10 Words That Started Life as Acronyms

And are still in popular use today

Alex Kilcannon


Photo by James Sloan on Unsplash

An acronym takes the initial letters of a phrase and turns them into a word in their own right.

Many of us use acronyms, especially at work. Some of these acronyms are widely understood and some are specialised and only have meaning for those within a certain field.

For example in my field of First Aid, we teach DR(S)ABC to remember the primary survey protocol, SAMPLE for secondary survey and RICE to recall how to treat a sprain — Rest, Ice, Comfortable support and Elevate in case you were wondering.

Here’s a look at 10 of the more commonly used ones and some of the history behind them.

1. CAPTCHA — Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart

Phew! No wonder they wanted an acronym for this one.

We’re all familiar with CAPTCHA’s, those annoying tests needed to access or sign up to certain sites to prove you’re not a robot. These vary from words or number sequences to, more recently, image grids where you click on the squares that contain features such as cars or road signs.

As the internet developed, problems appeared when unscrupulous hackers spammed internet companies in order to promote URL’s.

In 1997, scientist Andrei Broder came up with a solution, a way to distinguish a real human from spambots. He developed an algorithm that generated a random text image that would need inputting before the person could get any further in the process.

In 2000, researchers at Carnegie Melon perfected the algorithm and named it the CAPTCHA in honour of Alan Turing, the man who invented the test to determine if computers could think like humans.

2. GESTAPO — Geheime Staatspolizei

The Nazi’s — another acronym - created their own Secret State Police, the Gestapo, in 1933.

They were answerable to no-one and were responsible for the elimination of opposition to the Nazi’s within Germany. It was a relatively small police force and relied mainly on informers to denounce people within their own communities.



Alex Kilcannon

Writer, poet, outdoors instructor and Mother of Teenagers. I rewild kids for a living.