Based on the following example:

Local Area Network (LAN)

You can say that LAN is the short form and the Local Area Network is the long form.

What is the another word for "short form"? (Is 'acronym' a better word for replacing 'short term'? or 'abbreviation' would be a better choice?)

What is the another word for "long form"? (Would 'backronym' a better word choice to replace 'long form'?)

I am open for other word choice to replace 'short form' and 'long form'. Appreciate any help offer.


I have create a table as follows:

|    Acronym   |        ???           |      Meaning (?)                                                                                                                                         |
|      LAN     |  Local Area Network  | supplies networking capability to a group of computers in close proximity to each other such as in an office building, a school, or a home.              |

What would be the header name to replace the "???"?

And also, would the header name "Meaning" be suitable?

5 Answers 5


An acronym is also an abbreviation, and your table would be better headed 'Abbreviation' rather than 'Acronym' because you may have non-acronyms like ADSL.

In fact, if this is a glossary that might contain non-abbreviations like Bandwidth (for example, then 'Terms' is a better heading.

For the second heading you could use 'Meaning', and 'Description' in the third.

Alternatively, merge the second and third columns, or do away with the headings altogether; it's quite clear from the context what's in the table.

  • 1
    Good Explanation Hugo. I will mark your answer as the correct one if no one can come out with a better answer. Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 6:31
  • You can also vote up all the answers you find useful.
    – Hugo
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 7:22
  • Definitely. but I prefer to put a tick on the answer as it gives 15 points to the person who helped me. (Upvote only give the person 10 points) Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 7:25
  • Hi Hugo, your answer is mark as correct as promised. Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 1:31
  • 1
    Yes, I found it useful. Also, I find that English Stack Exchange can learn quite a lot of useful English words - thanks to the whole community sharing their knowledge. Also, would like to thanks each and everyone who help to answer my questions too. Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 8:49

The "short form" is, in this case, an acronym. See Difference between an acronym and abbreviation?

The "long form" is not a backronym; that term is used when the long form is invented based on the acronym, often for humorous effect (for example, Ford = "Fix Or Repair Daily").

I'm not sure that there's a good, obvious word for the "long form." If you're preparing a Table of Acronyms and Abbreviations, as is sometimes required in technical documentation, I'd probably use "Meaning" as the heading for the "long form" column.

  • Fiat: "Fix it again, Tony"
    – Brendon
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 2:20
  • I wish to use "meaning" but imo, I think "meaning", for our example "LAN" would be "supplies networking capability to a group of computers in close proximity to each other such as in an office building, a school, or a home." So, I will need another word to replace 'Long Form' Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 2:24
  • Can you give an example of the context where you need a word for the long form? Is it a table heading, or a sentence, or what? Usually you can write "LAN is an acronym for Local Area Network" or "Local Area Network (abbreviated LAN)" without needing an explicit term for the long form.
    – coneslayer
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 2:27
  • @coneslayer For your information, yes, it is used in a table heading. I have reflect your comments into my question and hope that will clear some doubts. Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 2:36
  1. "Abbreviation" could mean more as Hugo suggested, and should be used here.

  2. I've found "full name" and "full form" used quite often on the web. A mere "term" sounds also fine to me.

  3. IMHO, "definition" may be more suitable than "meaning" in the context.

  • So, should I use 'phrase' to replace the 'long form'? Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 2:21
  • @LarryMorries That could be an option, but I'm not sure you can call it a phrase when you address technical terms like Local Area Network.
    – Terry Li
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 2:25

My Merriam-Webster Unabridged defines acronym as

a word formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term

So compound term would be a good heading for that column in your table.


For your table, I would use the heading "Expansion" on the second column, and change the third column's heading to "Description".

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