The Free Dictionary tells me that UCHI is the acronym for The University of Chicago. But if that were the case, shouldn't it be TUOC?

I visited the official university website and it says said

Our official full name: The University of Chicago
Wherever possible we prefer to use the full name of the University: The University of Chicago. […]


Social media abbreviation: UChi
In social media platforms, UChi is an acceptable abbreviation when UChicago [its official informal name] won’t fit due to character constraints

UPDATE May 07 2018
The University has since updated its site, the information can now be found on pp.16-17 on the pdf.

The University recognizes that UChi is not an acronym, and calls it an abbreviation, I can tell because is made up of the first three letters of University Chicago

It then goes on to explain why U of C and UC were rejected. Apparently, these acronyms are used by other universities but it fails to mention anything about TUOC.

The same website also omits the issue of its pronunciation, leaving me to ask how do I pronounce the abbreviation UChi?

The letters ch is usually pronounced in three different ways: The first is [tʃ] as in church, cheese, cherry, butcher, speech, and so on. The second is [ʃ], this normally occurs in some French loanwords such as machine, chandelier, chic and moustache. And the third sound is pronounced [k] in words of Greek origin, such as stomach, school, Christmas, chemistry, technology and others, too numerous to mention.

I can confidently discard the third sound [k] based on how I know Chicago is pronounced, which leaves me with the sounds [tʃ] and [ʃ]. Is the “ch” in UChi the voiceless postalveolar affricate t͡ʃ or the sibilant /ʃ/? Wikipedia tells me that that the latter is also called a voiceless palato-alveolar fricative

  • Is there a reason why the institution snubbed TUOC in favor of UChi? Is this form of abbreviation exclusive to UChicago?
  • Is UChi pronounced as one word, (you chee /juː tʃiː/ or you shee /juː ʃiː/ ) or as initials?
  • Is writing the abbreviation "UChi" in block capital letters a mistake?

This post is not a duplicate of the Difference between an acronym and abbreviation?

I am not asking what is the difference between the two forms. As I mentioned previously, and clearly, UChi is an abbreviation not an acronym such as NATO and IUPAC, or an initialism such as FBI. If nothing else, I have proved that the question is not one of general knowledge (unless perhaps you're a Chicagoan).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Apr 15, 2018 at 21:50
  • I have been doing more research regarding how locals pronounce UChi and have come up with some interesting information, which I intend to elaborate on. But could you adjust the link(s) in your question? The first one does go to the UChicago website but only to a No Results Found page. And could you kindly provide a link that displays what you quote in your second quote (re the university’s social media policy)? May 7, 2018 at 17:18
  • @user9825893y50932 I can't find the page, it's been moved or deleted. The social media policy was on the same page. I found an older version (July 2017) thanks to Way Back machine. When I have time, I try digging deeper.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 7, 2018 at 17:33
  • @Mari-LouA you could try calling them (maybe via Skype). When they pick up you say, is this UChi (using whichever pronunciation you think is correct / or mispronounce on purpose so you can hear their correction), and before they can answer you follow up with, I'm sorry did I pronounce that correctly? If they all say the same thing, that's probably what they use.
    – JJJ
    May 14, 2018 at 19:59
  • Not noted elsewhere on this page is the musical group, the Chi-Lites. As the first line in their Wikipedia entry remarks, "The Chi-Lites (/ˈʃaɪlaɪts/ "shy lights") are an R&B/soul vocal quartet from Chicago, Illinois, United States." The group have called themselves "the Chi-Lites" since 1964.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 11, 2018 at 6:17

3 Answers 3


The abbreviation Chi is well established to refer to the city of Chicago.

One of the city's nicknames is Chi-Town. See Chicago Tribune's "Does anyone use 'Chi-Town'? And why NYE organizers chose it" (January 6, 2016). The nickname is dated to at least 1931.

The preferred pronunciation of Chi- in Chi-Town seems to be shy (/ʃaɪ/), as evidenced by

(1) this pronunication on Forvo by someone "who was born about 20km from the University of Chicago main campus"

and perhaps more interestingly by

(2) the spoken (not sung) pronunciation by singer C.W. McCall in his #1 hit song (USA) of "Convoy" which can be heard at about 2:15 in this YouTube video.

However, a popular "contrary" pronunciation of Chi occurs in ChiSox, which refers to the baseball club Chicago White Sox, as opposed to the cross town rivals Chicago Cubs. In this case, the pronunciation of Chi- is correctly pronounced as chai (/tʃaɪ/). For instance, here is its pronunciation on Forvo. (Note that locals do not generally use the term Chi-Sox as this is apparently a "national abbreviation" for the team to distinguish it from the Boston Red Sox or Bo-Sox, which, similarly, Boston locals don't use.)

When we come to how UChi is pronounced, we see that the Chi already has two possible pronunciations, one with [ʃ] and on with [tʃ]. We also have to recall that the "social media abbreviation" UChi is itself an abbreviation of UChicago, which is the official abbreviation of the university and the one found throughout its website.

A linguistics professor at UChicago told me that she had never heard UChi pronounced; other locals told me the same thing; and Page 15 of the university's guideline (here's the link to the pdf again) does not offer any pronunciation—perhaps because it did not expect anyone to actually pronounce it, or perhaps because it figured everyone would read it as UChicago (you-Chicago).

So, since there is no official pronunciation, and since UChi is itself an abbreviation of UChicago, speakers and readers are left to fend for themselves. Yet locals have given me four possible pronunications for UChi:

1 ju-ʃaɪ, with Chi as in Chi-Town

2 ju-tʃaɪ, with Chi as in Chi-Sox

3 ju-ʃiː (you she)

4 u-tʃiː (oochie) as in Uchi-con (oochie-con or simply oochie), the university's annual anime convention. Hear the pronunciation at this UChi-Con video (2017) and/or this video (2018). This one from 2016 is funny, as the VLogger plays with the pronunciation of Chi in UChi-Con and even says U-something-con.

A dormitory at UChicago was selling coffee/tea mugs with UChai on them, as a pun on chai (tea) and UChi, per a student at UChicago. However there is no official pronunciation. Most locals, I would guess, read UChi on social media as if it were spelled out UChicago, unless they were talking about UChi-Con.

As for TUOC, this would not be in accord with universities that actually place the the in the names proper, as The Ohio State University, abbreviated OSU, and The University of Texas, abbreviated as UT.

  • according to EOD Chi-Town is pronounced either /ˈʃʌɪtaʊn/ or /ˈtʃʌɪtaʊn/. I would never have guessed the "shy" version
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 15, 2018 at 18:21
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA Do you pronunce the city name as /tʃɪ 'ka goʊ/? The typical way is /ʃɪ 'kɒ goʊ/ and the local (oldfashioned) way is /ʃɪ 'kɑ goʊ/. Or is it the other way?
    – Mitch
    Apr 15, 2018 at 19:32
  • 2
    @Fattie - Are you saying that Chitown sounds like “shitown” (shih-town)?? Never heard that before.
    – Jim
    Apr 16, 2018 at 1:33
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA I agree with the EOD's pronunciations of Chi-Town. These two pronunciations are how I meant to write in my answer. I was using pronunciation symbols from, I think, Webster. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:21
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA As for the pronunciation of the city, you can check Forvo. I have also made sure that UChi, Chi-Town and Chi-Sox have been added to Forvo. Apr 16, 2018 at 19:33

There is so much going on here. There's what's official, there's what people say, there's what people at there do, there's what people from Chicago do. I've lived in Chicago and dealt with people from the University of Chicago so I have some little local knowledge. What the Economist style guide suggests is unknown to me.

Your link gives what is recommended in print. 'UChi' is a recommendation for how to type it in social media like Twitter. Do people do that in emails? I don't think so but maybe I don't see enough. TUOC is just not used.

As to 'UC' or 'U of C' being forbidden, that's because __UC of U of C are exactly what is typed/spoken_ _respectively) by most people there and some local administrative busybody wants to distinguish themselves. Sure, other places may use those abbreviations too, but in Chicago, they mean University of Chicago.

As to Free Dictionary, I don't know where they got 'UCHI' from. That just seems crazy.

As an aside, 'ChiTown' is pronounced shy town /'ʃai taʊn/. 'UCHI' would presumably be pronounced /ju: ʃai/ if one were to dare pronounce it at all.

As another an aside, sometimes 'The' is included in an acronym and sometimes not eg 'The Art Of Computer Science' -> TAOCP. But usually it's just not in an acronym.

  • I pronounce the Chi in Chicago as "she" i.e. /ʃɪˈ/ hence my bemusement hearing it's pronounced /ʃʌɪ/ in Chi-Town. I pronounce Chicago as /ʃɪ 'kɑː goʊ/ like "ar" in car.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 15, 2018 at 20:03
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA There is a well known variant in how to pronounce the city name in Chicago. The typical way is /ʃɪ 'kɒ goʊ/ and the local (old-fashioned in Chicago) way is /ʃɪ 'kɑ goʊ/. Or is it the other way? The supposedly special accent that people in Chicago have is marked only by how they pronounce the 'a' in Chicago. All the SNL and 'Da Bulls' stuff is ... fanciful (ie made up). Or may be its the Northern Cities Shift?
    – Mitch
    Apr 15, 2018 at 22:39
  • I'm not terribly familiar with the Chicagoan accent, Obama was a senator there but I don't think he adopted the accent. Could you give me the name of a famous comedian or actor who has that accent, it would help me understand better. I'm having difficulty in recognizing the difference between ɒ and ɑ. Is the second similar to ɑː ?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 15, 2018 at 23:31
  • 1
    @Fattie my question is also asking about pronunciation but it is utterly unremarkable that you have completely misinterpreted it. It isn't the first time. The question was never about acronyms vs abbreviations. Well, at least you haven't been telling each and every user that the answer is obvious and the question should have been migrated to ELL. That's one saving grace I suppose.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 16, 2018 at 0:12
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA Here's the classic Saturday Night Live clip. th-stopping, cot-caught merger (that might account for the classic 'Chi cah go'). I don't know anyone in Chicago who talks like that though, seems hyperbolic.
    – Mitch
    Apr 16, 2018 at 0:50

Articles are almost never reflected in acronyms/abbreviations/initialisms, and "of" is, I would say, usually omitted, as are other short words including "and".

  • UNLV = University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • NAACP = National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

"Of" isn't always omitted:

  • USDOT =United States Department of Transportation
  • DoS (typically with lower-case "o") = denial of service

Postscript: Following up on Sven Yargs' comment, I thought of a couple of common abbreviations with "the" explicitly represented.

  • TPTB = The Powers That Be
  • POTUS = President of the United States
  • 1
    Of course, to most rules there are exceptions, and in that spirit, to your generally valid argument, I offer "TSOP" [The Sound Of Philadelphia] by MFSB [Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers]—partly because of the T and the O in TSOP and partly because it reminds me of many, many dance parties I attended in college.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 16, 2018 at 0:33
  • Nice! I thought of a couple more--adding them to my response. Apr 16, 2018 at 0:59
  • 1
    POTUS also has the O in "of" not only the definite article. PUS would be very unbecoming, FLUS is marginally less embarrassing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 16, 2018 at 1:34
  • The first lady is FLOTUS.
    – Xanne
    Apr 16, 2018 at 12:44

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