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If, like me, you run into a lot of three-letter abbreviations (TLAs), you may want to refer to the GPL'ed TLA FAQ (GTF). Originally the product of a drinking binge with Bart Samwel, this is a list (in minimal plaintext format) of over 30,000 known TLAs and their meanings. Here you can find the meanings of cryptic and often unnecessary TLAs such as GNU, GTF, and FAQ. Never again utter the words "WTF? OMG, YAT!" in vain. Elon Musk may have said it best.

The GTF is being made available under the GNU General Public License (GPL) as defined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), hence the name.

NEW: There are now REST APIs for querying the GTF! See "APIs" below.

The TLAs in this list are not explained any further, nor will you find any reference to their origins. This was a deliberate choice. The GTF is not an encyclopedia. The threshold to contribution is kept low, and this is how it can contain so many entries. That's not to say that any TLA is accepted; all TLAs are both vetted by hand, and checked by a shell script (see below) to keep duplicates and obvious or probable mistakes out of the list.

Here are some of the checks that each TLA must pass before getting a place in the list:


You can view the GTF directly in plain text. We also have smaller lists, broken down by first letter: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

There's the shell script I use to maintain, sort, inspect and generally groom the list. Requires a typical Unix-like command line shell plus several common utilities. I recommend the GNU textutils.

The shell script also generates some statistics on the contents of the list.


Creative minds have produced web APIs for querying the GTF:


GTF Contributor Program

If you find a TLA that satisfies the above rules but is not in the list, please send it to me (jtv at xs4all.nl) for inclusion. The preferred format is the simplest one possible--one or more lines, each consisting of one TLA and, separated from it only by whitespace, its meaning with the letters forming the TLA capitalized (as well as any others that need to be in upper case, as in names or other abbreviations).

Your contribution is normally included in the list very quickly. Once it is, you may copy the gtfcontrib.png "GTF contributor" logo and display it on your website to show that you've contributed to the GTF:

<a href="http://www.xs4all.nl/~jtv/gtf/"><img	
	alt="GTF Contributor" />
GTF Contributor

Congratulations! You've just joined the GTF Contributor Program (GCP).

Wild Ideas

Sometimes GTF users come up with the nicest ideas for extending the scope of the GTF. To name some ideas that have come up:

I can't afford to implement all these wonderful ideas myself on the main GTF page; my task is to maintain the list itself. But that's not saying that I'm opposed to these improvements! The project is under the GPL, i.e. it's Free as in Speech (or Open Source, if you prefer, as defined by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), not related to Ontario Swine Improvement (OSI)). Take it, copy it, modify it! As long as you keep the license intact when you redistribute, there's nothing stopping you from setting up a mirror site that adds your own stuff to the database--whether to the user interface or to the content.

Probably the best way to do this is to set up a script that downloads the original from the GTF homepage every day, then processes it for your purposes (if needed) and makes the results available on your own site. Have a ball! Make it your homework project for learning Perl or Python or PHP. Make it your test case for Apache or PostgreSQL. Impress me. Make me proud.


I always have some more TLAs stowed away waiting to be integrated. Still, the GTF needs your help. Show the world--and the ICT world in particular--that it's going overboard with its TLA production. Help the environment, submit new entries. It's as simple as that.


Only major or interesting changes are shown here. The GTF is in constant flux; don't think that nothing is happening just because you see no new entries here!

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