ACRONYM (Greek akron end + onum = onoma name).
A type of abbreviation, formed from parts of several words in a sequence, which can be pronounced (and treated grammatically) as a word. Originally referring to a word composed of the initial letters of a string of other words, the term ‘acronym’ can also refer to words formed from other (non-initial) letters or syllables. Acronyms often have a particular meaning and can thus be used to illustrate or emphasize a point (e.g. HOPE, ELITE – see below).
For the last thirty years or so, acronyms have been used in the medical world when referring to clinical trials, thus avoiding giving such trials the name of the main researcher (“…”’s study) or using lengthy descriptions which are not particularly clear or explicit (“the study which….”).
The use of acronyms in medical terminology has become particularly widespread in the cardiovascular field, which now uses more than 15,000 acronyms. The symbolism is particularly significant in this field as the acronyms used to designate clinical trials can be used for marketing purposes, although this habit is somewhat questionable.
A type of abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words in a sequence, where each letter is read separately (e.g NRMI which stands for National Registry of Myocardial Infarction). This method of abbreviation does not always allow for connotations and symbolism in the same way as acronyms.
Some abbreviations include both an acronym and initials, and thus, are pronounced both as a word for one part and as a chain of letters for the other (e.g. the name of the study ARMYDA-ACS which stands for Atorvastatin for Reduction of MYocarDiAl damage during Acute Coronary Syndromes and is read as ARMYDA “A”-“C”-“S” or that of the study SCD-HEFT which stands for Sudden Cardiac Death in HEart Failure Trial and is read as “S”-“C”-“D” and HEFT).
ACROSTIC (Greek akron end + stikhos line of verse).
A poem or other composition in which the initial letters in each line, when read vertically, form a word or words.
Acrostics are not widely used in medical terminology.
ABBREVIATION (Latin abbreviare shorten).
A shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole. As an example “VASC”, an abbreviation of VASCular is frequently included in the name of studies (e.g. OXVASC which stands for OXford VASCular study). Similarly SCAN is frequently used for SCAnner or SCANing (e.g. EVASCAN which stands in French for EVAluation médicale et medico-économique du SCANner multicoupe or CATSCAN which stands for Coronary Assessment by Tomographic SCANning and Coronary Angiography)
INDICATION / SIGN (Latin indicium = index finger)
In semiotics, an indication or sign is an obvious characterizing sign which indicates something about a thing which is not immediately perceptible. Many acronyms can be considered as indicating signs due to their imagery and connotations.
“Evaluation of Losartan In the Elderly” is the descriptive name of a medical study. In its long form, the name is not particularly meaningful. However its acronym, ELITE, immediately portrays the idea of excellence and thus indicates the high quality of this particular clinical trial and of the treatment being tested.