A three-letter acronym (TLA), or three-letter abbreviation, is an abbreviation consisting of three letters. These are usually the initial letters of the words of the phrase abbreviated, and are written in capital letters (upper case); three-letter abbreviations such as etc. and Mrs. are not three-letter acronyms, but "TLA" itself is a TLA (an example of an autological abbreviation).
Most three-letter abbreviations are not, strictly, acronyms, but rather initialisms: all the letters are pronounced as the names of letters, as in APA // AY-pee-AY. Some are true acronyms, pronounced as a word; computed axial tomography. For example, CAT is almost always pronounced as the animal's name ( // ) in "CAT scan". Even the initialisms are however considered three-letter acronyms, because that term appeared first in widespread use, and is overwhelmingly popular today.
The exact phrase three-letter acronym appeared in the sociology literature in 1975.Three-letter acronyms were used as mnemonics in biological sciences, from 1977 and their practical advantage was promoted by Weber in 1982. They are used in many other fields, but the term TLA is particularly associated with computing. In 1980, the manual for the Sinclair ZX81 home computer used and explained TLA. The specific generation of three-letter acronyms in computing was mentioned in a JPL report of 1982. In 1988, in a paper titled "On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computing Science", eminent computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote (disparagingly), "No endeavour is respectable these days without a TLA" By 1992 it was in a Microsoft handbook.
The number of possible three-letter abbreviations using the 26 letters of the alphabet from A to Z (AAA, AAB ... to ZZY, ZZZ) is 26 × 26 × 26 = 17,576. An additional 26 × 26 × 10 = 6760 can be produced if the third position is allowed to be a digit 0-9, giving a total of 24,336.
In standard English, WWW is the TLA whose pronunciation requires the most syllables -- typically nine. The usefulness of TLAs typically comes from its being quicker to say than the phrase it represents; however saying 'WWW' in English requires three times as many syllables as the phrase it is meant to abbreviate (World Wide Web). "WWW" is sometimes abbreviated to "dubdubdub" in speech.
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An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for example, the word abbreviation can itself be represented by the abbreviation abbr., abbrv., or abbrev.; NPO, for nil per (by) os (mouth) is an abbreviated medical instruction. It may also consist of initials only, a mixture of initials and words, or words or letters representing words in another language. Some types of abbreviations are acronyms, initialisms, or grammatical contractions or crasis.
Camel case is the practice of writing phrases without spaces or punctuation, indicating the separation of words with a single capitalized letter, and the first word starting with either case. Common examples include "iPhone" and "eBay". It is also sometimes used in online usernames such as "johnSmith", and to make multi-word domain names more legible, for example in advertisements.
A recursive acronym is an acronym that refers to itself. The term was first used in print in 1979 in Douglas Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, in which Hofstadter invents the acronym GOD, meaning "GOD Over Djinn", to help explain infinite series, and describes it as a recursive acronym. Other references followed, however the concept was used as early as 1968 in John Brunner's science fiction novel Stand on Zanzibar. In the story, the acronym EPT later morphed into "Eptification for Particular Task".
Lists of abbreviations contain abbreviations and acronyms in different languages and fields. They include Latin and English abbreviations and acronyms.
LOL, or lol, is an initialism for laughing out loud and a popular element of Internet slang. It was first used almost exclusively on Usenet, but has since become widespread in other forms of computer-mediated communication and even face-to-face communication. It is one of many initialisms for expressing bodily reactions, in particular laughter, as text, including initialisms for more emphatic expressions of laughter such as LMAO and ROFL or ROTFL. Other unrelated expansions include the now mostly obsolete "lots of luck" or "lots of love" used in letter-writing.
RAS syndrome is the use of one or more of the words that make up an acronym in conjunction with the abbreviated form. This means, in effect, repeating one or more words from the acronym. Three common examples are "PIN number" / "VIN number" and "ATM machine". The term RAS syndrome was coined in 2001 in a light-hearted column in New Scientist.
A personal or personal ad is an item or notice traditionally in the newspaper, similar to a classified advertisement but personal in nature. In British English it is also commonly known as an advert in a lonely hearts column. With its rise in popularity, the World Wide Web has also become a common medium for personals, commonly referred to as online dating. Personals are generally meant to generate romance, friendship, or casual encounters, and usually include a basic description of the person posting it, and their interests.
An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase, usually using individual initial letters, as in NATO or EU, but sometimes using syllables, as in Benelux, or a mixture of the two, as in radar. Similarly, acronyms are sometimes pronounced as words, as in NASA or UNESCO, sometimes as the individual letters, as in FBI or ATM, or a mixture of the two, as in JPEG or IUPAC.
Scribal abbreviations or sigla are the abbreviations used by ancient and medieval scribes writing in various languages, including Latin, Greek, Old English and Old Norse. In modern manuscript editing "sigla" are the symbols used to indicate the source manuscript and to identify the copyists of a work. See Critical apparatus.
Acronym Finder (AF) is a free, online, searchable dictionary and database of abbreviations and their meanings.
A numeronym is a number-based word.
Law enforcement jargon refers to a large body of acronyms, abbreviations, codes and slang used by law enforcement personnel to provide quick concise descriptions of people, places, property and situations, in both spoken and written communication. These vary between countries and to a lesser extent regionally.
Abbreviations are a common part of the Hebrew language, with many organizations, places, people and concepts known by their abbreviations.
The acronyms DSE and DNA have something in common: each is a three-letter acronym.
All taxa indicated by three-letter acronyms with strains indicated by a fourth letter if necessary.