Deciphering Acronyms and Abbreviations

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By: Charles Bowen

Journalists have always cursed acronyms and abbreviations at the same time that they have embraced them. Government reporters couldn’t do their jobs without OMBs, DOTs, and GAOs. Imagine the crippling effect on business reporting without CEOs and COOs, NASDAQ and the SEC. Medical writers would positively pale without their MRIs, their EKGs, and their upper GIs.

Meanwhile, all the rest of us ASAP and WYSIWYG on our merry way to a seemingly total abbreviation language. And the pace has accelerated now that e-mail and Internet chat rooms have us LOLing and GD&Ring to beat the band, content with our place in a world of GIGO.

The trouble with acronyms, like jargon and buzzwords of all kinds, is that they represent a club that is constantly trying to have you removed as a member. Nothing’s worse than having someone casually drop a new abbreviation, then watching everyone else in the group nod knowingly while you sit there clueless.

Fortunately for us, the same Internet that seems to generate new acronyms nonstop now has a new resource for decoding them. A site called provides not only easy searching for obscure abbreviations, but also facilities for browsing nearly a dozen categories, from computing and the Web to government, medicine and business. To look in on this powerful resource, which contains literally thousands of entries and is expanded daily, visit the site at, where an attractively simple introductory page provides:

* A handily linked alphabet at the top of the screen so you can browse the collection like a dictionary. Just click on a letter to go to that portion of the lists.

* A search box in which you can simply enter the abbreviation or acronym for which you need translation. Type the query in the data entry box and click the “Search” button.

* A linked list of 10 categories (computing, Internet, academic & science, business, medical, miscellaneous, government, community, regional, and international). Click one of the headings to go to that subsection or click one of the smaller wordings to jump to that specific portion of the collection. For instance, listed in the “Miscellaneous” section are Funnies, Food Additives, Plastics, Unit Measures, Months Abbreviations, Days Abbreviations, Clothes Sizes, etc., each linked to a specific portion of the database.

Along the top of each page in the site are the usual navigation options as well as some specially designed for this site. The “Your List” option displays any database entries that you have manually selected for on-site bookmarking. To add items to “Your List,” click the plus sign (+) that appears on any entry.

Yigal Ben Efraim is the founder and CEO of A seasoned software engineer with a decade’s experience in IT development with leading high-tech firms, he has worked with Fundtech, Commtouch, Amdocs. and EarthLink. Click on the navigation bar’s “About Me” link to reach him.

Other resources for finding terms and acronyms online:

1. The Acronym Database ( has been online since 1991, starting as a pre-Web e-mail service and it still maintains the ACRONYM-L e-mail discussion list. Of particular interest is the front page’s link to “The Top 50 acronyms people look for.”

2. Acronym Finder ( promises a quarter of a million acronyms, abbreviations, and “initialisms” with definitions. Search boxes at the top of the introductory screen enable you to look for exact matches, do wildcard searches, look for acronyms that begin with specific letters, and even do reverse searches by entering keywords in the definition.

3. For a British spin on the subject, check out ATXTA (, which covers slang and jargon as well as acronyms and abbreviations with options to search or browse the database.

To see Bowen’s last 20 columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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