ACRONYM - An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/acronym

Much has been written about acronyms and abbreviations here at EL&U. See Difference between an acronym and abbreviation? However, I see no mention to this type of acronym where the first half of a word is joined to the second half of another.

Sitcom - a situation comedy, certainly doesn't fulfill the classic criterion for an acronym. But it might be a variety and might be called by a diferent name. Is it?


3 Answers 3


Yes, sitcom can be considered an acronym.

The ODO definition is a bit too restrictive, if you ask me.

Compare it to the OED, which has two distinct senses of the word: the first is identical to initialism (i.e., when each letter in the acronym is pronounced individually); the second is:

A word formed from the initial letters of other words or (occas.) from the initial parts of syllables taken from other words, the whole being pronounced as a single word (such as NATO, RADA). [My emphasis]

The Merriam-Webster definition is also more inclusive:

a word (as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term

Both these definitions tally with the very first two sentences in the Wikipedia article on acronyms:

An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. These components may be individual letters (as in laser) or parts of words (as in Benelux and Ameslan).

All this does not mean that ‘acronym’ is the first thing people think of when they hear sitcom—it is an option, but I would not call it the ideal description. Sitcom is a more typical case of blending, so if you are simply looking for a word to describe sitcom (rather than specifically wondering whether you can describe it as an acronym), I would use that instead.

  • 3
    The ODO definition is not identical to initialism. The difference is how the result is pronounced. If you say each letter separately, like CPU, it's an initialism. If you speak it as a normal word, like RADAR, it's an acronym.
    – Barmar
    Aug 28, 2014 at 22:57
  • @Barmar I never said the ODO definition is identical to initialism. I said it is too restrictive. The first of the two definitions given by the OED is identical to intialism (which I defined the same way you just did), but I did not quote that definition, only the second one. Aug 28, 2014 at 22:59
  • Sorry, got confused over what you were referring to.
    – Barmar
    Aug 28, 2014 at 23:01
  • Hmmm, your recent edit "Yes, sitcom can be considered an acronym" changes your original position fairly radically. I wouldn't have bothered doing all that research if you had stated this from the beginning.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 29, 2014 at 0:00
  • @Mari-LouA Sorry, didn't mean to cause you unnecessary work. It was your answer, though, that made me realise that I had perhaps answered the question a bit too literally, thinking only of whether sitcom could be considered an acronym, and completely neglecting to mention whether it should. :-) Aug 29, 2014 at 0:05

Sitcom is defined as a shortening by

  • The Free Dictionary
    n. Informal. situation comedy. [1960–65; by shortening]

  • Wikipedia
    A situation comedy, often shortened to the portmanteau sitcom

  • Dictionary.com
    noun, Informal. 1. situation comedy. 1960-65; by shortening

Or as an abbreviation by

  • Oxford Dictionaries
    Origin 1960s: abbreviation.
  • Reverso Dictionary
    A sitcom is an amusing television drama series about a set of characters. Sitcom is an abbreviation for `situation comedy'

Or simply short for by

Or a clipped form as described by Prof. Larry Trask

Contractions must be carefully distinguished from clipped forms. A clipped form is a full word which happens to be derived by chopping a piece off a longer word, usually one with the same meaning. Clipped forms are very common in English; here are a few, with their related longer forms:

ad ______advertisement
pro _____professional
deli _____delicatessen
hippo ____hippopotamus (etc.)

Or as a clipping by Wikipedia

In linguistics, clipping is the word formation process which consists in the reduction of a word to one of its parts (Marchand: 1969). Clipping is also known as "truncation" or "shortening." Clipping mainly consists of the following types:

Back clipping
Middle clipping
Complex clipping


Complex Clipping

Clipped forms are also used in compounds. One part of the original compound most often remains intact. Examples are: cablegram (cable telegram), op art (optical art), org-man (organization man), linocut (linoleum cut). Sometimes both halves of a compound are clipped as in navicert (navigation certificate). In these cases it is difficult to know whether the resultant formation should be treated as a clipping or as a blend, for the border between the two types is not always clear. According to Bauer (1983), the easiest way to draw the distinction is to say that those forms which retain compound stress are clipped compounds, whereas those that take simple word stress are not. By this criterion bodbiz, Chicom, Comsymp, Intelsat, midcult, pro-am, photo op, sci-fi, and sitcom are all compounds made of clippings.

  • 1
    All acronyms are abbreviations and/or shortenings; acronym is just a more precise subtype of abbreviation. I can’t quite figure out why, but Wikipedia’s description of sitcom as a portmanteau word jars with me. I can’t get myself to think of it as a portmanteau, no matter how I try. Had it been called a situdy or sitmedy or something like that, that would have been an obvious portmanteau, but taking the beginnings of two words … that just doesn’t feel right for portmanteaus. Aug 28, 2014 at 23:21
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet I found many references which do not say sitcom is an acronym, and many dictionaries who do not make any distinction.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 28, 2014 at 23:34
  • Many of these abbreviating methods overlap. The fact that sitcom is a shortening does not prevent it from being also definable as an acronym. Acronym is perhaps not the first way I would have thought of to define it either (I would go with blend if I were to give it the most appropriate name); but it certainly does fall within the scope of what an acronym can be. I doubt there are any references that specifically say that sitcom is not an acronym (as opposed to not saying that it is)—I would find that odd. Aug 28, 2014 at 23:40
  • 2
    +1 for unearthing Bauer’s very useful distinction (which I had not seen before)! Aug 29, 2014 at 0:07
  • 1
    @Luis You accepted Janus's answer less than one hour after you had posted your question. I was clearly adding extra information with every edit, as I knew time was of essence and I was right. Anyone could have seen that, check the history. I was making a point and looking for references. In the end, you preferred Janus's answer which is fair enough, but it's clear to me you weren't interested in hearing an opinion that contrasted your preconceived one.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 29, 2014 at 17:05

The word sitcom is a portmanteau of situation and comedy.

  • 2
    Independently from the fact that the Wikipedia link I posted and cited from contained the expression, portmanteau, I don't believe it to be an accurate description if we take the definition of portmanteau to be: "A portmanteau word fuses both the sounds and the meanings of its components, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph which represents two or more morphemes." as reported in the Wikipedia link you posted.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 29, 2014 at 6:52
  • @Mari-LouA - I'm curious which part of the Wikipedia definition you feel fits sitcom poorly. Fusing-sounds, check. Fusing meanings, check. Blending two words, check. Admittedly not a single morph, but then neither is motel. The requirement that a portmanteau be a single morph is highly arguable.
    – Joel Brown
    Aug 29, 2014 at 11:55
  • 1
    Sitcom is hardly a fusing sound, they're staccato from each other.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 29, 2014 at 12:00

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