Humans have been using acronyms for centuries. One of the earliest examples can be seen in the Greek word "ichthys" which stands for "Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr" (or "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior"). The word, meaning "fish" in Greek, is often used today to describe the Jesus fish symbol. Ancient governments used acronyms, too. The Roman Empire, for example, often referred to itself as SPQR ("Senatus Populusque Romanus").

From IKEA to M&M's

Today, acronyms are used for a variety of purposes. Government agencies often use them to make their names more easily recognizable, as do private organizations. For example, places like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and National Rifle Association (NRA) are all more commonly known by their abbreviations. When establishing new companies, business owners sometimes use acronyms to come up with a name. IKEA, for example, is a shortening of "Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd," the founder's name and the farm he grew up on. Similarly, M&M's stands for "Mars & Murrie's," an ode to founder Forrest Mars and Hershey's Bruce Murrie.

Acronyms Can Also Save (a Little) Time

Beyond businesses and organizations, acronyms are sometimes used to describe basic actions or scenarios. MIA, for instance, is a military term that means someone is "missing in action," while "ASAP" is used to indicate "as soon as possible." In the modern age, computer and text acronyms have popped up everywhere too with phrases like IDK ("I don't know"), ROFL ("rolling on the floor laughing"), and BFF ("best friends forever"). Examples of general shorthand phrases have also become part of the English language—terms like DIY ("do it yourself"), RIP ("rest in peace"), and DOB ("date of birth"). Even people's names are sometimes abbreviated, as in the cases of JFK or MLK.

Luismt94 // Wikimedia Commons
Luismt94 // Wikimedia Commons

Acronyms are so common, in fact, that often people recognize the concept without knowing what all of the letters stand for. To help you test your own personal acronym knowledge, Stacker has put together a slideshow featuring 50 of the most common abbreviations, along with their definitions. Take a scroll though to see which ones you can identify.

LOOK: Do you know these 50 famous acronyms?

This list from Stacker features a collection of the most common acronyms and their meanings. Popular abbreviations include establishments like ACLU, YMCA, ad the AARP.

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