I was told that abbreviations consist of initialisms (FBI, a.k.a.†), acronyms (NATO, ), and shortened words (ad, bike).

Thanks to Pete Kirkham for correcting me: for most people a.k.a. is an initialism.

But what about i.e. and e.g.? At the first glance, they look as initialisms, but typically we pronounce them as "for example" and "that is", not literally, like "eye ee".

So which subclass of abbreviations they belong to? Initialisms or maybe something different, and why? Are there reputable sources to classify them?

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    I myself say "E-G" and "I-E" when I come across those terms; this is similar to how &c. is pronounced "And-C." It seems to be an initialism, and the use of saying "for example," &c., is something that arose out of common speech, since it is commonly accepted that those initialisms mean the longer phrases.
    – BigRigz
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 9:48
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    a.k.a is an initialism, at least for most people - english.stackexchange.com/questions/14588/how-to-pronounce-aka/… Commented May 27, 2021 at 11:30
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    @BigRigz I'm a foreigner, but it seems that a practice to pronounce i.e. and e.g. literally is not the most common one: "True, there are a few people who actually say 'ee-jee' for the last one, but this practice is decidedly unusual." - prof. Larry Trask, 1997, sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/capsandabbr/abbr
    – john c. j.
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 11:53
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    It may have been unusual in the circles in which Trask moved. I don't think it is. When people read a text, in my experience they are more likely to read "ee-gee" if that is what is written. In normal speech, of course, when merely providing examples and not reading a text, people use "for example".
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 12:07
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    I (British, 60+) say 'ee gee' and 'eye-ee', but I pronounce both etc. and &c as 'etcetera'. Commented May 27, 2021 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


My trusty Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS), 13th ed. calls e.g. and i.e. "Abbreviations" under the heading of "Scholarship".


14.31 Abbreviations have a very long history of use in the realm of scholarship, and general principles concerning their use are widely agreed upon.

... General abbreviations such as etc., e.g., and i.e. are preferable confined to parenthetical references.

When pronouncing the first, one could say "eye ee", "id est", or "that is."

When pronouncing the second, one could say "ee gee", "exempli gratia", or "for example."

(This AE speaker prefers the English translation of the Latin, but has heard all three pronounced.)

CMoS calls these abbreviations. I suppose if you had to subclassify them, you might call them scholarly abbreviations.

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    I’m probably wrong, but I always thought scribal/scholarly abbreviations were to be read out in full, not pronounced as individual letters—and usually into English not their Latin originals. So ‘&’ is pronounced and not et; ‘pp.’ is pages not pee-pee or paginae; ‘c.’ is circa or around not see; ‘ff.’ is and the following not eff-eff; ‘v.s.’ and ‘v.i.’ are see above/below not vee-ess/eye; ‘et al.’ is and others not et alii/alios/alia/aliae let alone Ed-Al the man’s name; ‘cf.’ is compare not confer; ‘viz.’ is namely not vizz or weedy lick it. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 14:30
  • Funny, yes, I will read out loud "pp. 14-18" as pages 14 to 18, never pee pee. But if I read out loud "all mammals (e.g., elephants)" I will say all mammals, for example elephants. But when reading an academic paper in my head, I don't bother to translate the abbreviation into English, and just read, all mammals, ee gee elephants. I have heard others speak ee gee and eye ee, even though my preference is to speak English, thank you.
    – rajah9
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 15:04
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    Are you implying by omission that e.g. and i.e. are -not- initialisms? That is does CMoS only talk about abbreviations in general or does it separate into initialisms and acronyms and eg/ie are explicitly stated as not an initialism?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 18:56
  • CMoS 13th ed. does not have initialisms. It classifies i.e., e.g., ibid., ca., and etc. as abbreviations. In the index for acronyms it has a See also Abbreviations and vv. (Yes, vice versa)
    – rajah9
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 21:24
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    The question was whether they are initialisms. That question cannot be answered by referring to a manual that does not use the concept of an initialism. One may believe that the absence of the concept from this manual indicates that the question, as posed, is misguided, but that is not obvious; it would need to be argued for.
    – jsw29
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 16:34

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