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Initials and acronyms in technical translations

The use of initials and acronyms is becoming more and more frequent in every language. Especially in fields, such as telecommunications, finance, IT, medicine, etc. Therefore technical translations usually involve plenty of initials and abbreviations which are different in every language and can’t be translated literally. There are various tactics and rules that a technical translator must always bear in mind.

Even though it may at first appear to be an easy problem to deal with, there are some abbreviations which can sometimes lead to confusion when translating. An equivalent does not exist in the target language, and it’s not always clear how to proceed. So, technical translators resort to a variety of dictionaries and glossaries of terms, initials and acronyms in different fields.

Here are some commonly applied tactics in technical translations, but it’s always best to check!

  • For initials that represent international organisations, there is normally a standard translation, which you will have to find out. For example WHO=OMS, UN=ONU.


  • The same applies to medical initials, which often have a standard translation. You must use this and not the source language’s abbreviation. Some examples include: AIDS=SIDA (Acquired immune Deficiency Syndrome).  DNA=ADN (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). STD=ETS (Sexually Transmitted Disease).


  • Initials corresponding to the name of a business or institution shouldn’t be translated as a general rule, but if this is not the case, the full name should be translated, followed by its initials in brackets and the phrase “por sus sigles en inglés” (according to its initials in English). For example: Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA, por sus siglas en inglés).


  • There are many other situations where you may encounter them. Some don’t have an equivalent acronym or set of initials in other languages, like CEO= Ejecutivo, or FAQ = preguntas frecuentes. Others have a different translation and acronym in the other language, like USA = Estados Unidos de América (EE. UU). Finally, there are many acronyms, especially in IT, which are also used in Spanish (PIN, DOS, CD ROM).

So to wrap up, we can recommend a website as a good place to check acronyms and initials in English. It is called Acronym Finder and it’s the biggest online database of initials, acronyms, and abbreviations. It contains more than 5 million acronyms and abbreviations, which you can search by category, or a backtracking search, which is to say that you can search for a word or words and find the corresponding acronym. This is a really useful tool for technical translations.


Siglas y Acrónimos

El uso de siglas y acrónimos es cada vez más frecuente en todos los idiomas. En especial en algunos campos, como las telecomunicaciones, la economía, la informática, la medicina, etc.

Aunque a primera vista parezca un tema fácil de abordar, hay algunas abreviaturas que suelen traer confusiones a la hora de traducir. Debido a que no siempre existe otra sigla en el idioma destino, y no siempre queda claro cómo resolver el problema. Para ello, disponemos de una gran variedad de diccionarios y glosarios de términos, acrónimos y siglas en diferentes campos.

Estas son algunas normas que se aplican comúnmente, aunque en todos los casos, ¡siempre conviene investigar!:

– En el caso de las siglas que representan a organismos internacionales existe normalmente una traducción estandarizada, que habrá que buscar. Por ejemplo WHO = OMS, UN = ONU

– Lo mismo ocurre con las siglas médicas, la cuales suelen tener una traducción estandarizada. Por lo que se debe utilizar esa sigla y no la del idioma original. Algunos ejemplos son: AIDS = SIDA (síndrome de inmunodeficiencia adquirida). DNA = ADN (ácido desoxirribonucleico). STD = ETS (enfermedades de transmisión sexual).

– Las siglas correspondientes al nombre de una empresa o institución no se traducen por norma general, si no que se escribe el nombre completo traducido y a continuación, las iniciales, entre paréntesis y la frase “por sus siglas en inglés”. Por ejemplo Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA, por sus siglas en inglés).

– Hay otros muchos casos con lo que podemos encontrarnos. Algunas siglas no cuentan con otra equivalente en el orto idioma, como CEO = Director Ejecutivo, o FAQ = preguntas frecuentes. Otras tienen traducción y sigla diferente en el otro idioma, como son USA = Estados Unidos de América (EE. UU). Por último, hay muchas otras siglas, especialmente en el campo de la informática, que se utilizan igual en español (PIN, DOS, CD ROM).

Para terminar, recomendaros este sitio web para consultar sobre algún tipo de acrónimo o sigla en inglés. Se llama Acronym Finder y es la base de datos de siglas, acrónimos, abreviaturas e iniciales más grande de la red. Contiene más de 5 millones de siglas y abreviaturas, te permite realizar búsquedas por categorías asicomo búsquedas inversas, es decir, desde la palabra o palabras obtenemos la sigla el acrónico correspondiente. ¡Muy útil!

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