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The Acronym Server

Searching for the Meaning of L.I.F.E. since 1988

Yes, this is the server formerly known as the Internet Acronym Server that you know and love we’ve just been doing some updates to improve accuracy and appearance (see Rules for submitting). We still have some problems with the categories on mobile devices. We dropped the ‘Internet’ from the name — a lot of users thought we only did Internet-related acronyms. Please report any bugs!


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Submit an acronym

If this is the first time you’ve submitted a new acronym, please read the rules.

Full List


The topic codes used on this server correspond to the Hundred or Thousand Divisions in the Dewey Decimal Classification, popular in library catalogues for classifying subjects. It's not an exact guide, but it’s just to let us keep track of what subjects people submit acronyms in. It's optional, anyway…

What's an acronym

An acronym is a kind of abbreviation. The word comes from Greek, meaning heads of names. Acronyms are usually made from the capitalised initials of the words they represent, for example FBI is an acronym for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Occasionally, for special reasons, the second letter of a word is used, as in XML (eXtensible Markup Language), but this is deprecated. Sometimes more than one letter is included for a word, to avoid ambiguity or because they form an existing abbreviation, as in SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe).

Contrary to what some people say, acronyms do not have to be pronounceable words (for example FBI is spelled out when spoken, whereas NASA is not). Some sources use the word initialism to refer to the spelled acronyms, which is occasionally a useful distinction, but they are still acronyms.

History of acronyms

The origins of acronyms are a little unclear, but their widespread use in daily life is a relatively modern phenomenon and the result of growing literacy in the 19th and 20th centuries. In more restricted circumstances, however, they have been in use for thousands of years (both the Roman and Hebrew cultures used them).

There is a shortage of good articles on the web about the history and development of acronyms: the best is probably at Wikipedia.

There is also an unimaginable quantity of garbage put out by the ignorant, some of which is now rightly being exposed as Urban Myth (see example). Both Britain and North America seem to generate an unusual amount of completely spurious and fanciful meanings derived from novelty-hunting, which gain currency in semi-literate circles until they aquire the status of myth, and belief in them is as widespread as it is misplaced.

About us

As a footnote to all this, we began serving acronyms to the Internet in late 1987, with an email interface (you sent email with a request and got back the answer), so we've been collecting acronyms from all over for the best part of three decades.

In 1991 we moved the service to the web, although the email interface continued in parallel until 1996. In 1997 we introduced a submission form and were soon overwhelmed by faked entries, false data, and general abuse. In 1999 we suspended the submissions and reverted to a simpler plaintext interface.

In 2005 the service moved to a new server and a heavily-revised submission form was reintroduced as an experiment. The current interface was introduced in 2015 to provide a faster service and a better experience for mobile users.

After the server was moved we reset the counter back to approximately the right number, taken from the logs to 2006 (so we're missing a few million hits but we don't know how many). If anyone has a screenshot or printout of a page up to 2008 or early 2009 with a more up-to-date value (it was well over 30M) please get in touch.

Silmaril is a small consultancy based in Cork, Ireland, ideally placed for serving clients in both Europe and North America.

Our core activities centre on information handling, especially textual information. We work mainly with SGML and XML systems; information transfer from wordprocessor and DTP formats, including the reuse of legacy information; and publishing automation systems using XML, XSLT, and LATEX.

Our client list extends to the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and North America, and includes publishers, software vendors, multinational manufacturers, financial services companies, and local, national, and European government offices. Projects include programming and automation solutions, project management, training and education, quality control, and documentation systems.

We are always pleased to discuss your requirements, even if they are not covered explicitly here. The contact page has our number and email address.

Rules for submitting a new acronym

Please use the form provided. These rules are to prevent abuse. See below for details of how to submit entries which do not fit the rules.

  1. You must provide your real name and email address for validation.
  2. The acronym and its meaning must not already be in the database.
  3. Acronyms must be single words in CAPITALS with no punctuation. See below for how to submit exceptions.
  4. Meanings must be in full and must have capital letters exactly matching those in the acronym. Unrepresented words must be in parentheses (round brackets), eg for WMD give
    Weapons (of) Mass Destruction — this allows the system to check that the capitals in the acronym match exactly the capitals in the meaning.
  5. Optional information
  6. You may provide the relevant topic area by starting to type a keyword until the topic is shown in the adjacent list. Selecting the topic returns a 3-digit Dewey Decimal coding (see list). If in doubt about the right category, ask your nearest librarian.

    Please do not make up your own categories: to make the database accurate and checkable, the topic number must be one of the defined 3-digit Dewey Decimal codes.

  7. You may also supply a comment explaining how the acronym is used, or why it exists.
  8. You may also provide a URI (web address) for further information. Note that abusing this for advertising sites, spam, or self-publicity will cause the submission to be rejected, and your email address and IP address will be blocked from further use on this server.

If you make a mistake with the above rules, the form will be redisplayed with the errors on a pink background for you to correct.

We will never give or sell your name or email address to anyone else.

The editor reserves the right to edit or delete any submission.


If you are submitting an unusual or complex acronym which doesn't fit the rules, please mail the editor asking for it to be added manually. Please provide the same information as asked for in the form, and send it to the webmaster.

Acronyms XML API

An API is available on test for making the collection of acronyms accessible as a web service.

The URI for this is and the search term must be appended following a question mark, eg

This returns an XML response in the following format:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<?xml-stylesheet href="/xaa.css" type="text/css"?>
<acronym api="xaa" date="2009-03-21T17:10:00-0700">
  <sought ip="">api</sought>
  <found n="5">
    <acro nym="API" dewey="040" 
          added="Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 IST 1992">
      <expan>American Petroleum Institute</expan>
    <acro nym="API" dewey="387" added="2006-02-01">
      <expan>Apiay airport (code)</expan>
    <acro nym="API" dewey="040" 
          added="Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 IST 1992">
      <expan>Application Programming Interface</expan>
    <acro nym="API" dewey="040" 
          added="Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 IST 1992">
      <expan>Applied Precision, Inc.</expan>
    <acro nym="API" dewey="530" 
          added="Mon Jul 22 14:24:35 IST 2002">
      <expan>Atmospheric Pressure Ionization</expan>

This can be displayed in your browser to test the interface: the CSS reference is just for pretty formatting in the browser.

The XML response is returned with the Content-Type: text/xml as the expectation is that the response will be used in application programming such as mashups, AJAX, Cocoon, etc.

If you expect heavy usage from your users please let us know by email, as this is a pro bono service and bandwidth is limited.

Site Policies

These rules are to prevent abuse while maintaining the usefulness of the information. The Acronym Server started life as a research project, and it continues to serve that purpose. Issues of academic freedom therefore apply to this data which might not apply elsewhere.

  1. Submissions are accepted if
    1. the acronym matches the meaning;
    2. it is not already in the database;
    3. it is not obviously fraudulent, trivial, frivolous, or irrelevant;
    4. it has semantic validity;
    5. it is not demonstrably incorrect.
  2. Submissions are not excluded on grounds of obscenity or political correctness. However, submissions which are, in the editor's opinion, slanderous or otherwise actionable, or deliberately offensive to certain people, will be excluded where detected.
  3. The editor reserves the right to change or delete any acronym.
  4. Where an error is detected, either in the inclusion of the submission or in its content, it is the editorial policy to correct it as soon as possible. We encourage the reporting of errors, as it helps maintain the quality of the data.

Parental advisory

This database contains a small number of obscenities, vulgarities, swear words, and nicknames for portions of the human anatomy. These are integral to valid entries, just as they would be in a dictionary. If you do not wish your child to be exposed to these, please block this page from them.

News and updates

We are testing the new responsive interface with a faster lookup and (we hope) a better form. It's not quite finished, but we'd love some feedback, especially from mobile users and frequent submitters.
Server was offline for two days because of a DOS attack. Quite why anyone would want to attack us is unclear; maybe they just wanted a fix of acronyms. Sorry for the disruption.
Fixed a bug in the classification match which was preventing some older entries being displayed.
Testing of the upload difficulties conducted with SandD. At least they now see the problem: call has been escalated.
Data updates are being deleted by the hosting server's intrusive mаlwаre detector. A fault call has been logged with There may be occasions when acronyms fail to appear: this is being worked on.