While I understand why USA PATRIOT is a contrived acronym, I don't understand if CAPTCHA should be considered a contrived acronym.

Is CAPTCHA a contrived acronym? Why?

  • 2
    It's a rare acronym that isn't contrived.
    – user597
    Feb 24, 2011 at 14:39
  • 2
    @mickeyf: How on earth can you say that? Are you seriously suggesting it would have been called Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart if the initial letters (ignoring a few repeated T's) hadn't happened to spell out a homonym of a word closely associated with the purpose of the system? Dec 8, 2011 at 1:45
  • 4
    Oh, I thought the CA part stood for completely annoying.
    – sarah
    Dec 8, 2011 at 8:46

2 Answers 2


CAPTCHA is homophonous to capture, and thus it is a contrived acronym, as described on Wikipedia. As to why it is a contrived acronym, it is the goal of the CAPTCHA system to capture bots trying to pass as human beings, in order to prevent them from doing certain actions.

  • 3
    Homophonous in England. But Carnegie Mellon is in the US.
    – GEdgar
    Dec 8, 2011 at 2:58
  • @GEdgar Well, in some parts of the US, too. For instance Boston, Long Island, and many southern areas.
    – sarah
    Dec 8, 2011 at 8:44
  • I always thought they first decided on CAPTCHA and then thought up a funny trail of words to suit the purpose into the full form!
    – Kris
    Dec 9, 2011 at 10:11

From The Official CAPTCHA Site

The term CAPTCHA (for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas Hopper and John Langford of Carnegie Mellon University.

Since CAPTCHA it is pronounced like a normal word it is an acronym, and not an initialism like e.g. IBM.

To answer the question:

From Acronym and initialism

A contrived acronym is one deliberately designed to be especially apt for the thing being named (by having a dual meaning or by borrowing the positive connotations of an existing word).[citation needed] Some examples of contrived acronyms are USA PATRIOT, CAN SPAM, CAPTCHA and ACT UP.

  • 3
    There was a device for finding lost sheep called BO PEEP.
    – TRiG
    Apr 10, 2011 at 0:41

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