Acronym vs. Acrostic - What's the difference?

Main Difference

The main difference between Acronym and Acrostic is that the Acronym is a abbreviation made out of the first letters of the words of a sequence and Acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message.

Acronym

An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters (as in NATO or laser) and sometimes syllables (as in Benelux). There are no universal standards of the multiple names for such abbreviations and of their orthographic styling. In English and most other languages, such abbreviations historically had limited use, but they became much more common in the 20th century. Acronyms are a type of word formation process, and they are viewed as a subtype of blending.

Acrostic

An acrostic is a poem (or other form of writing) in which the first letter (or syllable, or word) of each line (or paragraph, or other recurring feature in the text) spells out a word, message or the alphabet. The word comes from the French acrostiche from post-classical Latin acrostichis, from Koine Greek ἀκροστιχίς, from Ancient Greek ἄκρος "highest, topmost" and στίχος "verse"). As a form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aid memory retrieval. Relatively simple acrostics may merely spell out the letters of the alphabet in order; such an acrostic may be called an 'alphabetical acrostic' or Abecedarius. These acrostics occur in all the five chapters that make up the Book of Lamentations, in the praise of the good wife in Proverbs 31, 10-31, and in Psalms 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145 of the Hebrew Bible. Notable among the acrostic Psalms is the long Psalm 119, which typically is printed in subsections named after the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each section consisting of 8 verses, each of which begins with the same letter of the alphabet and the entire psalm consisting of 22 x 8 = 176 verses; and Psalm 145, which is recited three times a day in the Jewish services. Some acrostic psalms are technically imperfect. E.g. Psalm 9 and Psalm 10 appear to constitute a single acrostic psalm together, but the length assigned to each letter is unequal and five of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are not represented and the sequence of two letters is reversed. In Psalm 25 one Hebrew letter is not represented, the following letter (Resh) repeated. In Psalm 34 the current final verse, 23, does fit verse 22 in content, but makes line too long. In Psalms 37 and 111 the numbering of verses and the division into lines are interfering with each other; as a result in Psalm 37, for the letters Daleth and Kaph there is only one verse, and the letter Ayin is not represented. Psalm 111 and 112 have 22 lines, but 10 verses. Psalm 145 does not represent the letter Nun, having 21 one verses, but one Qumran manuscript of this Psalm does have that missing line, which agrees with the Septuagint. Acrostics prove that the texts in question were originally composed in writing, rather than having existed in oral tradition before being put into writing. Acrostics are common in medieval literature, where they usually serve to highlight the name of the poet or his patron, or to make a prayer to a saint. They are most frequent in verse works but can also appear in prose. The Middle High German poet Rudolf von Ems for example opens all his great works with an acrostic of his name, and his world chronicle marks the beginning of each age with an acrostic of the key figure (Moses, David, etc.). In chronicles, acrostics are common in German and English but rare in other languages. Often the ease of detectability of an acrostic can depend on the intention of its creator. In some cases an author may desire an acrostic to have a better chance of being perceived by an observant reader, such as the acrostic contained in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (where the key capital letters are decorated with ornate embellishments). However, acrostics may also be used as a form of steganography, where the author seeks to conceal the message rather than proclaim it. This might be achieved by making the key letters uniform in appearance with the surrounding text, or by aligning the words in such a way that the relationship between the key letters is less obvious. This is referred to as null ciphers in steganography, using the first letter of each word to form a hidden message in an otherwise innocuous text. Using letters to hide a message, as in acrostic ciphers, was popular during the Renaissance, and could employ various methods of enciphering, such as selecting other letters than initials based on a repeating pattern (equidistant letter sequences), or even concealing the message by starting at the end of the text and working backwards.

Acronym vs. Acrostic

Acronym

Table of contents

1. Etymology
          3.1. Usage notes
          3.2. Synonyms
          3.3. Hyponyms

Acrostic

Table of contents

1. Alternative forms
          4.1. Derived terms
          4.2. Descendants
          4.3. See also
          4.4. Further reading

Acronym

1. Etymology

Borrowed from German Akronym, from Ancient Greek ἄκρον (ákron, end, peak) and ὄνυμα (ónuma, name), equivalent to acro- (high; beginning) +‎ -onym (name). Modelled after Homonym and Synonym, first attested in German in the early 1900s and in English in 1940.

2. Pronunciation

  • IPA(key): /ˈæk.ɹə.nɪm/

3. Noun

acronym (plural acronyms)

  1. An abbreviation formed by the initial letters of other words, sometimes exclusively such abbreviations when pronounced as a word (as "laser") rather than as individual letters (initialisms such as "TNT").
    • 1940, W. Muir & al. translating L. Feuchtwanger's Paris Gazette, iii, xlvii, p. 518:
      Pee-gee-enn. It's an acronym, that's what it is. That's what they call words made up of initials.
    • 2014 September 23, "Choosing a Primary School: A Teacher's Guide for Parents", The Guardian:
      Some teachers festoon every spare inch of wall with vocabulary choices or maths techniques to use, which look great at first, but to some children might appear quite daunting. You'll probably see unfamiliar acronyms such as Walt (We Are Learning To). Be sure to ask what they stand for and how they are used in practice.
  2. An abbreviation formed by the beginning letters or syllables of other words (as "Benelux").
    • 1950, Simeon Potter, Our Language, p. 163:
      Acronyms or telescoped names like nabisco from National Biscuit Company.

3.1. Usage notes

The broader sense of acronym inclusive of initialisms (as "TNT") is sometimes proscribed, but is the term's original and more common meaning. Within Wiktionary, however, the template {{acronym of}} is used for the more restrictive sense of the word and is distinguished from {{initialism of}}. The status of an acronym's pronunciation is not always obvious, as some initialisms have gained interstitial vowels to ease their expression (as /ˈwɪzdəl/ for "WSDL") and others are pronounced alternatively as words or initialisms (as /ˈsiːkwəl/ or /ɛskjuːɛl/ for "SQL").

Acronyms in all senses may variously be written in all capital letters (as "UNESCO" or "WYSIWYG") or in lower case (as "scuba" or "sitcom"), according to the degree to which they have come to be seen as words separate from their derivation. American style guides tend to favor the use of capital spelling for pronounced acronyms of four letters or fewer (as "NATO") whereas British style guides tend to favor standard capitalization of pronounced acronyms as though they were a standard word ("Nato"). Acronyms formed from beginning syllables are sometimes written in camel case (as "EpiPen" or "CHiPs"), although this may be precluded by style guides. Mixed capitalization is also sometimes used when acronyms include words usually left uncapitalized in title case but which have been included for pronunciation or clarity (as "VaR" for "Value at Risk"); in other cases, the standard acronym capitalizes such minor words as well (as "TOEFL" for the "Test of English as a Foreign Language").

Like all abbreviations, acronyms were formerly usually punctuated with full stops or periods to mark the divisions between the original words (as "U.S.A." or "P.R.C.") but this punctuation is increasingly omitted, particularly in the case of acronyms treated as generic words (as "radar" and "sonar") and in acronyms formed from syllables rather than letters. Folk etymologies frequently imagine acronyms for such common words as "fuck", "shit", and "posh" but the earliest English acronym listed by the OED is a form of "abjad" in 1793 and they did not become common until the world wars of the early 20th century.

3.2. Synonyms

  • (broader sense): initialism

3.3. Hyponyms

  • (all senses): abbreviation

4. See also

  • Category:English shortenings - a list of all abbreviated forms
  • backronym
  • initialism
  • mnemonic

5. Anagrams

  • romancy

Acrostic

1. Alternative forms

  • acrostick (obsolete)
  • acrosticke (obsolete)

2. Etymology

Borrowed from French acrostiche, from Ancient Greek ἀκροστιχίς (akrostikhís), late 16th c.

3. Pronunciation

  • (General American) IPA(key): /əˈkɹɔstɪk/
  • (cotcaught merger, Canada) IPA(key): /əˈkɹɑstɪk/
  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /əˈkɹɒstɪk/
  • Rhymes: -ɒstɪk, -ɔːstɪk
  • Hyphenation: acros‧tic

4. Noun

acrostic (plural acrostics)

  1. A poem or other text in which certain letters, often the first in each line, spell out a name or message.
  2. A particular kind of word puzzle: its solutions form an anagram of a quotation, and their initials often form its author.

4.1. Derived terms

  • double acrostic
  • triple acrostic

4.2. Descendants

  • Irish: acrastach

4.3. See also

  • telesticon
  • word square

4.4. Further reading

  • acrostic on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
  • acrostic (puzzle) on Wikipedia.Wikipedia

5. Anagrams

  • Racicots, Ritaccos, Socratic, sarcotic
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