Posted by: episystechpubs | June 24, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Backronyms

Good morning, hello, and welcome to a new week. Today we have a more recently coined term (1980s) from the “nym” family: backronym. It’s recent enough that my search of Merriam-Webster did not turn up anything, so I collected the following information from a Wikipedia article. (For the full text see Wikipedia.)

Backronym(also bacronym) a phrase specially constructed so that an acronym fits an existing word. Backronyms may be invented with serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology. Backronyms can be constructed for educational purposes, too, such as forming mnemonics.

Combination of “backward” + “acronym”


  • The United States Department of Justice assigns to their Amber Alert program the meaning "America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response." The term originally referred to Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.
  • An example of an educational mnemonic is the backronym APGAR, the score used to assess the health of newborn babies. The rating system was devised by and named after Virginia Apgar, but ten years after the initial publication, the bacronym APGAR was coined in the US as a mnemonic learning aid: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.
  • The name of the restaurant chain Arby’s is a play on "RB" referring to "roast beef" as well as the company’s founders, the Raffel brothers.
  • The official title of the USA PATRIOT Act, a 2001 Act of the U.S. Congress, is "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001".

My personal backronym recipe:

1 small meeting room
4-10 word lovers
2 cups boredom
¾ cup frustration
1 tablespoon lofty ideas
2 dashes smart aleck (or to taste)

Mix and bake for 1-3 hours. Makes 1 soufflé of creative backronyms that will have you in tears of laughter. Enjoy!


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