Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

I have just bought an Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

This is it's first page showing some abbreviations used in the dictionary.

My question is: why some abbreviations ended with a period (such as: abbr., adj.), but some don't (such as: C, sb, pt)?

  • 2
    Some are actual abbreviations (prep., n., conj.) and some are acronyms and partial acronyms, which don't require the period (NZE, IndE), and some are simply dictionary conventions (sb, sth, pt, etc.).
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 12:48
  • @Robusto Do all the 'actual abbreviations' need periods?
    – Yishu Fang
    Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 12:53
  • Possible dupe of this question where the lone answer also outlines the rules for abbreviations. Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 13:24
  • It does look like abbreviations that use the first few letters continuously use a fullstop, while the others don't. I was not aware of this before, though. Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 13:57
  • The "actual abbreviations" require periods in this dictionary, but understand that that too is a convention and the style guides for other publications may or may not require them. Normally, it is a good idea in prose to distinguish an abbreviation that way, especially where an abbreviation may be confused with another word, e.g., sing. => singular vs. sing => verb meaning to sing. Note that BrE has different rules for these than AmE.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


A close look at how the abbreviations are generated from their full forms should make the answer apparent.

All abbreviations that are created by truncating a (major) part of the word end with a period, while those formed by truncating parts of two words, or two parts, and then combining those, do not end in a dot.

For example, adj. comes from adjective and pl. from plural, but pt is derived from past tense and sth from something.

  • This seemed pretty apparent to me too, so I was about to vote to close as General Reference. But the comments and the other answer, whilst not actually saying anything wrong, do tend to confuse the issue with irrelevancies. Which does sorta make it a "question", even though as you say, the presence of a period purely depends on the "abbreviation" being exactly and only the first 1-4 letters of a single-word "full form". Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 3:10

In this context, the abbreviations without periods are Symbols, whereas those with periods are regular abbreviations.

The 'pattern' for the symbol takes the form of ;

  1. an un-abbreviated/symbolized phrase that has more than one word
  2. at least one of the abbreviated words is represented by more than one letter (e.g. NAmE)
  3. one or more of the words can be un-represented in the symbol (e.g. U )

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