If U.N. is the acronym of United Nations, then United Nations is the what of U.N.? Is there an opposite of acronym?

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    U.N. is not an example of an acronym. NASA is an acronym. Sep 6, 2021 at 0:12
  • What is the distinction you're making @GeorgeWhite? Is it the presence of periods? If U.N. is not an acronym what is it? Sep 22, 2021 at 21:34
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    No - if it were pronounced like it was an English word “un” it would be an acronym. If you pronounce the name of the letters it’s one thing if you pronounce something like it was a word then it is the other thing. NASA is not pronounced by reciting the name of the letters unlike UN or U.N. It is true that spelling with periods is a big hint that something is not pronounced like a word. Sep 22, 2021 at 22:44
  • Oh I see. For something to be a proper acronym it must be a pronounceable word. Is there a source that can attest to that specific detail? Sep 23, 2021 at 14:31

6 Answers 6

  • United Nations is an expansion of U.N.
  • United Nations is an expanded form or full form of U.N.

I say "an" because U.N. can represent things other than "United Nations."

I think more commonly we would say

  • United Nations is U.N. spelled out.
  • United Nations is what U.N. stands for.

Merriam-Webster 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 (as anzac, radar, snafu)."

Strictly speaking, U.N. is an initialism:

initialism, noun: An abbreviation consisting of the first letter or letters of words in a phrase (for example, IRS for Internal Revenue Service), syllables or components of a word (TNT for trinitrotoluene), or a combination of words and syllables (ESP for extrasensory perception) and pronounced by spelling out the letters one by one rather than as a solid word. [AHED]

So what the opposite of an initialism is depends on what it was formed from in the first place.

Since U.N. was formed from a name, saying "United Nations is the full name of the U.N." is probably the proper thing to do.

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    did you not notice the rest of the Merriam-Webster definition for acronym, which says "an abbreviation (as FBI) formed from initial letters"?
    – nohat
    Dec 27, 2011 at 19:07
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    @RandomIdeaEnglish Interesting. In Ch. 10.2, the Chicago Manual of Style does distinguish between acronyms, initialisms, and contractions as being different types of abbreviations. Odd that the terms are not in your dictionaries. Which, BTW, does not invalidate the conclusion of my answer.
    – Gnawme
    Dec 27, 2011 at 20:07
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    I was always taught that acronyms are words formed from initials, and MW is the only source that I've ever seen that doesn't define them that way. Dec 27, 2011 at 23:47
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    @Gnawme Don't get me wrong - I was agreeing with you. I was just pointing out that those commenters who are using MW as a reference to argue that constructs like "U.N." are acronyms might need to find another source. Dec 28, 2011 at 2:05
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    @nohat By that logic, M-W should be defining "your" and "you're" as synonyms (based on common usage). ;) Dec 28, 2011 at 19:45

You can say that United Nations is the full form of U.N.


The definition for backronym in the Oxford US Dictionary online sheds some light on the antonym for acronym:

a fanciful expansion of an existing acronym or word, such as “port out, starboard home” for posh.

Notice that it is "a fanciful expansion". This seems to indicate that the antonym for acronym is expansion, based on backronym's definition in the Oxford US Dictionary online as a fanciful antonym of acronym.

  • Backronym involves recursion. The concept wear re looking for would not involve recursion, but simply a one-time expansion/deep/amplified/full version of the word or phrase.
    – ahnbizcad
    Sep 6, 2021 at 0:01
  • Also, I don't see why this is necessarily "fanciful". It can adequately be described as simply an expansion.
    – ahnbizcad
    Sep 6, 2021 at 0:25
  • @ahnbizcad, I am very confused about how a backronym involves recursion. The "fanciful" meaning comes from the fact that it is a made-up expansion, one developed after the fact to justify the acronym instead of the normal way where the acronym comes from an existing term.
    – randomhead
    Sep 6, 2021 at 0:49
  • @randomhead PHP is a backronym. It stands for 'PHP hypertext processor." And what does PHP mean in that? It refers to PHP. The P in PHP stands for PHP, which you can analyze again to "PHP hypertext processor... Which gets the question what does the first P stand for? Php. And what does that first p in PHP stand for? Php. Infinite recursion. That's a backronym.
    – ahnbizcad
    Nov 14, 2021 at 7:55
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    @ahnbizcad I don't think you are using "backronym" the way everyone else is. Obviously "PHP" and "GNU" are recursive acronyms. But a backronym is a phrase that has been made up to provide a meaning to another word that wasn't originally an acronym, like "port out, starboard home" for "posh" or "what I know is" for "wiki."
    – randomhead
    Nov 14, 2021 at 13:41

The most logical, symmetric term would be bathonym.

I don't know if there is a "real" (i.e. officially recognized by dictionaries or English language societies) word for this concept, but we can generate a logical and consistent one from the word acronym itself.

(Also, who cares if words are "real" or not? English has tons of irregularities and new really stupid words get added to the English dictionary all the time. It also has a lot of arbitrary disallowals of natural and logical words that are composed or roots and prefixes and suffixes for no good reason, like arrayify "to make into an array", which should have entered into English by now since it is used by programmers all over and programming is a widespread thing, and the criteria for adding words as "real" words is based on widespread usage, not whatever it makes sense. Logic and consistency over arbitrary vetoing!)

Ok, enough commentary! You can judge how sensible/logical this proposal is for yourself!

Acro- is a Greek prefix which means high (loosely, superficial, much the same concept as when we say "give me the 10,000 ft digest, which refers literally to height as a standin-for superficiality). (E.g. acropolis - literally "high city, Acrophobia - fear of heights Acrobatics - "high walker")

And nym means word/name.

So acronym means "a high level word/superficial word."

So what would be the opposite? A word that "exposes the depths and details of a word or phrase". "deep-nym".

And so we can pick the Greek prefix meaning deep, since acro is also a Greek prefix. (I hope the reader can take it as a given that consistently using the Greek is superior to arbitrarily choosing a different language like Latin)

Batho-, bathy- https://wordinfo.info/unit/287

We should choose batho- since acro also ends in o, and there is no reason to be arbitrarily inconsistent. Plus, it's also a freebie that it's easier to rember and rolls right off the tongue anyway.

So we have "bathonym"

Consistent, symmetric, beautiful.

Alternative candidates ruled out

Note: there are other Greek prefixes roughly meaning bottom, such as sub, infra, or hypo, but we should choose one that doesn't have a direct counterpart prefix already, and one that has the closest opposite meaning to acro.

Sub- The counterpart would be super. (Superliminal / subliminal) We don't call it supernym, we call it acronym. So we eliminate sub.

Hypo- (Hypertension / hypotension) Same for hypo, which has hyper, and we don't call it hypernym.

Infra- (Infrared / ultraviolet) Same with infra, which would be ultra. And it's not called ultranym either.

Batho- means deep and acro means high. Batho- is the most fitting choice by elimination and by being in the same dimension/concept as acro, namely, altitude. Batho- and acro+l- are both part of the same spectrum/dimension/concept, namely, altitude.

Edit: I guess there is also the prefix bentho-. Maybe that's better because it avoids confusion in modern English with "bath/bathing/washing" https://wordinfo.info/results?searchString=deep

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    This is brilliant. You should re-post it somewhere. Sep 22, 2021 at 21:38

macronym: the expansion of an acronym

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    Welcome to EL&U! I think this is a reasonably clever and catchy coinage, but (1) can you provide any citations, or did you come up with this yourself? and (2) it's already been taken for another meaning.
    – John Y
    Jul 3, 2013 at 2:46

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