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Common Abbreviations: Alphabet Soup Runs Rampant

Updated on September 21, 2017
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Words, wordplay, reading, and writing have been favorites of Liz's since early childhood. She enjoys exploring science and science fiction.

Too Many Stray Letters

Abbreviations of all sorts are very common, and sometimes referred to as "alphabet soup,' for their random distribution of letters.

When I was much younger, I thought alphabet soup came in a can, and I was always disappointed that there never were enough letters in my bowl to spell out my name. Do you call that false advertising? ;-) Now, it seems, we are awash in too many letters!

With the advent of 'social media,' ranging from Facebook, to Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, and the myriad of others, abbreviations run rampant. It has become a necessity due to many of the sites (Twitter started it: blame them) severely limiting the number of characters you can use per message.

Note that 'characters' does not equal words. No, characters are anything you input from the keyboard, including spaces and punctuation. So, Twitter's 140 character limit seems like a large number, until you realize this distinction.

This is a real" pain in the drain," especially for us "old folks," accustomed to spelling everything out, dotting every "i" and crossing every "t."

It used to be that the 'alphabet soup' was pretty much reserved to the military, with such designations as "HQ," "BOQ," "COM" or "PX." There are literally thousands of others which I do not know, having never been in the military myself.

Looking For More Military Abbreviations And Acronyms?

Well, be careful what you wish for. This site is devoted to them, and the 'As' alone take up several screens! There are hundreds, if not thousands! Happy browsing!

The Ridiculous Aspect

All of the abbreviations in use on line are somewhat silly, but they serve a purpose--they are a standardized format that anyone frequenting these sites understands and uses. To an outsider, they are jargon, 'geek-speak,' much as computer lingo is 'Greek' to the rest of us.

What is funny is to consider the possibilities of all the other abbreviations out there, most of which pre-date the internet by decades. Let's examine just four of them:


Many choices for you:

  • American Automobile Association for car owners
  • Archives of American Art (at the Smithsonian)
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (that's a scary medical one!)
  • Animal-Assisted Activity (dogs or other animals trained to assist people with learning or physical problems)
  • and finally, I find this one quite comical: Anti-Acronym Abuse Hmmm; a wee bit too late, methinks!


Wow! This one has a multitude of meanings, depending upon your experience and affiliations. It could be you're referring to the

  • American Dental Association; or the
  • Average Daily Attendance figures for a school. Perhaps you meant
  • American Diabetes Association or the
  • Americans with Disabilities Act. You don't even have to be here in the States to play: there is also the
  • Australian Dental Association, and
  • A Découvrir Absolument, a French music magazine.
  • If you work for a large corporation, your title might be, Associate Director of Acquisition

I could go on and on--there were many more on the referencce site.


Let's see--not so many definitions as "ADA," but a few that can be very confusing. you can have the

  • Bank of Queensland (Australia), or the
  • Bachelor Officers' Quarters, but it also can mean,
  • Base Officers' Quarters, or
  • Basic Officers' Qualification.

End up in the wrong place and try explaining that to the top brass! Leave it to the military to confuse the issue! ;-) (Military "intelligence," anyone???

Probably only the stock market uses more cryptic and bizarre abbreviations.)

The "BOQ" list is rounded out by Bill of Quantities (probably also called a Bill of Lading), and Bunch of Questions (found in web forums).

For my last entry, I submit,


Starting with the one probably foremost in everyone's mind, the American Medical Association. But it also stands for the

  • Academy of Model Aeronautics (a hobbyists' organization model airplane aficionados), and the related, Association for Model Aviation
  • American Music Awards
  • Alberta Medical Association (Canada);
  • American Motorcyclist Association
  • American Marketing Association,
  • Against Medical Advice (noted on your chart if you leave the hospital without your doctor signing you out),

The listing for "AMA" abbreviations is even longer than that for "ADA."

Speaking in lingo or jargon, then, is best reserved for dealing with other 'insiders,' and better spelled out or spoken in full when communicating with the general public.

The Online Experience

I support writing things out, explaining what you meant if there is any chance of confusion, and avoiding 'insider' jargon or slang.

That said, the casual abbreviations used on the Internet are rapidly becoming part of the general body of public knowledge.

I submit for your reference and amusement a brief dictionary of the most commonly used terms:


Twitter and increasingly, text-speak, speak for "I don't know." Has also crept into spoken language, especially among teens and 'tweens.'


Sassier, dismissive version of above, "I don't know and I don't care," or the short version, "don't know/don't care."


Usually accepted to mean "Laughing Out Loud."

(Novices at "net-speak," beware--danger and hurt feelings lurk in misinterpreting--one lady sent "LOL" in a sympathy note to a friend, thinking it meant "Lots of Love." Ooops...make that, 'former friend!')

How things have changed! Before the days of the Internet, it meant "Little Old Lady."


Uh-Oh, that joke was really funny--I'm "Laughing My A** Off!"

LMAO-PMP: Something even funner than above: You've laughed so hard you've wet your pants!


"Rolling On Floor Laughing." This one has crept into spoken it is marginally 'pronounceable.' It is also often combined with the "MAO" from the above example--this combination means you are probably laughing so hard you can't see through the tears!

I've often said, in my comedienne mode, if an earthquake were happening the time, you'd instead have, "LORF," or "Laughing on Rolling Floor!"


This is a related pair, used more or less interchangeably, depending on time frame involved. In order, "Be Back Later," or "Be Back In A Bit." Often used when stepping away from the computer for a while; perhaps to run a short errand or deal with laundry or kids.

A nature call, however, is often more graphically phrased as, IGP (I go pee, or sometimes, IGGP--I gotta go pee.)

BTW: "By The Way..." used as a means of asking a question, just as in spoken language, or when changing the subject; ditto for spoken language!


This means you are going to be "Away From Keyboard" (and presumably your computer as well) for an unspecified length of time.


In My Opinion; In My Humble Opinion


Pain In The A**


Simply the letter k, stands in for "OK" or "Okay."


Talk To You Later, sometimes cut to only, 'Later,' often parsed as, " L8R " especially on Twitter and in text messages.

I doubt I need to explain the increasingly common, "WTF." That, too, has crept into the spoken language, and if you don't know what it means, and can't figure it out, just ask your kids! I guarantee they will know! Decorum and the rules of this site prohibit translation. Suffice it to say, it does not mean, "We Took First!"

Its slightly less offensive partner, "WTH," means 'What the Hell?


Often-seen shorthand for various relatives, outlaws and inlaws, comes out looking like this:

MIL; FIL; BIL; SIL. Now, If I tell you that the first one means "Mother-In-Law," you can now easily figure out the rest of this foursome.

GP=Grandpa; GM=Grandma

GGP=Great Grandpa, and so forth.

But don't worry about these--I include them only as a footnote--they are mostly used in conversations about family history and genealogy.

Where do YOU Stand?

Do you know your internet acronyms and abbreviations?

See results

Using Non-Standard Abbreviations

Note that the abbreviations used are not all standard. The simplest way to 'cheat' is to eliminate vowels from certain words, and substitute single letters for some sound-alike words; 'U' for 'you', and 'R' can stand in for either 'our' or 'are,' the context will tell which.

Similarly, numbers can stand in for like-sounding words: 'Evry1' instead of 'everyone,' or 'this post is 4 U,' and, 'I'm going 2 the store 4 eggs.' (Not that anyone cares about your lack of eggs!) ;-)

Back in high school, I developed my own form of 'shorthand' using this method. Without any "translation," you can probably read this sentence: "Th cvl wr bgan drng th admin of pres Lncln fllwng hs emncptn prclmtn."

Now I know that all us hubbers are familiar with these usages and protocols. But if you know folks who are not so conversant, please refer them to this article. ;-)

Car Games

All of this can also be related to playing "translate that license plate" when away from home. The proliferation of personalized license plates has led to endless guessing games trying to figure out what was meant.

Limited to only 7 characters, some very creative thought must go into just what abbreviation will serve the purpose.

Recently I have seen these gems (state of issue deliberately left out):





See if you can figure them out.

Translations appear below--no fair peeking until you've given it the old "college try!" ;-)


Yes, I think that's about enough of this silliness for one article! Now, go forth and abbreviate!

Car Games Answers

EPIFNIE = Epiphany

10SNE1 = Tennis, Anyone? (Seen on a tennis pro's car--punctuation implied)

H82FE = Hate to Iron (better know your chemistry symbols to translate some of them!)

PT4EVR = Seen on a car at a PT Cruiser show. Knowing that, you now know what it means, even though it was "obvious" what it "said."


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Tabbymom Jen!

    OMG--(another I missed--but fairly well-known by now)--U R rite! I did miss BRB! How could I? :-D

    Thanks for stopping by and for the additions! ;-)

    LOL on the 'non-vanity plates!' Reminds me of a childhood game we'd play on road trips--making up three-word phrases to fit the letters in the plates--this in the days of standard 3-letter, 3-number plates with no personalization. To this day, I recall our next-door neighbor's plate got assigned to the phrase, "Many Hot Noodles."

  • profile image

    Tabbymom Jen 

    9 years ago

    Oh, license plates:

    NE1410S (a variation on 10SNE1)

    D2THDR (another name for dentist)

    DTH2VCRS (I think he wrecks VCRs but I don't know why)

    FEHORS (locomotive, aka Iron Horse)

    We don't have vanity plates, but a friend stared at my hubby's plate for a long time, trying to puzzle a word out of it. No, really, it doesn't mean anything! Don't hurt yourself!

  • profile image

    Tabbymom Jen 

    9 years ago

    Did you miss BRB? I sent that to a coworker before running to the store... Going to Staples, be right back.

    Are you a member of the AAAAAA? That's the Americans Against Annoying Acronyms and Alliterations.

    When my son started Kindergarten, they sent me to the LRC. I replied, I don't know that TLA. LRC: Learning Resource Center (we just called it the library). TLA: Three Letter Acronym!

    I remember typing TTYL or TTFN in the late 80s/early 90s. So, Type To You Later, Ta-Ta for Now!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, crazybeanrider--

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article. I find it scary enough that "DOH!" made it to the dictionary!


    The more progress we make, the lazier we get, it seems!

  • crazybeanrider profile image

    Boo McCourt 

    10 years ago from Washington MI

    Love this hub, it is getting so bad we won't know how to speak in real sentences if it continues. It is the same with texting, my niece and nephews USED to use abbreviations until I told them I would not answer them if they didn't use real words that were in the dictionary. Of course an occasional LOL is acceptable. :) I love your writing.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, scarytaff!

    Yes, and some of those pronunciations will be downright--scary! ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • scarytaff profile image

    Derek James 

    10 years ago from South Wales

    How right you are, DzyMsLizzy. Its getting ridiculous now. They'll soon be talking in shorthand.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Micky Dee--you're too funny! I'll see about starting up a capitalization and non-abbreviators support group real soon.... ;-)

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    10 years ago

    Yo DzyMsLizzy! I think they're swell for somebody. I try not to use them. I try not to "text" with abbreviations. Gee! That runs you out of storage quickly and takes time. I do it anyway. I try to capitalize, etc. I wish I could but I can't. Please help me!

    I'm on facebook but I have SO many friends! Where else would I keep them?

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks, Sa'ge!

    I know what you mean about all the "who-cares" trivial tweets!

    Thanks for stopping by--I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

  • Sa`ge profile image


    10 years ago from Barefoot Island

    great job on this hub, I don't have twitter and i stopped my space and don't go to face book any more. I hated all the spam in all of them and also hated how people would tell you every minute of their day. I don't have much of a life but those people have less if they have time to twit all that trivial. or is it that their life is trivial that they twit. oh well, great hub :D aloha

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Nell!

    Glad you enjoyed and found useful. Yeah, sons (or in my case, grandsons) are good for laughing at us... I know what you mean about seeming to spin in circles. Been doing a lot of that myself!


  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    10 years ago from England

    Hi, Dzy, I am so grateful I could weep! ha ha ha no seriously, there were a couple up there that I had no idea what they meant and it was driving me scatty! I also fell for the LOL lots of love stuff, but luckily it was with a friend so she thought it was funny! my son went hysterical laughing, I just glared at him! great stuff, thanks for putting me straight on a few things, cheers nell

    p.s. sorry it took me so long to get back over here, for some unknown reason I seem to have been charging around for a couple of weeks now, and have nothing to show for what I have been doing! lol

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Sally

    Thanks for stopping by--I'm glad you enjoyed the article. It was a fun piece to write. ;-)

  • Sally's Trove profile image


    10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    Thanks for a morning chuckle. Your running commentary is a delight. Next time I have something long and important to tweet, can I call on you to acronymize it? Voted up and funny.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    10 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Christine!

    Glad you enjoyed this bit of fluff! ;-)

    Thanks for the plug--I did indeed edit a couple of your books, and it was a pleasure to get 'first read.' You are an excellent writer.

    Folks--you simply MUST visit Christine's Hub Pages, and read "The Coming." It is a very compelling tale!

  • Christine B. profile image

    Christine B. 

    10 years ago from Medina, Ohio

    Hi Ms Lizzy! I loved this hub. Thanks for the glossary of acronyms... I'll never get them all straight!! But you have always helped to set me on the right path! Ha-Ha... Do your followers know what a great editor you are? You have edited at least one of my books for me and I was so happy with the results.



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