When did the abbreviation "ID "enter common usage?

I would imagine that the first usage of “ID” would have been as insider jargon in some large metropolitan American police force, but at what point did it become commonplace for the general public to refer to “ID” instead of “identification” ?

I was an avid follower of American cop shows in the sixties, but I don’t think I ever heard any of the characters using the abbreviation back then, although, of course, memory may well be playing tricks here .

The earliest citation in the OED (from what looks like a dictionary of abbreviations) is from 1955:

I was born in '57 (since the cite from 1955) and I’ve always understood ID (or I.D.) as short for “identification.” It isn’t a recent usage.

Similar to Cochrane. I don’t ever remember a time when identification (general) was not called ID. In certain circumstances, like during a traffic stop, you’d hear “license, please.”
(In the US)

I’d place a bet towards it being a verb before it was a noun - that is, the OP’s cop-speak but used as in “We have yet to ID the perpetrator.”

According to N-gram viewer, it began to be used in the 1940s, rose rapidly through the 1960s, and by the late 70s, the full word “identification” startd to decline at the expense of ID. The useage in the 40s suggests that it might have started as a military shorthand.


1941 for the noun usage. 1944 for the use as a verb. U.S. WWII.

Which is what you’d expect, given the number of acronyms and abbreviations that entered the language from the same source at that time. The military does seem to have a fondness for both abbreviations and paperwork.

The only surprise is how long it appears to have taken to become widely used in civilian life.

There’s a whole history of government right there, among much else.

Somewhere I read about the now fantastic rareness which a British citizen before WWI interacted with his government. Any help on a source, as long as I mentioned it?

Followup… Why I.D.? What the acronym?

At a guess, an initialism for “identification document” or “identity document”.

It doesn’t have to be an initialism, could simply be the first two letters of “identification.”

I lost my I.D. in a flood.

You can’t lose your identification in a flood unless you come out of it in a coma. You can lose your identity documents, though.


What Nava said. ID is only ever used to refer to identity documents of one kind or another.

Plus, if it’s the first two letters of “identification”, why the full stop between “I” and “D”? And why would “D” be capitalised?