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What is the difference between these initialisms‎ vs acronyms vs abbreviations?
As I understand from SO:

initialisms‎ are like BOA,USA(i.e. letter by letter).
acronyms are like NASA, AIDS(i.e. words).

than what is abbreviations?

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    In ordinary speech, most people don't distinguish between "initialism" and "acronym". Most people say "acronym" for both, and most people have never even heard the word "initialism". The distinction is rather fussy, mainly of interest to grammarians. – Ben Kovitz May 19 '15 at 19:01
  • Related question on ELU: english.stackexchange.com/questions/3755/difference-between-an-acronym-and-abbreviation. – pyobum Dec 15 '15 at 18:15
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An abbreviation shortens one word or a short sequence of words to one or a few letters. A few random examples:

  • misc. for miscellaneous (abbreviation)
  • Dr for doctor (contraction)
  • HTML for HyperText Markup Language (initialism)
  • sonar for sound navigation and ranging (acronym)
  • etc. for et cetera
  • Sat. for Saturday
  • LOL for laughing out loud
  • John F. Kennedy (or JFK) for John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • ...

As you can see, in the wider definition abbreviations encompasses contractions ("dropping letters from the middle of a word", acronyms and initialisms (using the first letter(s) of a multi-word phrase) and abbreviations in the stricter sense, which are defined as "dropping letters from the end of a word".

| improve this answer | |
  • So what's the difference between acronyms and initialisms? – Kreiri May 19 '15 at 13:03
  • @Kreiri: Initialisms use the first letters and pronounce them letter-by-letter: Chief Executive Officer shortens to CEO and reads "ce-e-oh". Acronyms use sometimes more than one letter of each word and form new "words", see "sonar" in the answer above. Also note that those two are not mutually exclusive: The ICE train is in the US spoken like the frozen water but originally stands for "Inter City Express". – Stephie May 19 '15 at 15:27
  • The rule for an an initialism becoming an acronym is one of convenience and familiarity. Ice is a familiar word, and ICE slips easily into acronym. Likewise, long initialisms are extremely rare, and almost invariably are rejected in favor of acronyms. The cutoff point seems to be about 3 letters. While the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is pretty well fixed, the President of the United States is (when abbreviated for convenience) POTUS, pronounced "poe - tuss". – WhatRoughBeast Jul 18 '15 at 16:36
  • My understanding has always been that an acronym must be pronouncable, whereas an initialise is pronounced letter by letter. – Joseph Rogers Nov 15 '15 at 21:53

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