Make sense of the alphabet soup – Must-know English acronyms

June 24, 2019
Must-know English acronyms

Acronyms are everywhere, but what are they? Put simply, an acronym is formed from the first letters or syllables of a phrase.

Sometimes acronyms are used so much that the original phrase is forgotten. The word “laser” is an example of this. Much simpler than “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”, right?

Here are a few commonly encountered acronyms you need to know. Read on!


When something needs to happen ASAP, you should hurry, because it’s an acronym of “as soon as possible”. You’ll hear this pronounced both “A-S-A-P” and “A-sap”.


“Bring your own bottle” or “bring your own booze”. In the case of a restaurant, this usually means they have no wine list but you’re welcome to bring your own wine. In the case of a party, your host may or may not serve food, but you’re definitely expected to bring your own drinks.


“Do it yourself”, DIY, can refer to anything you do with your own hands instead of using the services of a professional. Sewing your own clothes, fixing the plumbing in your house and building a garden shed from scratch are all examples of DIY. Tools, supplies and instructions for these activities may also be labeled DIY.


Your ETA is the answer to the eternal question “Are we there yet?” It’s an acronym of “estimated time of arrival”.


This one is simple (and useful): it means “I don’t know”.


Everyone knows this one, right? Not necessarily. While it means “laughing out loud” for most people and is used accordingly, a few also use it to mean “lots of love”. If someone sends their condolences together with a “LOL”, let’s hope they are in the latter category.


This word started as an acronym of “not in my back yard”. A nimby is a person who opposes changes to their neighbourhood, believing the changes would lower the value of their real estate. When asked, the nimby will insist there’s nothing wrong with the change as such… as long as it happens somewhere else.


Literally meaning “not safe for work”, as in something that wouldn’t be appropriate to display in the average workplace. A thing that is NSFW usually involves naked people.


Seen on tombstones and in video games (especially if you’re not a very good gamer), this is an acronym of “rest in peace”. Take care with the spelling: it’s never “rest in peas”.


Invitations to parties and various events often have “RSVP” in the end. You might know that this is a request to let the host know whether you’re coming or not, but did you know it’s actually borrowed from French? It comes from “répondez s’il vous plaît”, or “please respond”.


“Your mileage may vary” – in other words, you may be looking at the issue from a different angle and therefore may not agree. A relatively tactful way to state your opinion while still leaving room for other views.

These are by no means the only useful acronyms, but they’re a very good start. Next time you encounter them, you won’t have to type “IDK what that means”!

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