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15 English abbreviations you need to know

Everyone loves a bit of code, and acronyms and abbreviations are great little tools that make communication faster and more fun, especially when trying to type fast on a slippery smartphone. And in English, you really can’t get away from them.

Here are 15 that you’ll encounter often and that every English speaker should know.

But first, a quick cheat sheet:

  • Abbreviations are shortened versions of words and sometimes end in a period (for example, accomm. for accommodation or adj. for adjective).
  • Acronyms are pronounceable, so you read them out as if they’re a name, and are formed by using the first letter of each word in a phrase (such as NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
  • An initalism is when the word is pronounced letter by letter, such as the UN (the United Nations). (Fun fact – “the” is usually added before an initialism but not an acronym, as in “I’m an interpreter at the UN,” or “I have an interview at NASA.”)

1. RSVP – Please reply

As with so much of English, this comes from French. RSVP stands for “Répondez s’il vous plait”. You’ll see this request on invitations to weddings and other parties. And yes, please do reply – that way, the bride or host knows exactly how many salmon fillets to order.

2. ASAP – As soon as possible

“Can you get this in ASAP?” reads the email from your boss. Depending on the project, this may or may not cause panic – but in any case, you don’t have much time to think!

3. AM/PM – Before midday (morning) and after midday (afternoon)

There’s a huge difference between 5 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon – and these little terms have it covered. Remember, don’t use them if you use 24-hour time (6 PM is the same as 18:00) and be careful to set your alarm correctly. A “morning” alarm that goes off at 7 PM doesn’t help anyone!

4. LMK – Let me know

Casual, friendly – perfect for the end of a text. LMK shows that your are expecting confirmation or more information.

5. BRB – Be right back

Sometimes when chatting, something demands our attention: be it the doorbell, a cat wanting to be let out or an irresistible caffeine​ craving. Don’t sweat it – just let your friend know you’ll BRB.

6. DOB – Date of birth

“What IS my DOB?” you might have wondered the first time you saw this. After all, it does sound like a poorly chosen item of clothing or foul type of medicine. Well, rest assured you do have a DOB – we all do. You probably celebrate yours each year with far too much cake, ice cream and requisite silly hats.

7. CC/BCC – Carbon copy/blind carbon copy

Although they refer to the age of email, these terms take their names from the analogue years, when copies were made using carbon paper. Quick etiquette tip: when adding people to the CC email field, remember they “can clearly” see who else has received the email . (And don’t “reply all” unless you REALLY want to!)

8. TBA/TBC- To be announced/To be confirmed

Remember your friend whose wedding invitation you need to RSVP ASAP to? Be careful if it says venue TBA or groom TBC. It means she doesn’t have everything organized just yet!

9. ETA – Estimated time of arrival

“See you on Tuesday, ETA 9 PM.” You might see this when someone is traveling but is unsure of when their flight gets in.

10. TGIF – Thank God it’s Friday

Sung by workers worldwide each Friday afternoon – the weekend is here!

11. FOMO – Fear of missing out

And with the weekend can come a some pretty serious FOMO. Imagine: You’ve been invited out but don’t feel like going. But, at the same time, you know it’ll be fun fun and that you may regret not going. So you agonize over what to do.

12. IMO – in my opinion (or IMHO – in my humble opinion)

We’ve all got a few opinions. This is how you can express them.

13. n/a – not available, not applicable

Use this when filling out a form to show that particular section doesn’t apply to you.

14. aka – Also known as

This little beauty is used to refer to someone or something by another name – often a nickname, such as how your bro (might) refer to his newborn baby (“This is Eddie, aka ‘The poop machine'”), or how Chile refers to a much-loved footballer, Alexis Sanchez, aka ‘El Niño Maravilla’.

15. DIY – Do it yourself

People who are interested in completing tasks themselves rather than hiring professionals (aka DIY-ers) exist in all walks of life. From fixing electronics and upholstering furniture to completely renovating their homes, as you can imagine, DIY projects can result in as many great successes as horrible messes!

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