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In linguistics, an apronym is a word, which as an acronym or backronym, has a meaning related to the meaning of the words constituting the acronym or backronym. For example, the acronym for Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, reflects the actual meaning of the term as denoting the emotion of suffering or sadness. Homonyms of a word may also be used to form apronyms.

Apronyms are a form of word play and may be created for serious purposes or for amusement. Most apronyms are backronyms (ie. reverse or back-formed acronyms), in the sense that they are created from an existing word, or a homophone thereof.

The word "apronym" is a portmanteau of "apropos acronym" and/or "appropriate acronym" and was coined on the Acronyms Forum in 2003.


Apronyms are created for several purposes.

  • Serious purposes such as the name of an organisation or programme. In such cases usually the apronym and its expanded term are chosen together for their aptness to the thing being named. See the example of SAD in the introduction.
  • In marketing and public relations, as a method of influencing public thought. Examples abound in the names of medical and industry lobby studies, such as "CHEERS", the chemical industry's Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study. Apronyms have also been appearing in government legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) and the FAIR Act (Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act)
  • As amusement where the objective is the clever and inventive use of words rather than practical or sensible expanded terms. Irishman Tony McCoy O'Grady and others have created thousands of them as word play on the apronyms.com website. For example, infinity - Increment Numbers Forever - It's Nuts, I Tell You!
  • Related to the previous is the amusement of creating jocular, and often also derogatory, terms from names of brands, companies, organisations etc. For example, Ford – Fix Or Repair Daily, or NASA - Need Another Seven Astronauts (after the 1986 crash of the Challenger_Space_Shuttle).

Apronyms which are not back-formed are usually unintended apronyms.

Some apronyms

An example of a foreign-language apronym is HAMAS, which is the acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah, and Arabic for "Islamic Resistance Movement"; "hamas" is the Arabic word for Zeal.

Humourous apronyms

In some cases, the names of existing entities are targets for subtle changes to obtain a more apt or amusing acronym.

These often are schools, such as:

The same approach may however create names for programmes or administrations which form distasteful or inappropriate apronyms, such as Retire Aged Personnel Early.


And a few which are backronyms:

  • APRONYM - A Petite Reminder (Openers Notation) Yields Mnemonic
  • INFINITY - Increment Numbers Forever - It's Nuts, I Tell You!
  • IRELAND - Independent Republic, English Lodgers Are Nearly Dislodged!
  • RHYTHM - Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving (this one is a recursive acronym as well)
  • FUDGE - Freeform Universal Do-it-Yourself Gaming Engine
  • USA PATRIOT - Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism

External links