Ever Heard of a ‘Backronym’?

Everyone knows what acronyms are – they’re everywhere! Acronyms make up some of the most famous ‘words’ in the English language, and in Hebrew? Well, forget about it – it’s nearly impossible to string together a sentence in conversational Hebrew without throwing in an acronym or two. #tash

But have you ever heard of backronyms? Yes, that’s a real thing and it’s about to blow your mind.


Acronyms such as NASA or NATO are words that were created based on a pre-exiting phrase or title. We didn’t make up the word nasa and then create a space program with the same name. NASA is the egg, not the chicken. Or, wait… which one comes first?

Anyway… backronyms are acronyms that were created for a specific set of words or phrasing. For example, “GROSS” – which is of course already an English word, but when it came to Calvin and Hobbes, this word is a backronym of Get Rid Of Slimy girlS.

Now that you’re familiar with the term, let’s see a few more backronyms that we use all the time.

  1. The USA PATRIOT Act. – “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act”

That’s right – even the USA in this Act is an acronym… Who knew?

  1. SPECTRE – “Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion”

In honor of the newest James Bond film featuring major crime syndicate SPECTRE, we would like you to know that this too is a backronym.



  1. SOS – “Save our Ship!” (or Souls)

It’s pretty simple when you think about it – to have an internationally known distress code be a straightforward cry for help. SOS also happens to be very quick when being sent in Morse code.

  1. AMBER Alert – “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”

Back in 1996, Amber Hagerman was kidnapped in Texas and this event spawned the creation of this backronym that is now widely used in kidnapping events or scares.

  1. POSH – “Port Outbound, Starboard Home”

Sorry to all those who refer to others as posh, but the origin of this backronym is not that cool. It traces back (allegedly) to boat passengers traveling from England to India who wished to have the better cabins on the boat – which would be on the port side when they left and the starboard side on the way home.