Scientific jargon

Scientific jargon

While studying nature, scientists often encounter or create new material or immaterial objects and concepts and are compelled to name them. Most of those names are known only to professionals. However, due to popularization of science, they gradually become part of common languages. Several categories of scientific jargon can be distinguished.


A good example is word laser. Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and therefore all its letters should be capitalized. However, because of frequent use, this acronym became a neologism, i.e., it has integrated into English and most other languages. Consequently, laser is commonly written in small letters. It has even produced secondary acronyms such as LASIK (Laser-ASsisted in Situ Keratomileusis). Interestingly, a related acronym and neologism maser (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is much less known. Nevertheless, it is commonly written in small letters.

Many scientific acronyms or abbreviations reflect the artistic sense of their creators, e.g.,
*AMANDA - Antarctic Muon And Neutrino Detector Array, a neutrino telescope
*BLAST - Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope
*COMICS - COoled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrometer
*FROG - Frequency-resolved optical gating
*MARVEL - Multi-object Apache Point Observatory Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-area Survey, a NASA-funded project to search for exoplanets
*PLANET - Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork, a program to search for microlensing events
*SHRIMP - Sensitive high resolution ion microprobe
*SIESTA - Spanish Initiative for Electronic Simulations with Thousands of Atoms (siesta = afternoon nap in Spanish)
*SPIDER - Spectral phase interferometry for direct electric-field reconstruction
*SQUID - Superconducting Quantum Interference Device,

etc. (see also List of astronomy acronyms and this section below).

Alternative meaning of common words

SIESTA, SQUID and SHRIMP are acronyms distinguished from siesta, squid and shrimp by capitalization. However, there are pairs of scientific jargon and commong words, which can only be distinguished by context. Representative examples come from particle physics where certain properties of particles are called flavour, color, but have no relation to conventional flavor and color.

Composite words

Recent scientific activity often creates interdisciplinary fields, for which new names, classified into portmanteau words or syllabic abbreviations, are often created by combining two or more words, sometimes with extra prefixes and suffixes. Examples of those - biotechnology, nanotechnology, etc. - are well known and understood, at least superficially, by most non-scientists.

Elementary particles, quasiparticles and chemical elements

Progress of particle physics, nuclear physics and atomic physics has resulted in discoveries of new elementary particles and atoms. Their names - quark, gluon, lepton, graviton, neutrino, Higgs boson, Mendelevium, etc. - are traditionally given by those people who first discovered them and often include surnames of classical scientists.

Another group of physics jargon terms, exciton, magnon, phonon, plasmon, phason, [Steinhardt P J and Ostlund S 1987 The Physics of Quasicrystals(Singapore: World Scientific)] polaron, etc., refers to quasiparticles - quanta of corresponding excitations (spin, heat, plasma, polarization waves), which do not exist separately and were imagined by theoretists to consistently describe properties of solids and liquids.

Most relevant jargon can be found in the following Wikipedia articles and their links

*Discoveries of the chemical elements
*Elementary particle
*Subatomic particle

New materials

The increasing focus of science on technological applications results in extensive search for new materials having unusual or superior properties. Their names can be categorized into new substances (nanotubes, etc.) and registered trademarks and brand names, such as Teflon. Registered trademarks and brand names are vast fields on their own and will not be covered in this article.

New techniques and devices

Unlike laser and SQUID, many names of the new devices and techniques are commonly used in full spelling, e.g., scanning tunneling microscope, etc.

Some devices like transistor, magnetron, etc., have integrated into our life so much that their names are no longer considered jargon and are rather neologisms.

New concepts

Those are specific notions and terms, e.g., nanoarchitectonics, [ [ What is Nanoarchitectonics ?] ] which are often not yet big enough to create a new field of science.

Scientific jargon terms described in Wikipedia articles

New scientific concepts

Biomechatronics Bionics Chirality Chromodynamics Hamiltonian Lagrangian Mechatronics Multiphysics Nanoarchitectonics Photonics Spintronics

pace objects

blasar hypernova nova quasar supernova

See also List of astronomy acronyms

Abbreviations and acronyms described in Wikipedia articles

The range of abbreviations and acronyms is enormous. Therefore, 2-3 letter acronyms (e.g. LED, DNA, RAM), units of measurement, and names (chemical, organizations, journals, computer programs, etc.) are omitted here. We would also abstract from medical and computer terms.



See also
*Laser acronyms
*List of materials analysis methods



Materials and objects


Large facilities


See also Nuclear reactor technology

See also

*International Scientific Vocabulary
*Mathematical jargon
*Portmanteau words


External Links

* [ List of Common Acronyms and Abbreviations Encountered in the CERN Environment]
* [] - a human edited database of acronyms and abbreviations
* [ Acronym Finder] - a human edited database of acronyms and abbreviations (over 550,000 entries)
* [ All Acronyms] - collection of acronyms and abbreviations (more than 600,000 definitions)
* [ Acronym Database] - a human edited database of user submitted acronyms and abbreviations
* [ WDISF] - What Does It Stand For is a a human edited database of acronyms

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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