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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman September 18, 2019

No, ‘newspaper’ isn’t an acronym for ‘north, east, west, south, past and present event report’

Has the word "newspaper" really been an acronym all this time?

That’s what one viral Facebook post claims.

According to the post, which has gotten over 2,400 shares in 24 hours, "newspaper" is an acronym for "North, East, West, South, Past and Present Report."  

The Sept. 16 post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

No. This claim is a version of one of the many myths that have revolved around the word "news" for years. 

First, Merriam-Webster does not reference any acronyms for newspaper, defining it as a "paper that is printed and distributed usually daily or weekly and that contains news, articles of opinion, features, and advertising" It defines the word news as a "report of recent events" with the first usage dating back to the 15th century. 

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The dictionary also set the record straight on Twitter in 2017 when a similar claim that said news stood for "notable events, weather and sports" circulated on the platform:

As well, the Online Etymology Dictionary makes no mention of acronyms for "news" or "newspaper," and says news was derived from the French "nouvelles," meaning new things. The database also calls the "north, east, west, south" theory "absurd folk-etymology:"

"Late 14c., ‘new things,’ plural of new (n.) ‘new thing’ (see new (adj.)); after French nouvelles, which was used in Bible translations to render Medieval Latin nova (neuter plural) ‘news,’ literally ‘new things.’

The English word was construed as singular at least from the 1560s, but it sometimes still regarded as plural 17c.-19c. The odd and doubtful construction probably accounts for the absurd folk-etymology (attested by 1640 but originally, and in 18c. usually, in jest-books) that claims it to be an abbreviation of north east south west, as though ‘information from all quarters of the compass.’"

The word paper alone has origins in the Latin word "papyrus," the stalks used to make paper, and the Greek word "papyros." 

This claim is a repurposed hoax. We rate it Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Facebook post, Sept. 16, 2019

Online Etymology Dictionary, news (n.), newspaper (n.), Accessed Sept. 17, 2019

Merriam Webster, News, Newspaper, Paper, Accessed Sept. 17, 2019

Dictionary of Word Roots,  Accessed Sept. 17, 2019

Snopes, Etymology of ‘News’, April 26, 2001

Africa Check, No, ‘newspaper’ is not an acronym of ‘North, East, West, South, Past and Present Events Report’, Jan. 28, 2019

Buzzfeed News, People Actually Think "News" Is An Acronym — It’s Not, But This Mess Is Pretty Hilarious, June 8, 2017

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More by Samantha Putterman

No, ‘newspaper’ isn’t an acronym for ‘north, east, west, south, past and present event report’

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