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Backronym

A backronym is an acronym that looks as if its meaning was chosen to fit an existing word, whether the fit is deliberate or accidental (see contrived acronym[?]).

For example, BASIC is apparently a "basic" programming language, and it stands for "Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code". The word acronym has even been made into a backronym - "Abbreviated Coded Rendition Of Name Yielding Meaning" (from BIBLIA (http://www.geocities.com/ben-fuzzybear/acronyms))

Examples:

  • START[?] - Apparently intended by its coiners as a "start" in the right direction, i.e., nuclear disarmament
  • NUTS - This is clearly a contrived acronym, both to play on the acronym MAD as well as assert the viewpoint that it would be mad to rely on the mutual assured destruction.
  • MAD - This acronym is the same as the word meaning insane, but that might be a coincidence.
  • USA PATRIOT Act - Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001

These kind of acronyms are very common, see Canonical Abbreviation/Acronym List (http://www.astro.umd.edu/~marshall/abbrev)


This following is based on the "Backronym" section of the Jargon File. The Jargon File is in the public domain.

[a portmanteau of back + acronym]. A hackish expression for a word interpreted as an acronym that was not originally so intended. This is a special case of what linguists call back-formation. Discovering backronyms is a common form of wordplay among hackers.

Compare to retronym



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