Did you know that there are some words that are actually acronyms? Some extremely common words that we use every day are acronyms, or words that take the first letter of several words to form a type of abbreviation (a shorter form of a word). Acronyms are typically written in all uppercase (big) letters to indicate that they are an acronym, rather than a typical word. However, these words that are actually acronyms are commonly written in lowercase (small) letters like a normal word. This is why many people don’t know that they are acronyms. 

If you want to expand your knowledge base, even as a native speaker, check out the true meanings behind these words that are actually acronyms. 


Stands for: Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

I am actually afraid to go scuba diving, since I find breathing underwater to be a freaky (scary, weird) concept, but I know many people who absolutely love scuba diving! Many don’t know that the word scuba is itself an acronym. It that describes the oxygen tank that one wears on their back that enables them to breathe while under water.

This self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (device, thing, machine) is what allows people to dive to great depths to experience everything that the ocean has to offer. And while the actual term for scuba is quite a mouthful (hard to say), the much shorter word that came from the acronym is now descriptive enough that people automatically know what you’re talking about when you say scuba

For example:

  • He got his scuba certification in Thailand so that he could go diving there. 
  • Scuba diving is her favorite pastime. She loves seeing all the fish in their underwater habitat (where they live). 

ZIP code

Stands for: Zone Improvement Plan

As you do in many countries, when you write a letter to someone in the States, you have to put a five-digit code at the end of their address so the postal service knows where to find them. This code is called a ZIP code, and is the indicator of in exactly which zone you live. Without this code, your mailman wouldn’t know in which city your “Main Street” was,  so this is an important acronym to know!

For example:

  • Do you know Sarah’s ZIP code? I’m sending her a letter and want it to get to her. 
  • When I moved, it took me forever to remember my new ZIP code. I kept writing down my old one!


Stands for: RAdio Detection And Ranging

Radar O’Reilly is one of my favorite characters from the TV series M*A*S*H. But this character takes his name from a piece of equipment that is itself an acronym. Radar uses radio waves to help determine how large something is, as well as how far away it is. Radar is used by the military in combat, but is also for other purposes (uses), such as meteorology (predicting the weather). Nowadays, radar has also become a common word that is actually an acronym, and we use it in many everyday phrases. 

For example:

  • John wasn’t on my radar at all, but after he applied for the new position, I realized what a fantastic employee he is!
  • The weatherman used the Doppler radar to determine how far away the thunderstorm was. 


Stands for: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

I remember learning this acronym in science class and thinking how cool it was that an acronym was so common that it became a word. Of course, lasers are cool, too! Lasers have tons of applications (way to use them), especially in science, which are far beyond the laser pointers that we use in business meetings or to tease our cats. They’re a wonderful part of our modern life. 

For example:

  • After she got laser eye surgery, she could see so much better!
  • His eyes were piercing, like lasers, she thought.

CARE package

Stands for: Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere

Finally, did your mom ever send you a care package when you were in college? These are packages that are full of your favorite things, such as candy, cookies, maybe a book or CD, or a pair of warm, fuzzy socks. Getting a care package always made me very happy, because it meant that my parents were thinking of me. However, I never knew that care package was a word that is actually an acronym. 

Care packages started as part of an organization called CARE that originally sent food packages to American troops in Europe during World War II but has since become a humanitarian organization  (a charity or group that helps people) that provides relief around the world. 

For example:

  • I just received a care package today with some cookies and my favorite kind of tea. I can’t wait to get home and eat some!
  • Her mom always sent her a care package at camp. She loved getting a little taste of home. 

Did any of these words that are actually acronyms surprise you? Do you know of any others? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in EnglishWhy You Could Use a Bespeaking ProofreaderItalian Loan Words in English, or these 5 Great Antonyms in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and loves getting CARE packages!

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