10 English acronyms you should know

Learn languages August 25, 2020

Abbreviations and acronyms are useful little communication tools common in every language, and particularly frequent in English. Whether you’re writing an email or typing fast on your smartphone, short words or terms just make life easier – and more fun!

While abbreviations are simply the result of shortening words (e.g., approx. instead of approximately) and can be easily understood, acronyms can be slightly more confusing and less intuitive. They’re formed by taking the initial of each word in a phrase and often capitalising them in order to create a new term – LOL, for instance, is an acronym that stands for Laughing Out Loud.

English acronyms can be used in both formal and informal contexts, so at least recognizing and understanding them is an absolute must for English speakers. And of course, producing them yourself will help you write that little bit faster – while sounding like a real pro! Here are 10 very common English acronyms you should know:     

1. BRB

Be Right Back is definitely something you’d say in any context, but this acronym is mainly used when chatting with friends. Bouncing WhatsApps back and forth with your buddy when your dad suddenly really needs to talk to you? No worries, just let your friend know you will BRB.

2. ASAP

This one is most likely to cause panic if it’s in an email from your boss. Whenever you read “Can you complete this ASAP?”, you’d better get down to work because your deadline is As Soon As Possible – a nice little euphemism for “now” or even “last Thursday”!

3. RSVP

You’ll find this one on most invitations to events you’ll receive, from weddings and parties to office dos and meetings. As so many English terms, this one comes from French and stands for Répondez s’il vous plait – it is simply a request to answer and either confirm or decline attendance.

4. TBC/TBD

The same invitation that asked you to RSVP may also state that the venue is To Be Confirmed, so don’t book your Uber just yet! Similarly, notes taken during a meeting may refer to items that are To Be Discussed.

5. ETA

ETA is actually a very common acronym used in the transport industry to refer to an Estimated Time of Arrival. However, feel free to use it whenever you need to point out just how late you’re going to be (“Yes, I know we’d arranged to meet at 6pm, but my new ETA is 7pm, I’m afraid…”).

6. DOB

This acronym is just plain weird. It actually sounds like a name you’d give an alien, or a child-friendly substitute for “poop”. However, it’s sadly not that amusing – DOB stands for Date Of Birth and it is very common to find it on forms in which personal information is required.

7. IMO

Who doesn’t have a few opinions they feel compelled to share? Here’s how to quickly introduce them! In My Opinion can be tweaked to come across as even more polite: IMHO is also common and stands for In My Humble Opinion. 

8. aka

You’ll find this acronym particularly useful if you’re prone to using nicknames – “The boss, aka ‘My mum’”. “Also known as” can come in handy when you’re being cheeky, for instance: “Please make way for the smartest person in the room, aka ‘Me’”.

9. DIY

If you’re the type who prefers to take care of tasks such as fixing an electrical appliance or giving your home a makeover instead of hiring a professional to do it, then you should know you’re a Do It Yourself kind of person.

10. FOMO

Picture this: it’s Friday and your mates are planning a night out but you’re tired and really don’t fancy a late night, so you consider not joining them. And then you start agonising because you may regret not being a part of what could turn out to be a legendary outing. That feeling exactly is FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.

So now you’re up to speed on the basics, here is some unsettling news for you: new English acronyms and abbreviations pop up constantly on the Internet. No need to fret, though – the more familiar you get with this type of term and the better your language skills are, the easier it will be for you to figure out the new ones you encounter!

Boost your English with ESL

By Julia Hoyas

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