Acronyms are abbreviations that are read as whole words rather than letter by letter — or in other words, they are words formed from initials of a phrase. "NATO" and "laser" are two examples.

I have seen abbreviations used in Latin, but I get the impression that they are often expanded to whole in speech or read as an abbreviation letter by letter. Not all abbreviations are suitable for acronyms. I will not try to pronounce "SPQR" as a single word…

Modern Latin has some acronyms, for example the name "NATO", but I wonder how new this phenomenon is. When did acronyms first appear in Latin? How do we know how they were read out? (Maybe they were declined?)

I have no guess as to what the answer might be, so any examples of acronyms with timing and explanation are welcome.

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    In Christian times, (Greek) "ichthus" (Iesus Christos Theou Huios Soter) comes to mind, as well as Latin "INRI" (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum). – brianpck Aug 25 '16 at 12:22
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    @brianpck, I had forgotten about the Greek fish. Do we have a reason to believe that INRI was pronounced as a two-syllable word rather than expanding all the words or reading the letters one by one? If yes, that would make a good answer. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 25 '16 at 20:30

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