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Difference between an acronym and abbreviation?

My question refers to the term/word ET. Some dictionaries define it as acronym standing for "extra terrestrial" and others say it is an abbreviation for extraterrestrial.

Could ET be both an acronym and an abbreviation?

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marked as duplicate by z7sg Ѫ, Alain Pannetier Φ, F'x, simchona, Jasper Loy Aug 16 '11 at 20:06

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Related: Difference between an acronym and an abbreviation. –  Alenanno Aug 16 '11 at 15:35
    
According to @Alenanno's linked question, ET is an acronym. –  z7sg Ѫ Aug 16 '11 at 15:50
    
The linked question is indeed related, but does not cover the issue raised by ET, which includes whether an abbreviation which is formed from non-initial parts of a word is an acronym. –  mgkrebbs Aug 16 '11 at 16:24
    
I think the problem here is not that this isn't a duplicate but that the accepted answer to the original question is incorrect. –  z7sg Ѫ Aug 16 '11 at 16:49

2 Answers 2

No, ET (or E.T.) is not an acronym by most all definitions (although it is an abbreviation). An acronym is formed from the initial letters of several words of a phrase. There is some dispute as to whether to qualify as an acronym, the set of letters has to be able to be pronounced phonetically (like radar) or can be pronounced by pronouncing the letters (like IBM).

In the case of ET, it is an abbreviation of extraterrestrial, a single word, so an acronym of it would be only the single letter E. If ET were an acronym, it would stand for extra terrestrial (which if it were understood, would mean something like "an unneeded earth being").

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E.T. is styled as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial not ET the Extraterrestrial. It is clearly an acronym. I agree however, that this is non-standard. –  z7sg Ѫ Aug 16 '11 at 16:34
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Sorry my bad it is an initialism. –  z7sg Ѫ Aug 16 '11 at 16:48
    
The fact that both extraterrestrial and extra-terrestrial are used puts this one in the grey area. $SETI$ in The SETI League is officially Search(ing) for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence; it’s pronounced ['sɛtɪ] and is by any reasonable standard an acronym. A little searching readily turns up other instances of extra-terrestrial, e.g., by the Royal Society and by Arthur C. Clarke. –  Brian M. Scott Aug 16 '11 at 19:53

According to Wikipedia, an abbreviation is any form of word-shorting (or phrase-shorting) using any method, including acronyms (E.T.) and initialisms (e.g. BBC, ABC, etc).

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