67 Initialisms in english

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Think of these capitalized letters as MUST-KNOW vocabulary.

What is an initialism?

Some people feel strongly that the term acronym should only be used for terms like NASA, which is pronounced as a single word, and that initialism should be used if we say the individual letters in an abbreviation such as FBI.

Research shows that acronym is commonly used, at least in the U.S., to refer to both types of abbreviations. However, since this is an English blog, we’ll go ahead and call them what the correct term is: initialisms.

In the list below you will see 67 Very Common Initialisms in Spoken American English. That’s right, we say these, we spell them out. We use the initialism on the left MORE FREQUENTLY than what the term stands for. I repeat, read the initialism; one letter after the next.


MVP – Most Valuable Player

NHL / NBA / NFL / MLB / MMA – National Hockey League / National Basketball Association / National Football League / Major League Baseball

SUV – Sports Utility Vehicle

UV – Ultra Violet

SPF – Sun Protection Factor

B.O. – Body Odor


POW – Prisoner Of War

MIA – Missing In Action

CIA – Central Intelligence Agency

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation

DMV – Division of Motor Vehicles

FDA – Food and Drug Administration

FFA – Future Farmers of America

PTA – Parent Teacher Association

TSA – Transportation Security Administration

SWAT – Special Weapons And Tactics

AWOL – Absent Without Leave

HR – Human Resources

CEO / CFO / CTO / CMO – Chief Executive Officer / Chief Financial Officer / Chief Technical Officer / Chief Marketing Officer

PR – Public Relations


AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

RN – Registered Nurse

HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus

ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder

  • ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Written: DOB – Date Of Birth / MD – Medical Doctor

Party Time

RSVP – Répondez s’il vous plaît

ASAP – As Soon As Possible

IPA – Indian Pale Ale

BYOB – Bring Your Own Beer / Booze

ID – Identification

PDA – Public Display of Affection

DJ – Disc Jockey

TGIF – Thank Goodness It’s Friday

ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival

VIP – Very important Person


G – General Audiences

PG – Parental Guidance Suggested – Some aspects might not be suited for small children.

PG – 13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned

R – Restricted – under 17 you need to come with a parent or guardian.

PST / MST / CST / EST– Pacific Standard Time / Mountain Standard Time / Central Standard Time / Eastern Standard Time


MBA / MA / BA / BS / PHD – Masters of Business Administration / Master of Arts / Bachelor of Arts  / Bachelor of Science / Doctor of Philosophy

FYI – For Your Information

DIY – Do It Yourself

AKA – Also Known As

AC – Air Conditioner

DL – Down low

BS – Bullshit

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

PB & J – Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

PJs – Pajamas

BnB – Bed and Breakfast

UFO – Unidentified Flying Object

S&M – Sadomasochism

SOS – Save Our Souls

SOB – Son of a Bitch

SOL – Shit out of Luck

FAQ page– Frequently Asked Questions page

C-Section – Cesarean Section

ATM – Automated Teller Machine

RV – Recreational Vehicle

RnB – Rhythm and Blues

Can you think of any that I’ve missed? Comment below!

The Author

Shana - ESL Teacher

Hi Everyone! I am an ESL teacher from California and the host of the American English Podcast. Learn more about me and my teaching experience here.

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