Common Abbreviations in English

Posted on 06. Jan, 2012 by in English Language, English Vocabulary

Abbreviated words are everywhere in writing.  Abbreviations are so plentiful I thought I’d go over some useful ones here.  First though, let us define what an abbreviation is.  An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase.  Abbreviations are good to use in writing, to save space and time, but they are essential to know when you are reading because they are used so frequently in writing in English.

Abbreviations usually consist of a letter or group of letters that are taken from the word or phrase that is being abbreviated.  For example, the word abbreviation can itself abbreviated to: abbr. or abbrv.  Sometimes there is a period (.) at the end of the group of letter or between each letter of an abbreviation and sometimes there is no period; this just depends on the specific abbreviation.  Acronyms are considered a type of abbreviation and are also found plentifully* in English.  Acronyms are made by taking the first letter of each word in a phrase and creating a new word, for example: CEO = Chief Executive Officer.

Here is a list of some very common abbreviations in English you might want to learn.

A.D. – “Anno Domini”** = the year 0 in the Julian and Gregorian calendars indicating time after Christ’s birth
A.M. – “ante meridiem” = before noon
asap – as soon as possible
Attn. – attention
B.C. – before Christ
Dept. – department
C – Celsius
c/o – care of (for correspondences)
Dr. – doctor
etc. –  “et cetera” = and so forth
e.g. – “exempli gratia” = for example
Jr. – junior
km – kilometer
F – Fahrenheit
ft. – feet
i.e. – “id est” =  that is
in. – inches
lb. – pound
n/a – not applicable
mi. – miles
min. – minutes
MD – Doctor of Medicine
Mr. – mister
Mrs. – misses
Ms. – miss
oz. – ounce
Ph.D. – “philosophiae doctor” = having a doctorate degree
P.M. – “post meridiem” = after noon
Prof. – professor
p.s. – post script
tbsp. – tablespoon
tsp. – teaspoon
vs. – versus
yd. – yards

*a great deal

** the words in quotation marks ” ” above are all Latin words that are the base of abbreviations used in English

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About gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after I completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.

5 Responses to “Common Abbreviations in English”

  1. GRACIANO GONZALEZ-BARREDA 26 August 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    HI GABRIELE:
    I ALSO TEACH ESL. I´D LIKE TO ASK YOU ABOUT AN EASY WAY TO GET A COUPLE OF SAMPLES OF THE TOEFL, SO I CAN USE IT WITH MY STUDENTS AND SHARE SOME THOUGHTS WITH THEM.
    APPRETIATE YOUR HELP. GREETINGS FROM TEXAS!!!!!

  2. gabriele 28 August 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Hi Graciano,
    It is a good question, but I don’t have the answer for you. I don’t have access to any sample TOEFL questions myself, maybe you could contact TOFEL directly (http://www.ets.org/toefl).
    Best of luck, Gabriele

  3. Jim Kahn 5 November 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    In writing, how does one indicate that a phrase or comment is/was said/written in jest or as a joke, or w/humor in mind, meant to be a bit satirical or dry? I thought there was an abbreviation for that? Something one would type and place in parenthesis after said phrase or comment. I can’t seem to find one anywhere. Can you help…or at least refer me to a site that might have an answer? No hurry!

    Thanks!
    JK

  4. gabriele 6 November 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Jim,
    Great questions, but I’m not sure I have a great answer for you. I do not know of any written way to indicate that a phrase or comment is meant to be in jest/ironic. The closest thing I can think of is to include an emoticon such as: ;). This of course is only something you would do for informal writing though.
    -Gabriele

  5. Jim Kahn 17 December 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Gabriele:
    Thank you! For some reason I thought there might be some kind of an acronym, such as SIJ (Said In Jest) or SWH (Said With Humor), or even SS (Said Sarcastically)…you know…like LMAO means: Laugh My Ass Off!

    Oh well…thanks again…I appreciate your answer.

    JK


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