1. This term, which was first used in the 1940s, denotes a type of abbreviation made up of a set of initials that are pronounced as a single word, as Nato is (as distinct from BBC). An acronym is generally treated as a word in its own right in other ways, for example in the formation of plurals when appropriate. Examples of familiar acronyms include: Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), PIN (personal identification number), SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), and WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Some of these, especially the names of organizations, start off as ordinary abbreviations (often with full stops) and develop into acronyms; others (e.g. ASH) are deliberately contrived so as to lend themselves to pronunciation as words and hence acquire acronym status artificially.
2. Examples of acronyms that form ordinary nouns are laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), radar (radio detection and ranging), and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats: used in business assessments).
3. In everyday use, acronym is sometimes applied to abbreviations that are properly initialisms, since they are pronounced as separate letters (e.g. EU = European Union, DVD = digital versatile disc).

Modern English usage. 2014.

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