Most people use these common abbreviations in speech, or use or see them in writing, but many don’t actually know what they stand for. So, following is a helpful guide, listed in alphabetical order.
A.D. or AD
A.D. stands for Anno Domini “in the year of our Lord” and covers the time period after the estimated date of the birth of Jesus. Its counterpart is B.C. (see below). The “A.D.” may go before the date, though more usually it goes after it. With the modern world’s more secular views, many people prefer to use C.E. (“Common Era”; see below)
A.M., AM, a.m., am
A.M. stands for ante meridiem “before midday or noon”, so basically “morning”. Actually, it’s any time from midnight until noon. Its counterpart is P.M. (see below).
B.C. stands for “Before Christ” and covers the time period before the estimated date of birth of Jesus. Its counterpart is A.D. (see above). The “B.C.” may go before the date, though more usually it goes after it. With the modern world’s more secular views, many people prefer to use B. C.E. (“Before the Common Era”; see below).
B.C.E. or BCE
B.C.E. stands for “Before the Common Era” and covers the time period after the estimated date of birth of Jesus. Its counterpart is C.E. (see below). The “B.C.E.” may go before the date, though more usually it goes after it. With the modern world’s more secular views, many people prefer to use B.C.E. rather than B.C. (see above).
circa, c., ca.
Circa “around, about, approximately” is used to show that a given date is only an approximation. The abbreviations are usually reserved for references within parentheses. There may sometimes be a ‘?’ added, in order to show that even the approximation may be in doubt.
C.E. or CE
C.E. stands for “Common Era” and covers the time period after the estimated date of the birth of Jesus. Its counterpart is A.D. (see above). The “C.E.” may go before the date, though more usually it goes after it. With the modern world’s more secular views, many people prefer to use C.E. rather than A.D. (see above
- stands for confer “compare” or “but compare this to” and is used to refer the reader to other material to make a comparison or form a contrast with the topic being discussed, perhaps to prove, contradict, or offer a different perspective than the authors.
C.V., CV, cv
C.V. stand for curriculum vitae “course of life”, and is a document containing a summary or listing of relevant job experience and education. Generally called a résumé.
et al. stands for et alii “and other people”, and is used like etc., but only for people. It usually appears in works with several authors (usually four or more) in order to save space. The full name of the first author will be shown, followed by et al. The term is written as shown, with a space and a period.
etc. is actually made up of two Latin words: et cetera “and the rest” or “and so forth”. Etc. is used at the end of a list of things to indicate that there are other similar items could be added. Etc. should always be followed with a period.
e.g. stands for exempli gratia “for the sake of an example” or simply “for example”. E.g. is used to provide some, but not all, items in a list, to be used as samples of the term or phrase it follows. An easy way to remember how to use “e.g.” is to remember “example given”. E.g. should always have periods, as shown, and if used in a sentence, should be followed by a comma. E.g. is often confused with i.e. (see below).
i.a. stands for inter alia “among other things” and is used to cite one item among a list as an example. If this term, inter alia, is used in a sentence, it should italicized, and be within commas, as shown.
i.e. stands for id est “that is”. “I.e.” takes the place of the English phrases “that is,” “in other words,” or “namely”. An easy way to remember how to use “i.e.” is to remember “in essence”. I.e. should always have periods, as shown, and if used in a sentence, should be followed by a comma. I.e. is often confused with i.e. (see above).
ibid. stands for ibidem “the same” or ‘in the same source”. Ibid. is used to refer to the same work and author as the one immediately preceding, in order to save space in references to a quoted work that’s been previously mentioned or references.
op. cit. stand for opus citatum or opere citato “in the work (already) cited”. The abbreviation is used in an endnote or footnote to refer the reader to a previously cited work rather than repeating the full title of the work. In operation, Op. cit. refers readers to the bibliography for the full citation of the work, or to a full citation provided in a previous footnote. Therefore, op. cit. would only be used if the work has already been cited elsewhere.
Q.v. stands for quod vide “on this (matter) go see” and is used to refer to another part of the same work (usually a book) the author deals with that subject matter. It may also be used to suggest another work recommended by the author.
Sic “thus” or “so” is not an abbreviation, but it frequently shows up in writing. It’s used to indicate that errors in of spelling, word choice, or grammar are part of the original text and are not a typo. So, a more appropriate translation might be “that’s really what it says or how it was written”. Sic may be italicized and placed in brackets after the word or phrase it identifies, or it may be be placed in parentheses after the entire quote.
versus, vs., v.
Versus “against” or “as opposed to” is used to express conflict or comparison. The “v.’ version is used mostly in law.
viz. stands videlicet “it is permitted to see” (more practically “namely” or “that is to say”) is used to clarify something by elaborating on it, giving a detailed description of it, or providing a complete list. It’s like “i.e.”, though “viz.”, though what follows tends to be more precise and exact.
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