11 words that are actually acronyms

2 min read

The fun fact about acronyms is that they can become words on their own and take on whole new meanings. Some of the words you use every day actually started out as acronyms before they became common vocabulary. Sometimes they evolve through common usage and other times they're even copyrighted. Make sure to R.S.V.P. for this language lesson.

SCUBA

You can’t get your SCUBA certification without learning what this acronym stands for. It really means Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, which makes a lot of sense considering the nature of the activity. Your fishy friends might not be impressed with your knowledge, but we will be.

TASER

This one originated in a pulp fiction series. It stands for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle, named after the title character’s weapon in the book of the same name. The weapons’ functionalities differ, but it’s interesting how fiction finds its way into real life.

RADAR

Lots of technological terms came from acronyms, and here’s another common one that’s become its own word. It stands for Radio Detection and Ranging—at least this one makes a little more logical sense than TASER, right?

SONAR

Similar to RADAR, SONAR refers to a different type of ranging. Instead of radio detection, this one’s all about using sound to navigate—it stands for Sound Navigation Ranging.

LASER

There’s a reason LASER one goes by the acronym and not its full name—Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Its use might make sense when it’s written out, but who could possibly remember the whole thing?

CARE Package

You might send these types of parcels because you care, but that’s not what they’re named for. CARE stands for Cooperative for American Remittances, an organization that helped send packages from Americans to their friends and family in Europe after World War II. It’s since renamed itself the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.

SMART Car

No, Smart cars weren’t named for their genius capabilities. SMART is actually an acronym that stands for Swatch Mercedes Art. It's a pretty big name for such a tiny car, but that’s the name Swatch and Daimler Benz agreed on when they planned to release it.

CAPTCHA

You’re not imagining it. It sounds exactly like what it was created to do—capture. The Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart was always intended to be an acronym, and it’s a lot less work than saying the whole thing.

SPAM

Maybe you’ve eaten SPAM before, but if you haven’t, you’re not missing much. It stands for Shoulder of Pork and Ham (though whether it tastes like its namesake is up for debate).

YAHOO!

Yes, even search engines and company names are acronyms. This one is Yet Another Hierarchical Official Oracle. Yahoo! even sounds tired of itself.

Canola Oil

Did anyone else think there was a canola plant? This acronym actually stands for Canada oil, low acid, and it’s made from rapeseed, not the nonexistent canola plant.

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