According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) acronyms are, simply put, words “created out of initials or major parts of a compound term”, like ASAP, CV or Laser (see below). And it is certainly a neat trick to save time, space, and even make long fixed phrases or names catchy and more memorable.

America has always had a fascination with making acronyms. But making abbreviations out of initial letters is nothing new. Even the ancient Romans made considerable use of acronyms with the famous SPQR, which means Senatus Populusque Romanus (‘The Senate and People of Rome’), that was extensively used on most roman currency as well as civil monuments and any buildings that belonged to the Roman Republic.

Big Friendly Acronyms

Although many acronyms have made their way into ordinary English usage and most people know how to use them in their daily lives – many times the exact words that originated the acronym are utterly ignored. So, if you have been wondering what’s the real meaning behind many of these puzzling abbreviations or just want to refresh your knowledge with a little challenge, here are 14 popular acronyms that you might be getting wrong.

P.S: Try to guess the meanings before reading the explanation!

AFK - Away from keyboard

This one has gained more popularity in recent times, with the growth of remote or online work. It is primarily used to tell other members of an online board, chat room, or remote workspace that you won’t be available at your computer for a certain period of time. Although AFK originated in the early days of the internet, being first used in 90’s chat rooms, it is still commonly displayed in online multiplayer games when someone isn’t playing or is currently unavailable.

BYOB - Bring your own bottle/beverage

Chances are you already know this one. Party organizers usually add this little acronym to their invitations to make sure everyone contributes to the general happiness of the gathering. By bottle or beverage, of course, most people mean alcoholic drinks, although not necessarily. An alternative might be BYOF, meaning to ‘bring your own food’.

RSVP - ‘Répondez s’il vous plaît’, french for ‘please reply’

Another very popular one, especially if you work at an office or in formal party invitations (like a wedding). This is one of the many borrowed expressions from the French language that are still used today by English speakers. However, apparently, RSVP is no longer used in France and is considered to be quite old-fashioned. But, unless you are French, don’t be rude and reply, so the host will know whether to count you for their party or not.

DIY - Do it yourself

This one refers to doing crafts, repairs, or decorations at home by yourself, in contrast to hiring someone else to do it (a professional) or buying from the store. If you type ‘DIY’ on a website like YouTube, you will find thousands of tutorials and guides that cover almost everything, from learning how to paint a wall to building your own radio.

AWOL - Absent without leave

Originally a military term for soldiers that left their post without permission, now it is widely used to mean that someone has temporarily gone missing. When a friend suddenly disappears from the bar without a trace, you can now say that they have ‘gone AWOL’ (although in all likelihood they are probably just sleeping it off).

TL;DNR  - Too long, didn’t read

Commonly used in online forums and discussion boards to indicate that someone has posted something way too long and wordy. If you don’t like our article you can tell us TL;DNR!

YOLO - You only live once

In the last couple of years, you might have heard someone yelling ‘YOLO!’ to no one in particular before doing something incredibly dumb or at least driven by a questionable train of thought. However, it can also be used to encourage someone to live their lives to the fullest, without overthinking things or worrying too much along the way. You can think of the aphorism ‘Carpe Diem’ (Latin for ‘seize the day’) as an ancient – and nobler – relative of this acronym.

ASAP - As soon as possible

Another common workplace acronym, ASAP is used when you want to make it clear to someone that they should reply or do something quickly, or when there is a deadline coming and they should hurry up.

Laser - Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation

A device that ‘stimulates atoms or molecules to emit light at particular wavelengths’, Laser is one of those acronyms that are cleverly hidden within a common use word.

NSFW - Meaning: Not safe for work

Bet you didn’t know this one. This acronym is commonly used as a tag in online posts or URLs that open adult content - mostly nudity, but also anything else that might not be suitable to see in the workplace or with children around. You might find it used to label any sort of films, books, or products that contain sexual or explicit content, profanity, violence, and other adult-oriented subjects.

ZIP (code) - Meaning: Zone Improvement Plan code

I’m not going to lie, I found this one surprising. In 1963, the United States Post Office began using the now ubiquitous ZIP Code, replacing an older system that needed improvement in terms of efficiency – hence calling it the ‘Zone Improvement Plan’.

OG - Meaning: Original Gangster

Do not mistake it for OJ! (orange juice). If like me, you were baffled by this acronym, very popular now among teenagers, you can join the party and start calling OGs left and right. But as usual, it is not exactly new. OG is an expression that has been used for decades in the rap and hip hop culture as a way of respecting someone who has had a long experience or been around for a long time in a certain circle or scene. Effectively, it means ‘cool’ and ‘old-school’.

Radar - Meaning: Radio detection and ranging

Unless you are an amateur radio enthusiast or worked in engineering or the military, you probably never even gave a second thought to this word. Originally, the term RADAR was coined by the US Navy in the 1940s to call a number of detection systems that make use of radio waves to determine the distance, speed, and position of objects.

POTUS - President of the United States

It is usually speculated that this acronym (as many others) originated with the telegraph. International communications from the US president in the 1940s were commonly labeled as being sent by POTUS. Now you can see it used in official Twitter accounts and other White House media presence.

Too long; didn't read

So, maybe now you are a little more versed in the complex (and vast!) world of US acronyms. Each one of these has its own history and, beyond their usefulness - if you are like me, you probably suspect that some of these are more for show than actually necessary - they are an important part of our culture, deeply ingrained in our conversations, emails, and even official government statements.

If you enjoyed learning the meaning behind words like YOLO or Radar, stay around! We will keep uploading more content like this!