A backronym, or bacronym, is an acronym formed from an already existing word. Backronyms may be invented with either serious or humorous intent, or they may be a type of false etymology or folk etymology. The word is a blend of back and acronym.[1]

An acronym is a word derived from the initial letters of the words of a phrase,[2] such as the word radar, constructed from "radio detection and ranging".[3] By contrast, a backronym is "an acronym deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name or as a fanciful explanation of a word's origin."[1]

For example, the United States Department of Justice's Amber Alert program was named after Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old abducted and murdered in 1996;[4] but officials later publicized the backronym "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response".[5]

The earliest known citation of the word in print is as bacronym in the November 1983 edition of The Washington Post monthly neologism contest. The newspaper quoted winning reader Meredith G. Williams of Potomac, Maryland, defining it as the "same as an acronym, except that the words were chosen to fit the letters".[6][7]

  1. ^ a b "backronym - Definition of backronym in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries - English.
  2. ^ "Acronym". Archived from the original on 28 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
  3. ^ NASA. "RADAR means: Radio Detection and Ranging". Nasa Explores. Archived from the original on 2004-01-28.
  4. ^ " AMBER Alert history" (PDF).
  5. ^ "AMBER Alert - America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response". 2007-11-01. Archived from the original on 27 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
  6. ^ McFedries, Paul. "bacronym". Word Spy: The World Lover's Guide to New Words. Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  7. ^ Levey, Bob (November 8, 1983). "When You Can't Decide, You Just Pick Them All". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 January 2016.

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