Do You Know What These Common Acronyms Mean?

by | Nov 16, 2022


“An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase. Acronyms are usually formed from the initial letters of words, as in NATO, but sometimes use syllables, as in Benelux. They can also be a mixture, as in radar.” Source.

Acronyms are common in communication – they’re everywhere. Interestingly, the meanings of some of the most commonly used ones aren’t widely known. This IFOD is going to rectify that situation for you!

Acronyms can be formal, like FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), AMA (American Medical Association), and FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), or informal like FOMO (fear of missing out), ICYMI (in case you missed it), or WTF (why the face). Let’s dig in common ones:

Formal Acronyms

GIF — “Graphics Interchange Format” and it should be pronounced “jiff”

JPEG — “Joint Photographic Expert Group” which is a study group of tech people that developed and maintain the standards for coding digital images. The group meets a few times a year.

PNG — “Portable Network Graphic” – another type of digital image.

CAPTCHA — the anti-robot tests we all hate! This acronym stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” Cool. Here’s and IFOD on what the Turing Test is.

TED (as in TED Talk) — “Technology, Entertainment, Design.” This name came about when it was just a few hundred people presenting on interesting topics at an annual conference.

TASER — “Thomas A Swift Electric Rifle.” How cool is that? The inventor’s name is Jack Cover but he decided to name it after the children’s book character Thomas Swift.

LASER – “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.”

RADAR — “RAdio Detection And Ranging.”

CARE Package — These were sent from loved ones to members of the military in WWII. The organization that arranged them was the “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe” which is how the packages came to be known as CARE Packages.

SNAFU — This has a military origin and came about in the 1940s. It stands for “Situation Normal: All F**ked Up” (sometimes “fouled up”).

ZIP Code – “Zone Improvement Plan” Code.

SMS — as in texting — “Short Message Service”

Wi-Fi– you might think it stands for “Wireless Fidelity” because Hi-Fi is “High Fidelity.” But nope. Wi-Fi doesn’t stand for anything. Nada. Zip. Marketing people came up with it. Here’s an article with more detail.

Informal Acronyms

These are good to know, as informal acronyms have EXPLODED due to texting. It’s like a whole different language is being birthed. Here is a small sampling.

BOGO – “Buy One, Get One”

YOLO – “You Only Live Once”

BAE — “Before Anyone Else” — it’s a term of endearment — the person you care for the most.

TL;DR — “Too Long; Didn’t Read”

TMI — “Too Much Information”

NVM — “Nevermind”

LMK — “Let Me Know”

IKR — “I Know, Right?”

IDK — “I Don’t Know”

IDC — “I Don’t Care”

TTYL — “Talk To You Later”

ROFL — “Rolling On the Floor Laughing”

LMAO – “Laughing My Ass Off”

TBH — “Too Be Honest”

IRL — “In Real Life”

SMH — “Shaking My Head”

FWIW — “For What It’s Worth”

IMO and IMHO — “In My Opinion” and “In My Humble Opinion”

AFK — “Away From Keyboard”

GTG/G2G – “Got To Go”

FWIW — “For What It’s Worth”

NP — “No Problem”

NSFW — “Not Safe For Work”

WFH — “Work From Home”

TIL — “Today I Learned”

PAW/POMS/PAH — “Parents are Watching”/”Parents Over My Shoulder”/”Parent At Home”


  1. FWIW, FWIW is in there twice.

    This is an amazingly useful compilation for anyone older than I (or younger who cares to admit it). Thanks!

  2. So incredible , thank you!

    One I keep seeing recently was. TFG
    The Federal Government.

    Great IFOD ! I will be forwarding !

  3. iykyk – if you know, you know – this has been coming up lately

  4. Wendy: Ha. Sort of. Click the “why the face” link in the text.

    • I did, thanks. I still prefer my variation. I’ve never in my life said, “Why the face?” But I’ve certainly expressed the other one often enough. Just about every time I scan the headlines . 🙂

    • Oh, wait. I get it. You were JK!

  5. “Why the Face?” must be the G-Rated version of WTF. I think most folks interpret it as “What the F**k.” At least I do. Interesting insights on initialisms vs. acronyms!

  6. Gif is pronounced gift without the the t. Lol let the long-standing debate begin!

    • At least that’s how we referred to it in 91 and 92 at Los Alamos.

  7. Did not know the difference between acronym and initialism! Makes sense.

  8. When I worked at IBM (International Business Machines) we used a lot of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Alas, they were really initialisms.

    FBI is an initialism.

    Acronyms and initialisms are abbreviations formed by using the first letter of each word in a phrase. However, acronyms are pronounced as a word (e.g., PIN), whereas initialisms can’t easily be pronounced as a word, so instead, they are spoken as a list of letters (e.g., DVD).

    I love the IFOD. One of my favorite acronyms …

  9. I didn’t event know laser and radar were acronyms. CAPTCHA and Wi-Fi are funny!


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