Abbreviations are used to provide a shortened form of a word or phrase. An abbreviation style combines the initial letters of each word in a series. In cases where the resulting abbreviation is pronounced by saying each of the letters in order, this is called initialism. One example is the abbreviation for extrasensory perception, which is ESP.
Cases in which this abbreviation is pronounced as a word by itself, form a different class of abbreviation, referred to as an acronym. The acronym was first used in the 1940s. The name comes from two Greek words, Akron, meaning "end or point", and onumon, meaning "name".
In order to form a pronounceable word, an acronym may leave out "little words" in the series by not providing a letter to represent them. An example is the NASDAQ system. The phrase is real: "National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Stock Exchange Interconnection System", but, as you can see, the word "of" is not represented in the acronym.
Another liberty that acronyms can take is to include an initial for each part of the compound word. Some abbreviations combine initialism with an acronym. CD-Rom, in which the first two letters are pronounced as letter names, and the last three are pronounced as if they were a word, is an example. JPEG and MS-DOS follow suit.
Another variation is the use of more than one letter of each word in order to create an acronym that is pronounceable as a word. This is true, for example, with the acronym for low power mode, which is not "lpm", but "lopomo", using the first two letters of each word in the sequence.
In some cases, an acronym is used so often that some people don't recognize it as an acronym. This has been known to happen with the following:
Posh may be the word that has caused the biggest argument in the world of acronyms. Some claim that posh is an acronym for "Port Out, Starboard Home", reportedly the preferred seat for ship passengers traveling from England to India and home in the 1800s. This etymology is undocumented and disputed, although there is no clear and accepted alternative.