What is a Numeronym?

If you’ve been on the web for a while, you may have seen words like a11y, i18n, and l10n used. These are called numeronyms. A numeronym is a number-based word, a type of abbreviation. The numeronyms a11y, i18n, and l10n represent the words accessibility, internationalization, and localization respectively. They are used when space is limited – like in a tweet – and also to reduce potential spelling errors. They also minimize keystrokes when used often for common terms.

Some people are concerned about the use of numeronyms, particularly in online forums like Twitter. The concern is that it makes the content less accessible, to people who are unfamiliar to their meaning. It’s seen as particularly ironic when accessibility advocates use a11y to represent the word accessibility — since their entire purpose is to increase accessibility for everyone. However, it can be argued that language is constantly evolving, and that we need to evolve with it. Is it a type of insider’s jargon? It depends on the situation. Some numeronyms are more well known than others. However, no matter what you do in life, you’re always going to encounter terms that are unfamiliar to you. While you may come across a numeronym you’re unfamiliar with, it’s usually not difficult to discover its meaning. In truth, understanding the topic that the numeronym represents is a far greater challenge.

You can learn more about numeronyms on the Wikipedia page.

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