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Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialisms and Contractions: What are they?

An abbreviation is a shortened word or phrase, for example, est. is a common abbreviation in English and is used to shorten the word established. Acronyms and Initialisms are different types of abbreviations. 

An acronym is made up of the first letter from each word in a phrase, such as NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. An initialism is similar in that it is also the first letter of each word in an abbreviated phrase, they are often seen in texting or SMS (Short Message Service). The difference is that when you read an initialism, you say each letter rather than create a new word. A common example is LOL, or laugh out loud. 

Abbreviations are, however, different from contractions. While they both shorten words or phrases, an abbreviation leaves off letters at the end of words while contractions leave out the letters from the middle. For example, Ms. and Dr. are contractions.

These practices are common in both Dutch and English, as well as most languages. Below are some common examples:

  • A.u.b. or aub is a Dutch initialism alstublieft or alsjeblieft which, for our English readers, means please. The differences in spelling is attributed to the formal or informal use of the word. This initialism can also be seen In the French translation of please – s’il vous plaît, which is abbreviated as s.v.p or svp.
  • E.G. is an initilism which stands for the latin phrase exempli gratia. This is often used to set up an example, replacing phrases such ‘for example’ or ‘such as’.
  • t/m is an abbreviation for ‘tot en met’. This Dutch phrase denotes to and through. It is often used when expressing a range of dates. For example, woensdag 22 juni t/m vrijdag 24 juni would mean from Wednesday the 22nd of June to and including Friday the 24th of June.
  • DIY is a very common initialism in English which stands for do it yourself. It’s typically used when people are working on something that they could otherwise pay a professional to do.
  • Inc. is an abbreviation for incorporated, which denotes an organisation or group that has been formed into a legal entity. 
  • Etc, usually followed by an ellipsis (eg: etc…) is an abbreviation for another latin phrase, et cetera. This is used at the end of a list to indicate that there are further, similar items included, but not listed.
  • Scuba is an acronym for Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Like google becoming a verb, or escalator becoming a noun, Scuba has come to represent the act of diving, instead of the machinery that makes it possible. 

Now that we’ve established the different types of abbreviations, here is a list of some of the most common abbreviations you will encounter in both English and Dutch. 

  • Ff – short for even, which translates to ‘for a bit’
  • ‘t or t – short for het, the Dutch word for ‘the’
  • Idd or indd – short for in inderdaad which means indeed.
  • mn – short for mijn, meaning my
  • mss/miss – short for misschien which means ‘maybe’


  • RSVP – A French phrase, adopted by English speakers, is used to say “please reply
  • ASAP – As soon as possible
  • N/A – Not available
  • LMK – Let me know
  • Ave – avenue, a name for a type of road, similar to street or way

Abbreviations are used every day and when living abroad, especially in business. Knowing the common uses will make your life a lot easier. If you’d like to learn more, take a look at the range of language courses we offer! For those of you who want to learn more, check out our Business English webinar!

Paul Van Zanten
Paul is an American intercultural communications professional living in the Netherlands and connecting with his Dutch roots. With a passion for travel, as well as gaining new perspectives and experiences, Paul aims to further his growth, as well as that of others at Language Partners.

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