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As a programmer I use the word Authentication and the word Authorisation in my code.

I'd like to find nice abbreviations or alternative words for each of them that

  • are not ambiguous and
  • has reasonably large 'psychological distance' between. i.e. they don't look too similar

i.e 'Auth' is not OK because it is ambiguous.

At the moment I have just removed some letters

  • Authtictn
  • Authristn

Any suggestions?

Update: Since this question is now under threat I have moved it's gist to:


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closed as off-topic by MετάEd, Brian Hooper, medica, tchrist, Matt E. Эллен Feb 10 '14 at 14:32

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Yeah, the problem is that "authtictn" and "authristn" have the same length, differ by just 2 letters, and have 7 letters in common. In other words, that approach has actually removed some of the differences, but left most of the similarities intact. You should probably try to do the opposite thing, by emphasizing the "entic" vs the "oris". – RegDwigнt Sep 10 '10 at 21:37
At risk of sounding arrogant, I suggest you don't use abbreviations. Don't be lazy and type the complete words. See McConnell's "Code Complete" for the rationale. – CesarGon Jan 15 '11 at 18:58
I agree with the principal of declarative naming, but in practice - I develop on a windows PC and use subversion. This means that I am constrained by a maximum file path length. Which means I am forced to shorten words. In an ideal World, Adobe would offer their Creative Suite to Linux users (pending soon I believe). Or some bright spark would set up up an OS version of it (like Open Office Suite). stackoverflow.com/questions/3282303/… – JWEnglish Jan 15 '11 at 21:40
Off topic. This is a kind of "name the variable" question. This type of question is really quite unrelated to the purpose of the site. – MετάEd Feb 7 '14 at 0:15
@MετάEd I don't think you have spent as long thinking about this question as I did before asking it. It is not a 'typical name the variable question'. In the three years that it has been here, this question has helped hundreds of people solve a very tricky English language problem. – JWEnglish Feb 7 '14 at 18:18
up vote 20 down vote accepted

I've worked with IETF people and developers who spend a lot of time on Apache, who tend to use:

AuthN - Authentication
AuthZ - Authorization

You'll find these abbreviations in a lot of IETF technical documents.
Yes, I know British spelling prefers s over z (authorisation).

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Thanks for this. If the convention exists already, then it makes sense to follow it. – JWEnglish Sep 13 '10 at 14:25
"Authorization" is an acceptable spelling in British English, and is actually the preferred spelling in the Oxford English Dictionary. – tobyink Feb 26 '14 at 16:50
The convention is interesting but it's still a single-letter difference. – Ekevoo Oct 1 '15 at 18:32

You could think of replacing the word 'authentication' with 'identification', since in this context, I think they are probably equivalent.

You could then substitute 'authorization' with 'permission'.

Then, abbreviate as 'ident' and 'perm'.

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The only concern is that I might still end up wondering if Auth = Authentication or Authorisation. But, I really like this idea. Its got legs. If i could find an alternative for Auth as well , then it will be solved. – JWEnglish Sep 10 '10 at 20:54
Good point. I edited my answer with a new suggestion. – pkaeding Sep 10 '10 at 23:18
'credentials' might work as a synonym, too. – kajaco Sep 11 '10 at 17:01
Not exactly. Authentication is the process of evaluating credentials to see if they are acceptable. – Concrete Gannet May 29 '12 at 4:13

I suppose you could take the approach taken when abbreviating 'internationalization' as 'i18n' (and 'localization' as 'l10n':

  • 'authentication' => 'a12n'
  • 'authorization' = > 'a11n'

The idea is to keep the first and last letters of the word, and replace all of the interior letters with a number representing the count of the letters removed.

Of course, looking at 'a12n' and 'a11n', you may not know the meaning right away, so this is probably not the best solution.

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Thanks for the suggestion. But as you say it might be difficult to remember that 12 = authentication and 11 = authorization – JWEnglish Sep 10 '10 at 20:52
And only 1 character is different between the two, and a middle one at that. – kajaco Sep 11 '10 at 17:02
Yeah, this isn't the best approach, I am sure. I mostly suggested it because I thought the internationalization/localization abbreviations were clever, and I am curious if this scheme can/will be used elsewhere. – pkaeding Sep 11 '10 at 22:20

authent. and authoris.? I would say that your current versions are fairly difficult to read, and also not particularly easy to tell apart from one another at a glance.

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I would chose a synonym

  • authenticate synonyms: attest, authenticate, avouch, testify (to), vouch (for), witness
  • authorization synonyms: allowance, authorization, clearance, concurrence, consent, granting, green light, leave, license (or licence), sanction, sufferance, warrant

(As a non-native speaker) I would chose attest and grant.


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What about this:


Auth'tion? We were tought to put aphostrophoes somewhere to shorten a word.

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Putting apostrophes into words still follows a general principle. You shouldn't just stick them in wherever. Whacking the 'r' from both words really mucks with the pronunciation; I would try something more like "Au'rization" or "Au'ri'tion". But really, this is so non-standard as to be moot. – MrHen Apr 25 '11 at 15:25

Why not just: - Autho - Authe

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Not different enough. – Matt E. Эллен Feb 6 '14 at 11:54

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