Obscure Curiosities

A Guide To Common Abbreviations In English

In today’s fast-paced world, we’re always looking for ways to save time and communicate more efficiently. One way we seek efficiency is through the use of verbal shortcuts—abbreviated words and phrases that convey a message quickly and concisely. But, these shortcuts have existed in English for several centuries, especially in speech.

a person holding a thought bubble
Photo by Cup of Couple on Pexels.com

For example, regardless of its exact origin, “OK” became popularized in the mid-19th century and is now one of the most widely used and recognized words in the English language.

The origin of “OK” is somewhat disputed, but one popular theory is that it came from a misspelling of the phrase “all correct.” In the 1830s, there was a trend of creating humorous misspellings of common phrases, and “all correct” was often spelled as “oll korrect.” The abbreviation “OK” eventually emerged as a shortened version of this misspelling.

Another theory suggests that “OK” may have originated from the West African language Wolof, in which “waw kay” means “it is good.” Some linguists believe that this phrase was brought to America by slaves and eventually evolved into “OK.”

Here are some of the most common verbal shortcuts and their meanings:

  • Ad – Short for “advertisement.” Origin: Latin word “advertere,” meaning “to turn towards.”
  • ASAP – Short for “as soon as possible.” Origin: Military jargon during World War II.
  • BBQ – Short for “barbecue.” Origin: Abbreviation of the word “barbecue.”
  • DIY – Short for “do it yourself.” Origin: Became popular during the 1950s and 1960s as a reaction to the growing consumer culture.
  • ETA – Short for “estimated time of arrival.” Origin: Airline industry jargon.
  • FOMO – Short for “fear of missing out.” Origin: First used on social media in the early 2000s.
  • FYI – Short for “for your information.” Origin: Business jargon.
  • LOL – Short for “laughing out loud”, Origin: while known as internet slang today, it actually originated in the 1960’s, although it meant something different then.
  • ASAP – Short for “as soon as possible.” Origin: Military jargon during World War II.
  • RSVP – Short for “répondez s’il vous plaît,” which means “please respond” in French. Origin: French language.
  • VIP – Short for “very important person.” Origin: First used in the 1940s as a way to designate celebrities and high-profile individuals.
  • YOLO – Short for “you only live once.” Origin: Popularized in the early 2010s as a social media hashtag.
  • TGIF – Short for “thank God it’s Friday.” Origin: First used in the 1960s as a way to express relief that the work week was over.


  • Marlapaige

    For some reason, this feels like a response to my post about how I hate the common abbreviation “wyd” it was extremely interesting, thank you for sharing!

      • Marlapaige

        I love that title! The reality is that I assume it had nothing to do with me, but it just so happened to be something I recently posted about so I couldn’t stop my imagination from going there.

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