The meaning of common acronyms

Man walking past old garages where the shutters have been painted to look like there are lots of UFOs

British people love creating acronyms (words made using the first letters of other words). It is a great way to make it quicker and easier to provide information. Why take the time to say or write longer words when a few letters can be used instead?

Most acronyms are used only in certain jobs. For some reason, they usually end up with 3 letters. Indeed, business and industry acronyms that use 3 letters are so common, there is even an acronym used to describe them (as a joke) – TLA (three-letter acronym). The government health and safety website has a useful list of some of the acronyms found in industry and business.

Of course, there is a balance. If there are too many acronyms, they just confuse people. In 2018, the Ministry of Defence was criticised for creating a handbook of acronyms that was 370 pages long.

However, some acronyms are very common and used by everyone. Look out for:

  • A&E = accident & emergency (the place in a hospital for emergency care)
  • AKA = also known as
  • B&B = bed and breakfast
  • BBQ = barbecue
  • BAME = Black, Asian and minority ethnic
  • BO = body odour (smelling of sweat)
  • BW = best wishes
  • CCTV = security cameras (closed circuit television)
  • CV = resume (‘curriculum vitae’ in Latin)
  • DIY = home improvement (do it yourself)
  • DOB = date of birth
  • EG = for example (‘exempli gratia’ in Latin)
  • FAQ = frequently asked questions
  • GP = local doctor (general practitioner)
  • HGV = lorry/truck (heavy goods vehicle)
  • HQ = headquarters
  • ID = identity documents
  • IE = namely (‘id est’ in Latin)
  • IT = information technology (computers and software)
  • LGBT+ = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and other gender/sexuality identities
  • MP = member of parliament
  • N/A = not available or not applicable
  • NHS = National Health Service
  • OAP = old age pensioners (old people)
  • PA = personal assistant
  • PC = once meant ‘personal computer’, but now means any desktop computer not made by Apple
  • PIN = personal identification number (used with a debit card or credit card)
  • PM = prime minister
  • PMT = pre-menstrual tension (feeling emotional before menstruation)
  • P&P = postage and packaging
  • PS = ‘post script’ in Latin. Used to add a note at the end of a letter
  • PTO = please turn over
  • Q&A = questions and answers
  • RIP = rest in peace (used on gravestones)
  • RSVP = please reply (‘respondez s’il vous plait’ in French)
  • TBA = to be announced
  • TBC = to be confirmed
  • T&Cs = terms and conditions
  • TLC = tender loving care
  • UFO = alien spaceship (unidentified flying object)
  • VAT = value added tax
  • VIP = very important person
  • WC = toilet (once called a ‘water closet’)
  • WFH = work from home

Image: Roryrocker13/Dreamstime

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