Here in Washington, we almost never use the full name for something when we can use an abbreviation instead. We call the city DC. Our government agencies are HUD and HHS, DOD and NIH. It can be confusing. Our Website of the week can help.

When it's time to figure out what those letters mean, Mike Malloy has the answer for you..

MALLOY:  "Acronym Finder is the web's largest searchable database of acronyms and abbreviations from all subject areas." includes both acronyms and abbreviations. The two are often confused. An acronym is an abbreviation that is pronounced as a word. For example, AIDS, which is pronounced as a word, is an acronym; but HIV, which is letter-by-letter, is just a plain abbreviation.

The site is advertising-supported, and sometimes the screen can get a bit cluttered, but it's almost all text.

MALLOY:  "There aren't a lot of graphics. We don't have pop-up advertising or anything like that. I think users would find the site to be very fast, even on a dial-up connection."

Malloy started collecting acronyms when he was working for the government, which is a prime user ? and creator ? of them. He put his own list online about 10 years ago.

MALLOY:  "And one of the first things I saw happen was, users would come to the site, they would say, 'I didn't find what I was looking for, but I happen to know what it is. How can I submit that to you?' So I created a facility that allowed users to submit new submissions to the site and, believe it or not, we add about 200 new definitions every single day."

To ensure accuracy, those submissions are verified by an actual human editor.

Although Acronym Finder has its roots in military and goverment terms, the website is now also full of terms from the Internet, pop culture, music, games and techology ? ROTF, NIN, GTA* and so on. Most of the terms are in English, but Mike Malloy says there are acronyms and abbreviations in other languages, too.

Abbreviations and acronyms ASAP ... online at, or get the link from our site,

*Rolling on the Floor Laughing, Nine Inch Nails, Grand Theft Auto