students of all ages, and rightfully so. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Sometimes, it’s expanded to STEAM to include Art.

NASA


When you think about NASA, you might think of the Space Shuttle or the Mars Rover. However, the government agency is responsible for more than that. NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration and they have a hand in satellites, scientific research, air travel development and more.

CPR


CPR is one of the most useful life-saving skills you can learn. The acronym stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and the process can keep someone’s blood flow active until they can receive medical attention. Performing CPR immediately after cardiac arrest can double or even triple a person’s chances of survival.

LED


Those bright lights you see everywhere from car headlights to holiday suits are named based on how they work. LED stands for light-emitting diode. The lights contain microchips, which electrical currents pass through to emit a bright light.

UNICEF


The United Nations developed this charitable organization in 1946. UNICEF, which stands for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, was created to meet the emergency needs of children in post-war Europe and China. Since then, its purpose has been broadened to address the needs of children and women in developing countries.

M&Ms


Forrest Mars Sr. inherited a company that created some of the most well-loved snack, pet food and perhaps most popular, candy brands, such as Snickers, Skittles and M&Ms. After seeing soldiers eat candy-coated chocolates while traveling during the Spanish Civil War, Mars came up with the idea for M&Ms. The name of the treats came about when Mars approached Bruce Murrie, the son of the president of the Hershey Chocolate Company. Because chocolate and sugar were rationed during war years, they agreed upon a partnership and used the initials of their last names for the co-creation.

CAPTCHA


Who knew that the time would come when you had to prove you were a human? When you attempt to enter information on a website, you might be asked to type in a graphically distorted set of characters. These authenticators are known as a CAPTCHA, which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. In 1950, computer scientist Alan Turing defined the Turing Test as the foundation of the philosophy of artificial intelligence.

QR


You might find QR codes anywhere from food packages to advertisements. QR is an acronym for quick response, as scanning the square codes on a smartphone results in instant information. The codes were first announced in 1994.

RSVP


When you receive an invitation to a wedding, party or other event, it’s only polite to RSVP so the hosts know whether or not you will attend. That’s essentially what an RSVP is asking you to do. RSVP stands for the French phrase répondez s’il vous plait, which translates to “Please respond.”

SPF


We all know the importance of using high-quality sunscreen, but what exactly does SPF mean? SPF stands for sun protection factor. It’s a relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) B rays.

ISIS


The initials ISIS stand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The group is also known as ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Though inspired by al Qaida, the group was later publicly expelled from it.

HVAC


HVAC is an acronym that represents the systems an HVAC tech most frequently works on. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. This also includes the various components of these systems, such as thermostats, furnaces and air purifiers.