Acronyms and initialisms are commonly confused with each other because both are abbreviations which include taking the first letters of a phrase or combination of words. However, where they differ is that an acronym forms a new word, like NASA, whereas initialisms are pronounced as letters, like NFL.
Below are words that you might be surprised to find out are actually acronyms:
A laser is a device that emits a stream of light that radiates on a tight focused spot, which is what sets it apart from a regular stream of light. The first laser, which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, was built in 1960 and has since been used for various functions from barcode scanners and lighting displays to fingerprint detection and research studies.
Radar is a system that detects an object's range, angle or velocity using radio waves and can detect entities like spacecrafts, as well as atmospheric states like weather formations. It is an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging. During WW2, radar equipment was used to detect enemy planes, gunfire and to aid in navigation and the United States Navy coined the term in 1940. However, the earliest recorded use of radio wave detection dates back to 1904 by German inventor Christian Hulsmeyer to detect “the presence of distant metallic objects.”
The Taser, an electroshock weapon used to disrupt muscle control resulting in involuntary muscle spasms, was invented in 1974 by Jack Cover, a NASA researcher. Cover had been developing the device since 1969. It fires two small electrodes onto a desired target and is used by law enforcement as a non-lethal means to subdue dangerous targets. Can’t figure out what it could stand for? Cover decided to name it after his childhood hero Tom Swift - a fictional character in a series of novels - resulting in the Tomas A. Swift Electric Rifle.
You’re taking a hike and you notice someone standing at the top of a cliff with a wingsuit or parachute and suddenly they jump and fly down. You’ve just witnessed a base-jump. Coined in 1973 by filmmaker Carl Boenish, his wife Jean Boenish, Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield, the word “BASE” or “B.A.S.E” stands for the four categories of places one can jump; Building, Antenna, Span, Earth. Franz Reichelt made the extreme sport’s first notable jump in 1912 when he fatally jumped off the Eiffel Tower to test his coat parachute invention.
If you’ve ever been asked on a website to type in a sequence of letters or numbers displayed in a distorted image to verify your identity, you’ve used a captcha. The online test was designed to determine if the user is a computer or a human. The term “CAPTCHA” was coined in 2003 by Luis Von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper and John Langford, but the computing system itself was invented in 1997 by Mark D. Lillibridge, Martin Abadi, Krishna Bharat and Andrei Z. Broder. It is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.
No, “smart” doesn’t refer to the superior intelligence of the vehicle, as much as it refers to the collaboration of SMH, the makers of Swatch watches, and Daimler-Benz AG, manufacturer of Mercedes Benz cars. The vehicle concept was first thought up in the early 1970s when SMH CEO Nicholas Hayek wanted to manufacture a car with the same personalization features as their Swatch watches. In 1991, Hayek reached a partnership deal with Volkswagen to design the superior car, but when a new CEO at Volkswagen was named in 1993, that deal was taken off the table. In 1994, a relationship was announced between SMH and Daimler-Benz AG, and thus the Swatch Mercedes ART car was born.
Scuba refers to the gear used by divers to provide oxygen while under the water and stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Variations in the design of the gear date as far back as 1771.
A care package is most commonly thought of as a parcel sent to someone containing items of comfort and aid, often sent to children away at college, armed forces members serving abroad or family members coping with illness. But the term “care package” is a registered trademark by the organization that initiated the program in 1945, which originally stood for the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe. It began as a way for Americans to send food relief to Europe in areas where there was risk of starvation following WW2. In 1993, the organization changed the meaning of its acronym to Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere to reflect its work across the globe.