Is there a particular reason that acronyms of proper nouns are reversed in Spanish?

  2. SRAS = SARS

There are others but I can't remember off the top of my head.

  • 53
    Or why are abbreviations reversed in English? ;-)
    – fedorqui
    Feb 26, 2020 at 10:00
  • 16
    Just to nitpick: SIDA is not the reverse of AIDS. Feb 26, 2020 at 20:38
  • 10
    @fedorqui'SOstopharming': as a French, I'd say that English speakers got them backwards too ;-)
    – Taladris
    Feb 27, 2020 at 0:23
  • 5
    The really fun ones are the ones that should be reversed but often aren't, like "realidad virtual", sometimes written as RV and other times as VR. Amusingly, from what I've seen, foreign companies (like Valve) will call it RV, but native ones (like videogame blogs) will call it VR.
    – Aaron F
    Feb 27, 2020 at 15:29
  • 4
    @fedorqui'SOstopharming' SI units, conceived in France, is an example of an acronym originating in France, reflecting the Romance word order. Many other international acronyms we use today originated in the U.S., reflecting its modern dominance in many areas of science, technology and politics, so that the Romance word order is an inversion of the original, not the English/Germanic one. Feb 28, 2020 at 8:08

1 Answer 1


They are not reversed, just translated. It just happens that in English adjectives tend to go before the noun, whereas in Spanish it is usually the other way around:

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) → Virus de inmunodeficiencia humana (VIH)
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) → Síndrome respiratorio agudo grave (SRAG)
  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) → Síndrome de inmunodeficiencia adquirida (SIDA)
  • 14
    Because Spanish is a dialect of Latin, and English is a dialect of German. (Using dialect in a loose sense here)
    – Josh Wulf
    Feb 27, 2020 at 3:53
  • 3
    @udidosa It's a historical thing. Spanish is a Romance language, while English is a Germanic language.
    – Enrico
    Feb 27, 2020 at 9:20
  • 7
    It is wrong to say "they are translated into Spanish". Not necessarily. They just follow the structure of the Spanish language.
    – Lambie
    Feb 27, 2020 at 15:29
  • 6
    This word order difference is used effectively and efficiently in Brussels, for example. Belgium is bi-lingual, and Brussels as the capital has all street names in both languages, Flemish (Dutch) and French. The French street names are often something like "rue de Carl" while the Flemish is "Carlstraat". The signs are written with a small "rue de" on top, then a big "CARL" in the middle and again small "straat" below: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Street_signs_in_Brussels#/… Feb 27, 2020 at 21:24
  • 3
    @JörgWMitta in the Basque Country they also have similar signs on some streets "calle [name] kalea", where calle is Spanish and kalea is Basque.
    – Tom Fenech
    Feb 28, 2020 at 9:51

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