250 British acronyms

Summary: The most useful acronyms for understanding British life

By:|Audience: Teachers |Category:Learning English

This is a carefully chosen list of acronyms which are unique the UK and others which are particularly important to describe British society. British abbreviations other than acronyms, such as “Corrie” and “The Beeb”, are also listed elsewhere on this site.

  1. A&E – accident and emergency (= casualty/ ER/ emergency room)
  2. AA – (The) Automobile Association (an organisation that helps broken down drivers)
  3. ABTA – Association of British Travel Agents
  4. ACAS – Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (an organisation that helps settle disputes, pronounced “eikass”)
  5. AGM – annual general meeting (= shareholders’ meeting)
  6. AHRC – Arts and Humanities Research Council (a funding research council)
  7. APR – annual percentage rate (a way of calculating interest rates)
  8. ASA – The Advertising Standards Authority
  9. ASBO – (an) anti-social behaviour order (pronounced “azboe”)
  10. ASH – Action on Smoking and Health (anti-smoking lobbying group, pronounced “ash”)
  11. ASLEF – Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (a union, pronounced “azleff”)
  12. B&B – bed and breakfast (a kind of cheap hotel, usually pronounced “bee n bee”)
  13. B&H – Benson and Hedges (cigarettes)
  14. BA – British Airlines
  15. BAA – the former British Airports Authority
  16. BAE – British Aerospace
  17. BAFTA – British Academy of Film and Television Arts (most famous for their awards, often called “the British Oscars”)
  18. BAT – British American Tobacco
  19. BBC – (the) British Broadcasting Corporation
  20. BBFC – British Board of Film Classification (the organisation that decides if films are U, PG, 12, 15, etc)
  21. BBSRC – Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  22. BCC – British Chambers of Commerce
  23. BFI – British Film Institute
  24. BHS – British Home Stores (a department store chain)
  25. BMA – British Medical Association
  26. BME – black and minority ethnic
  27. BMJ – British Medical Journal
  28. BNFL – British Nuclear Fuels Limited
  29. BNP – British National Party (an extreme right-wing party)
  30. BoE – Bank of England
  31. BP – British Petroleum
  32. BR – British Rail
  33. BSE – bovine spongiform encephalopathy (the medical name for mad cow disease)
  34. BSI – British Standards Institution
  35. BST – British Summer Time
  36. BT – British Telecom
  37. C of E – (The) Church of England
  38. CAA – Civil Aviation Authority
  39. CAB – Citizen’s Advice Bureau
  40. CAE – Cambridge Advanced English (a high level English language exam)
  41. CAMRA – Campaign for Real Ale
  42. CAP – Common Agricultural Policy
  43. CBE – Commander of the British Empire (an award for public service)
  44. CBI – Confederation of British Industry
  45. CBSO – City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
  46. CCTV – closed circuit television (particularly common in the UK)
  47. CID – Criminal Investigation Department
  48. CJD – Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (the human version of mad cow disease)
  49. CMA – Competition and Markets Authority
  50. CND – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (a campaign against nuclear weapons)
  51. CPE – Cambridge Proficiency in English (a very high level English language exam)
  52. CPI – Consumer Price Index
  53. CPS – Crown Prosecution Service
  54. CRB – Criminal Records Bureau (now part of DBS – Disclosure and Barring Service)
  55. CUP – Cambridge University Press
  56. CV – curriculum vitae (= résumé)
  57. CWU – Communication Workers Union
  58. DAB – digital audio broadcasting (= digital radio)
  59. DC – Detective Constable (a police rank)
  60. DCMS – (the) Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  61. DEFRA – (the) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (pronounced “defrer”)
  62. DG – director general (most famously of the BBC)
  63. DI – detective inspector
  64. DIT – The Department for International Trade
  65. DIY – do it yourself (a popular hobby in the UK)
  66. DJ – dinner jacket (= tuxedo)
  67. DLA – Disability Living Allowance
  68. DLR – Docklands Light Railway
  69. DMs – Doctor Martens/ Doctor Marten boots (also known as Docs or Doc Martens)
  70. DPP – Director of Public Prosecutions
  71. DTI – the former Department of Trade and Industry
  72. DUP – (Ulster) Democratic Unionist Party
  73. DVLA – Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
  74. DWP – Department of Work and Pensions
  75. EDL – English Defence League (extreme right-wing group)
  76. EFTA – European Free Trade Association (an organisation similar to the EU that the UK used to be a member of)
  77. EHRC – The Equality and Human Rights Commission
  78. ENO – English National Opera
  79. EPSRC – Engineering and Physical Research Council
  80. ESOL – English for speakers of other languages (in the UK mainly meaning English for immigrants)
  81. ESRC – Economic and Social Research Council
  82. FA – The Football Association
  83. FC – Football Club (usually part of the club name)
  84. FCA – Financial Conduct Authority
  85. FCE – (Cambridge) First Certificate (in English) (a pre-Advanced level English language exam, also known as First Cert)
  86. FCO – Foreign and Commonwealth Office (the British foreign ministry)
  87. FE (college) – further education (college)
  88. FOREST – Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (a lobbying group)
  89. FT – Financial Times
  90. FTSE – Financial Times Stock Exchange (index)
  91. G&T – gin and tonic
  92. GB – Great Britain (the UK minus Northern Ireland, so England, Scotland and Wales)
  93. GBH – grievous bodily harm (= serious assault)
  94. GBP – (Great British) pounds
  95. GCHQ – Government Communication Headquarters (a spy agency)
  96. GCSE – the General Certificate in Secondary Education (the standard national exams at 16 years old)
  97. GLC – the former Greater London Council
  98. GMB – General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union
  99. GMT – Greenwich mean time
  100. GP – general practitioner (= family doctor/ local doctor)/ (Formula 1) grand prix
  101. GPO – general post office (an old name for the post office, still seen on manhole covers etc)
  102. GSK – GlaxoSmithKline
  103. HBOS – Halifax Bank of Scotland (pronounced “eitch boss”)
  104. HGV – heavy goods vehicle (= a lorry)
  105. HM Treasury – Her Majesty’s Treasury/ His Majesty’s Treasury
  106. HMP – Her Majesty’s Prison/ His Majesty’s Prison (used in prison names)
  107. HMRC – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs/ His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
  108. HMS – Her Majesty’s Ship/ His Majesty’s Ship (used in ship names)
  109. HMV – His Master’s Voice (a music company)
  110. HP – hire purchase/ HP sauce (a kind of brown sauce, similar to steak sauce)
  111. HRH – Her Royal Highness/ His Royal Highness
  112. HS1 – High Speed 1 (a rail line linking to the Channel Tunnel)
  113. HS2 – High Speed 2 (a planned high speed rail line)
  114. HSBC – Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
  115. HSE – Health and Safety Executive
  116. IB – International Baccalaureate (a school leaving qualification that is popular in international schools)
  117. ICI – Imperial Chemical Industries (a former British chemicals company)
  118. IELTS – International English Language Testing System (a test for EFL students, mainly for university entrance and immigration purposes)
  119. IGCSE – International General Certificate in Secondary Education (the standard national exams at 16 years old in the UK and some international schools)
  120. IH – International House (a chain of language schools)
  121. IPA – India pale ale (a kind of beer)
  122. IPCC – Independent Police Complaints Commission
  123. IPPR – Institute for Public Policy Research
  124. IRA – (Provisional) Irish Republican Army (also sometimes known as the provos)
  125. ISA – Individual Savings Account
  126. ITN – Independent Television News
  127. ITV – Independent Television (the main commercial TV channels)
  128. JP – justice of the peace (another name for magistrate)
  129. (Cambridge) KET – Cambridge Key English Test (a low-level English language exam)
  130. LBW – leg before wicket (a way of getting out in cricket)
  131. LIBOR – London Interbank Offered Rate
  132. LSE – London School of Economics and Political Science
  133. LSE – London Stock Exchange
  134. LSO – London Symphony Orchestra
  135. LTA – Lawn Tennis Association
  136. LW – longwave (radio)
  137. M&B – Mitchells and Butlers (a pub chain)
  138. M&S – Marks and Spencer (department stores)
  139. MBE – Member of the British Empire (an award for public service)
  140. MCC – Marylebone Cricket Club (the organisation in charge of Lords Cricket Ground, and formerly in charge of cricket)
  141. MD – managing director/ medical doctor
  142. MEP – Member of the European Parliament
  143. MI5 – Military Intelligence, Section 5 (the counter intelligence service of the UK)
  144. MI6 – Military Intelligence, Section 6 (the foreign intelligence service of the UK, also known as SIS)
  145. MLA – Member of the Legislative Assembly (in Northern Ireland)
  146. MMR – measles mumps and rubella (injection)
  147. MoD – Ministry of Defence
  148. MOJ – Ministry of Justice
  149. MORI – Market and Opinion Research International
  150. MotD – Match of the Day (sports programme, mainly a written abbreviation)
  151. MP – member of parliament
  152. mph – miles per hour (still used in the UK, despite decimalisation)
  153. MRC – Medical Research Council
  154. MSP – Member of the Scottish Parliament
  155. NASUWT – National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (a union)
  156. NCA – National Crime Agency
  157. NHS – the National Health Service
  158. NI – Northern Ireland (written abbreviation)
  159. NI (number) – national insurance (number)
  160. NICE – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (the agency that, controversially, decides what treatments the NHS can afford)
  161. NIESR – The National Institute of Economic and Social Research
  162. nimby/ NIMBY – not in my back yard (an attitude towards construction etc in your local area)
  163. NME – New Musical Express (music magazine)
  164. NPG – National Portrait Gallery (written abbreviation)
  165. NS&I – National Savings and Investments
  166. NSPCC – National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
  167. NUJ – National Union of Journalists
  168. NUM – National Union of Mineworkers
  169. NUS – National Union of Students
  170. NUT – National Union of Teachers
  171. OAP – old-age pensioner
  172. OBE – Order of the British Empire (an award for public service)
  173. OBR – Office for Budget Responsibility
  174. OFT – the former Office of Fair Trading
  175. OMD – Orchestral Movement in the Dark (a pop group)
  176. ONS – Office of National Statistics
  177. ORR – Office of Rail and Road
  178. OS (map) – Ordinance Survey (map)
  179. OU – Open University (a national distance learning institute)
  180. OUP – Oxford University Press
  181. PAYE – pay as you earn
  182. PC – police constable
  183. PE – physical education (= sports in school)
  184. (Cambridge) PET – (Cambridge) Preliminary English Test
  185. PFA – Professional Footballers’ Association
  186. PGCE – Post-graduate Certificate in Education (the standard UK teaching qualification, especially for teaching kids)
  187. PLC – public limited company (a publically listed limited liability company, often part of the company name)
  188. PM – Prime Minister
  189. PMQs – prime minister’s question time
  190. PPE – philosophy, politics and economics (a degree course that many leading people in UK politics have taken, most famously in Oxford)
  191. PPP – public private partnership (a common ways of funding public works)
  192. PSNI – Police Service of Northern Ireland (replacement for the RUC)
  193. PwC – PricewaterhouseCoopers
  194. QC – Queen’s Counsel (a kind of top lawyer)
  195. QE – quantitative easing (an economic policy used after the 2007 recession)
  196. QPR – Queens Park Rangers (football club)
  197. quango/ QUANGO – quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation
  198. RA – (member of the) Royal Academy
  199. RAC – the Royal Automobile Club
  200. RADA – Royal Academic of Dramatic Art
  201. RAF – Royal Air Force
  202. RBOS – Royal Bank of Scotland (pronounced “ar boss”)
  203. RCA – Royal College of Art
  204. RCN – Royal College of Nursing
  205. RE/ RI/ RS – religious education/ religious instruction/ religious studies
  206. RFC – rugby football club (usually part of a rugby club name)
  207. RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects (pronounced “reeber”)
  208. RMT – National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers
  209. RN – registered nurse
  210. RP – received pronunciation (an upper class British accent, sometimes called the Queen’s English/ BBC English/ Oxford English)
  211. RSA – Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
  212. RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  213. RSPCA – Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  214. RUC – Royal Ulster Constabulary (the former police force of Northern Ireland)
  215. SAS – Special Air Service (elite British troops)
  216. SDLP – Social Democratic and Labour Party (a political party in Northern Ireland)
  217. SFO – the Serious Fraud Office
  218. SIS – the Secret Intelligence Service (the foreign intelligence service of the UK, more often known as MI6)
  219. SNP – Scottish National Party
  220. SOAS – School of Oriental and African Studies
  221. STFC – Science and Technology Facilities Council
  222. TA – Territorial Army (a reserve army of “part-time soldiers”)
  223. TCCB – Test and County Cricket Board
  224. TES – Times Educational Supplement
  225. TfL – Transport for London (mainly written abbreviation)
  226. TGWU – the former Transport and General Workers Union
  227. TLS – Times Literary Supplement
  228. TotP – Top of the Pops (a long-running TV chart show)
  229. TPAS – The Pension Advisory Service
  230. TUC – Trades Union Congress
  231. UCL – University College London
  232. UDA – Ulster Defence Association (Northern Ireland paramilitary group)
  233. UDP – Ulster Democratic Party
  234. UFF – Ulster Freedom Fighters (also UDA)
  235. UK – (The) United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
  236. UKIP – The UK Independence Party (an anti-EU party)
  237. USDAW – Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
  238. UVF – Ulster Volunteer Force (Northern Ireland paramilitary group)
  239. V&A – the Victoria and Albert Museum
  240. VAT – value added tax (a kind of consumption tax)
  241. VC – Victoria Cross (medal)
  242. VE Day – Victory in Europe Day (8 May 1945)
  243. VJ Day – Victory over Japan Day (15 August 1945)
  244. WAGs – wives and girlfriends (usually meaning of sportsmen, most famously of the England football team)
  245. WC – water closet (= toilet, mainly a written abbreviation)
  246. WPC – woman police constable (a former police rank)
  247. WSC – When Saturday Comes (football magazine)
  248. WWF – World Wildlife Fund for Nature
  249. YBAs – Young British Artists (an artistic movement/ generation)
  250. YHA – Youth Hostel Association

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Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com