Posted by: janecronin | December 29, 2012


When we put initial letters together into a word this is called an acronym.  We do this occasionally in English (for example, the way we say NATO) but usually we just pronounce each letter separately (as in UK which doesn’t rhyme with yuck!).  With Spanish initials, acronyms are created whenever possible, so for example United Nations (Organización de Naciones Unidas) is pronounced like the word “ONU”.  There are plenty of examples of this all the way through the language, but for some reason I needed a few seconds to work out the meaning of the word “oenegé” which was actually spelt out like this in a newspaper article.  If you read it out phonetically you will find you are saying “ONG”.  This means “Organización No Gubernamental” or as we say, NGO, which includes all kinds of associations, lobby groups and charities.


  1. NATO is in fact an abbreviation (and *not* an acronym), as it’s not really a common noun but an abbreviated name which does not spell a word.

    An acronym is an abbreviation which actually spells a “real” word. As a reference, please see:
    …which gives the example of AIDS (the syndrome) as an acronym (correct – aids is a word in itself – I aid, you aid, he/she/it aids, etc.). On the other hand, HIV is not an acronym. It’s an abbreviation, as it is not a word per se. As an afterthought, the closest word I can think of is “hive” as in where bees group.

    In English, NGO ( as per your example) and RAC (Royal Automobile Club) are *abbreviations* but not acronyms as there is no such word as “rac” or “ngo”.

    See also:

    Happy New Year!

    • Thank you very much for the clarification. The difference between the examples that you give in English (HIV, NGO, RAC) and those such as OTAN in Spanish is that in English they are not said as though they were words, whereas in Spanish they “make” words out of them. According to Word Reference FIFA is an “acrónimo”.

      • Hello Jane. I understand your points, i.e. (1) I used some English examples and (2) interestingly, there seems to be a greater Spanish propensity to invent words. However, I’m not sure I entirely agree with the example of OTAN and NATO as a reply to the “argument” i.e. my original post! I’ll elaborate.

        For example, how many British newsreaders do you know who spell out the individual letters “enn – ay – tee – oh” for the abbreviation NATO? One usually hears “nay-toe” (perhaps nay-doe in the case of American pronunciation) – however, this does *not* make the abbreviation an acronym. As mentioned, “nato” is not an English word but an abbreviation (even though sometimes spoken as a word) as confirmed at :

        Conversely, I thank you for pointing out the slightly different Spanish treatment of this subject and the principle you mentioned in your reply. Otherwise, I suppose one could have gone round in some quite unproductive circles with this! For exampleónimo even quotes the bank name “Banesto” as an acronym, and I don’t know of it existing as a Spanish word in itself. The amusing thought of an invented verb “banestar” would spring to mind I suppose… but even then wouldn’t the present simple be something along the lines of (yo) banestoy, and the preterito indefinido “él/ella banestó) with an accent. Just supposing. I know it doesn’t exist.


      • Hi, I’ve probably erred on the side of over-simplification as my real motive in writing these blogs is just to point out interesting “bits and pieces” about the language.

        I’m all for word invention though – I wonder what “Banestoy” or “estoy banestando” would actually mean – I dread to think!

  2. Hello Jane,
    As I progress further and further, I continue to revisit your blogs,verb listings etc. I liked your OENEGÉ and immediately thought of the ITEUVE my cor underwent last weeek.

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