For example, how to pronounce the following:

dir (directory), deer or /də:/?
char (character), /kær/ or /tʃa:r/?
def (define), deff or diff?
mic (microphone), mik or mike?
var (variable), vaar or /vɛə/ or /və/?
bin (binary), binn or bine?
lic (license), lick, like, liss, lice?
dat (data), datt or date?
loc (location), lokk or /lək/?

etc. and the general form?


dir = would say "directory"

char = /tʃa:r/

def = deff

mic = always MIKE

var = vaar

bin = binn

lic = would say "license"

dat = datt

loc = would

say "location"

since lokk would mean lock

  • Well, it seems like there's no general form. Then, should I post more and all? Aug 12 '10 at 23:22
  • 2
    I think it's quite a recent innovation to abbreviate 'microphone' to 'mic' (in the written form). Since as long ago as I can remember a microphone was always a 'mike'. Aug 13 '10 at 8:36
  • On various occasions you would precede all these by "slash", wouldn't you ?
    – ogerard
    Apr 15 '11 at 7:37

Outside of programming:

You generally don't pronounce these abbreviations, you would say the word they're abbreviating (that'd be like saying "Lol" in real life -- yes, people do this and I find it silly and awkward-sounding). Do people really say things like "dir" and "deff"?

Microphone is the exception here. The word is often abbreviated as "mic" on mixing boards, for space reasons, and it stuck. The mic/mike thing can be argued endlessly (and sometimes is).

("Open mike tonight" sounds to me like there'll be a guy named Mike whose body has velcro closures keeping his abdomen closed.)

  • you would say the word they're abbreviating -- Which one? In the above example, I should say 'lol' or 'laugh out loud'? I'm not living in America, so I don't know how people really say those abbreviations. Aug 16 '10 at 7:11
  • I clarified my answer a bit. My point is that I generally would say the word in full, not the abbreviation, with a few exceptions. I don't know how coders talk about programming abbreviations, see Edward's answer for that. Aug 16 '10 at 15:04

Just for "char" alone, I find "care", "car", "char", and even "shar" on the internet. Maybe we should ask Dennis Ritchie?


I wouldn't pronounce a lot of these to people normally, but when I see these abbreviations, I do pronounce a lot of them in my head. I note either idea inline.

dir  /dɪɹ/ 
char /tʃaɹ/
def  /dɛf/
mic  /majk/
var  /vaɹ/ — rhymes with char
bin  /bɪn/
lic  don't pronounce in isolation
dat  don't pronounce in isolation
loc  /louk/
  • I sometimes say dat. Like .dat files (tab-separated value files that Excel can load). Nov 1 '10 at 22:41
  • Come to think of it, I do, too. /dæt/
    – Charlie
    Nov 2 '10 at 17:51

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