TLA is an acronym for "Three Letter Acronym". Is it also an abbreviation, since it abbreviates the original phrase?
An acronym (as the term is commonly used) is a term that is formed from the initial letters of some longer name and is pronounced differently than the expanded form. Examples of acronyms as the term is commonly used:
- FBI, which stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation, but is pronounced ef-bee-I
- NATO, which stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but is pronounced NAY-toe
- IUPAC, which stands for International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, but is pronounced I-U-pak
An abbreviation is written differently from the expanded form but is pronounced the same. Examples:
- Mr., which stands for mister and is pronounced mister
- ft., which stands for feet and is pronounced feet
- etc., which stands for et cetera and is pronounced et cetera
Whether the form is pronounced as a “word” or as letter names or as some combination of the two is a red herring. The key difference is whether the abbreviated form is pronounced differently from the expanded form.
An acronym is a type of abbreviation that is pronounced as a word (e.g. SCUBA, LASER).
The following article is worth a look:
An acronym (sometimes called an initialism) is simply a word formed by taking letters (usually the first) of each word in a phrase to form an abbreviation. Acronyms are thus a subset of abbreviations.
Examples of acronyms: CEO (cheif executive officer), AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome), FAQ (frequently asked questions), CD-ROM (compact-disk read-only memory)
(Notice that they may be pronounced as words themselves or spelt out depending on the case.)
Examples of abbreviations that are not acronyms: Mr. (Mister), Prof. (Professor), op. (opus), mm (millimeters),