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Cryptic Abbreviations

Many cryptic clues use abbreviations and they are often a stumbling block for solvers, especially to the newcommers at this weird cryptic crossword world.

A lot of abbreviations are common, and you probably already know them: west = W, male = M, no = N, for example but these kinds of abbreviations are included in all dictionaries.

Some, however, are less obvious. There are greek letters, chemical symbols, words from other languages, etc. These are in dictionaries, but if you don't know at that setters use these to start with, what hope have you got? We have included some of these in the list below.

Chemical Symbols

Aluminum AL
Argon AR
Barium BA
Boron B
Calcium CA
Carbon C
Chlorine CL
Chromium CR
Cobalt CO
Copper CU
Fluorine F
Gold AU
Helium HE
Hydrogen H
Iron FE
Lithium LI
Neon NE
Nickel NI
Nitrogen N
Oxygen O
Potassium K
Silicon SI
Silver AG
Sodium NA
Tin SN
Uranium U

Country Codes

Albania AL or ALB
Australia AUS, AU, or OZ
Belgium BEL or BE
Bolivia BO or BOL
Brazil BR or BRA
Cuba CU or CUB
Finland FI or FIN
Germany DE or DEU
Greece GRC, GR, or GRE
India IN or IND
Italy IT or ITA
Malaysia MY or MYS
New Zealand NZL or NZ
Peru PE or PER
Somalia SO or SOM
Switzerland CHE, CH, SUI, or SWI
United Kingdom GBR or UK
United States USA or US
Yemen YE or YEM


Alaska AK
Arizona AZ
Australian Capital Territory ACT
Colorado CO
Delaware DE
Florida FL
Hawaii HI
Illinois IL
Kentucky KY
Louisiana LA
Massachusetts MA
Michigan MI
Nevada NV
New York NY
Northern Territory NT
Oklahoma OK
Oregon OR
Pennsylvania PA
South Australia SA
Tasmania TAS
Texas TX
Utah UT
Victoria VIC
Washington WA
Western Australia WA
Wisconsin WI

Cricketing Terms

batting IN
bowled B
caught C
century C
duck O ( no runs)
inning I
maiden M
no ball NB
not out NO
over O
run R
wicket W

Greek Letters


Latin Terms

about, around CA
against VS
around, about, approx. C (circa)
by the day PD (per diem)
in this matter, concerning, about RE
note well NB
see CF
that is IE (id est)
the same ID
thus SIC
without issue (children) SP (sine prole)

Roman Numerals

1 I
4 IV
5 V
6 VI
10 X
11 XI
50 L
51 LI
100 C
101 CI
150 CL
151 CLI
500 D
501 DI
1,000 M
1,001 MI

NATO phonetic alphabet

alfa / alpha A
bravo B
Charlie C
delta D
echo E
foxtrot F
golf G
hotel H
India I
Juliet J
kilo K
Lima L
Mike M
November N
Oscar O
papa P
Qubec Q
Romeo R
sierra S
tango T
uniform U
victor V
whiskey W
x-ray X
Yankee Y
Zulu Z

Lesson common or downright weird abbreviations

ace AI (as in A1, the number 1 is read as letter I)
alien ET
ancient city UR
article A, AN, THE
artists RA (for Royal Academy)
beginner L (for L-plate on a car)
bend S or U (for S-bend, U-bend)
big OS (outsized)
bill IOU (I owe you)
bishop B (chess)
blood group A, B, AB, O
bob S (for shilling)
books OT, NT (for Old Testament, New Testament)
bridge player N, S, E, W (seating)
castle R (rook in chess)
circle, circuit O
clef C, F
current AC, DC
day D or V (Victory Day)
disc O (it looks like a disc), LP, CD
dollar S (similar to $)
egg O (similar shape)
firm CO (company)
first class A or AI (A1)
former EX
forte F
French art ES (I am, thou art, Je suis, tu es, can you believe it?)
gas CO (carbon monoxide), HE (helium) etc
good A (as in A Grade), G
hand AB (see sailor), L, R
hard H (pencil)
high class U (from upper class)
journalist ED (editor)
key A, B, C, D, E, F, G (music)
king ER (Edwardus Rex), R (Rex), K (chess)
kiss X
knight N (chess)
loud F (forte)
love O (tennis score of zero)
measure/printer’s measure EN, EM
model T (for Model T Ford)
novice L (learner)
old boy OB
old city UR
Old English OE
pawn P (chess)
playing, performing ON (on stage)
pole N, S
quarter N, S, E, W
queen ER (Elizabetha Regina), R (Regina), Q (chess)
quiet P, PP, SH, MUM
railway RY, BR (British Rail)
river R
rook R (chess)
round O
Royal Navy RN
sailor TAR, AB (for able-bodied seaman), OS (ordinary seaman)
saint ST
salt AB (see sailor)
Saturday S
scholar BA
second S
ship SS
silence SH, MUM
six-footer ANT, BEE, etc (an insect has six legs)
soft P (piano), B (pencil)
soldier GI, RM (Royal Marines)
state state abbreviation, often from USA
street ST, AVE, RD, WAY
strings E, A, D, or G (violin strings)
student L (learner)
support BRA
tar AB (see sailor)
teas TT
times X (multiplication)
turn U (U-turn)
university U, OU (Open University)
unknown X, Y, Z (unknowns in equations)
upper class U (rather dated!)
variable X, Y, or Z (see unknown)
very loud FF (fortissimo)
very soft PP (pianissimo)
vitamin A, B, C, D, E, BI (B1)
worker ANT, BEE

Words from other languages


a / the / articles UN, UNE, LA, LE, or LES
and ET
at / in / to AU
from / of DE, DU, DES
gold OR
good BON
he IL
in EN
is EST
king ROI
man / men M (Monsieur), MM (Messieurs)
no NON
not PAS
nude NU
of DE, DES
on SUR
one UN, UNE
said / say DIT
sea MER
she ELLE
that CA, CELA
water EAU
what QUE
where OU
word MOT
yes OUI
you TU, VOUS


and UND
he ER
it ES
one EIN
she SIE
the / this / that DER, DIE, DAS
they SIE
we WIR
where WO
with MIT
yes JA
you DU, SIE


a / an/ articles UN, UNO, UNA, IL
but MA
east EST
I was ERO
if SE
not NON
of the DEL
one UNA, UNO
six SEI
south SUD
the IL
three TRE
two DUE
who CHI
yes SI
you TU


a, an UN, UNA
articles EL, LA, LAS, LOS
exclamation OLE
gentleman DON
hero CID (El Cid)
I am SOY
my MI
nobleman DON
one UNO
that ESE, ESA
thousand MIL
two DOS
what QUE
yes SI
you, your TU

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