Abbreviations are always a potential source of confusion. Some people might happen to know what OED stands for, and can figure out what NOAD must mean, but others may not be so lucky. Googling for PIE is rather useless even for native speakers, and completely perplexing to non-native ones.

Thus, let us compile (and maintain) a list of common abbreviations.

  • 4
    Excellent resource but should be linked/incorporated in the FAQ/about.
    – smci
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


The following is a list of abbreviations common to all sites of the Stack Exchange network:

  • CWcommunity wiki; a post "owned" by the entire community rather than just the OP
  • EL&U, ELU — short for "English Language and Usage", the name of this site
  • ELLEnglish Language Learners, a place for questions from those learning English, where answers may be couched in didactic terms more familar to learners
  • GR or Gen Ref — General Reference, meaning that the question can be easily answered using a dictionary, thesaurus, or other easily-found resources; can be a reason for closing a question
  • HNQHot Network Question on Stack Exchange
  • LMGTFYLet Me Google That For You
  • MSEMeta Stack Exchange, the discussion site for the entire SE network
  • MSOMeta Stack Overflow (also meta.SO), the discussion site associated with SO, which was used for SE network-wide discussions, bugs and feature requests before new Meta Stack Exchange was started
  • NARQ — Not A Real Question, a former close reason on the network for questions which are often overly broad or simply facetious
  • OP — original poster (the author of a given question) or original post
  • OQ — original question, as opposed to follow-up questions, subsequent edits, or tangential discussion
  • OToff-topic
  • POB — primarily opinion-based
  • SEStack Exchange, our growing network of question-and-answer sites on diverse topics from software programming to cooking to photography and gaming
  • SOStack Overflow, the programming question-and-answer site with which it all began
  • TPTB — The Powers That Be, the team that runs all the sites, as opposed to "mere mortals" such as regular users and moderators alike

The following is a list of abbreviations specific to the culture here on EL&U:

  • GAFTAD — Get A Fine Thesaurus; Also Dictionary.
  • IANAL — I Am Not A Linguist [NB In general on SE this stands for I Am Not A Lawyer]

Some conventions:

  • *X
    • for language history and etymologies, it means X is form or word which has no written attestation in the language considered and is therefore reconstructed. This can be either because the language itself is not attested in writing (e.g., all Proto-Germanic words) or because the particular word happens to be unattested, though it is hypothesised to have existed.
    • for current language use, it means the utterance is ungrammatical/wrong (in the variety considered).
  • ?X means that X is a marginally grammatical utterance (could follow the letter of a rule, but sounds a little wrong, or nobody would actually say it that way).
  • /X/ is the phonemic representation of a word in a given variety. X should be in IPA.
  • [X] is the phonetic representation of a word in a given variety. X should be in IPA.
  • 7
    Should we also include symbols like * for ungrammatical and ? for marginally grammatical in this list?
    – Kosmonaut
    Aug 22, 2010 at 19:58
  • 1
    @Kosmonaut--totally, though they're not not abbreviations, and I think they should be separate in the FAQ.
    – Charlie
    Aug 22, 2010 at 22:31
  • Merriam-Webster could point to merriam-webster.com and The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary to oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com
    – Kris
    Nov 1, 2012 at 5:38
  • Someone said my question is GR. What does that mean?
    – Pat James
    May 28, 2013 at 14:18
  • 2
    Excellent resource but should be linked/incorporated in the FAQ/about.
    – smci
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:18
  • Personally, I think "MW" should just mean Merriam-Webster, without specification to format or edition. If one wants to specify, one could specify. For instance, if one is referencing Merriam-Webster Online, the abbreviation "MWO" could easily suffice. Aug 23, 2015 at 16:46
  • Shouldn't LMGTFY link instead to the post(s) that deprecate its overuse on SE? May 18, 2016 at 22:34
  • SL&U or SLU is for Spanish Language and Usage May 22, 2016 at 0:19
  • I know it's commonly used, but I'd never use the first term or acronym. It seems separatist to me... 'Why don't I understand this language? It must be nonstandard. However shall I find out? I must google it.' Just disturbing...
    – user294180
    May 11, 2019 at 15:30

Actually there is no need for such a list. When you google for "English abbreviations" you get a lot of websites with abbreviations.

  • You can get a list of abbreviations, but not all of the included ones may be relevant to our site and even if they are, it is not always clear which abbreviation means what. O.L.D. is an especially ambiguous example, since it could be Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford Learner's Dictionaries or, since many people neglect to punctuate their abbreviations, just capitalization of the adjective for emphasis. Granted, I question this list's degree of usefulness, since many of our visitors may not even know how to find this webpage, but it is better than not defining the abbreviations at all.
    – Tonepoet
    Jun 3, 2018 at 17:19

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