Radar, laser, scuba. Did you know that these words are acronyms? What is an acronym?

Acronyms are words that are formed by the first letters of each word in a phrase. Strictly speaking, acronyms are pronounced as one whole word.

You’ve probably read LOL in text or chat messages. It’s an acronym for “laughing out loud” or “lots of laugh.” It’s now pronounced as “lawl.”

Many English words are actually acronyms. Here are some examples:

1. radar – This is the word for the device that sends out radio waves so you can find out the position and speed of a moving object, like an airplane. Radar stands for “radio detection and ranging.” This word was invented in the 1940s.

2. laser – This is the word for the device that makes powerful beams of light. It is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” It was created in the 1960s.

3. scuba – Divers use scuba tanks so they can swim underwater. It stands for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” The word scuba first appeared in 1950s.

4. care package – This is the term for boxes of food and other things sent as a gift to someone who is away. You send care packages to someone you care for.

Few people know that “care” is an acronym for The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, an agency formed in 1945. CARE sent the first care packages to European countries affected by World War II.

5. base jumping – In this extreme sport, people jump from high places wearing a parachute. Base is an acronym for the four places you can jump from: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and Earth (cliffs). It was coined in 1978.

6. IMAX – We now watch movies in IMAX theaters, which give us clearer pictures and sound. But did you know that IMAX is an acronym for “image maximum”?

7. Captcha – Sometimes, when you log into websites, you are asked to type letters or numbers you see in a picture. That’s a captcha test. It sounds like “capture,” and it’s an acronym for “completely automated public Turing Test to tell computers and humans apart.”

8. YOLO – When some people want to do something that can be scary but fun (like scuba diving or base jumping), they do it and say, “YOLO!” It stands for “You only live once!”

To improve your English skills, it helps to learn how words are created in English. Learn more about this with Learntalk!

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