short poem in which the initial letters of the lines, taken in order, spell a word or phrase, 1580s, from Medieval Latin acrostichis, from Greek akrostikhis, from akros "at the end, outermost" (from PIE root *ak- "be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce") + stikhos "line of verse," literally "row, line," from PIE root *steigh- "to stride, step, rise" (see stair). The second element is properly -stich, but it has been assimilated to words in -ic. As an adjective from 1680s.
It forms all or part of: acacia; acanthus; accipiter; acer; acerbic; acerbity; acervate; acervulus; acescent; acetic; acid; acicular; acme; acne; acrid; acridity; acrimony; acro-; acrobat; acromegaly; acronym; acrophobia; acropolis; acrostic; acrylic; acuity; aculeate; acumen; acupressure; acupuncture; acute; aglet; ague; Akron; anoxic; awn; coelacanth; dioxin; deoxy-; eager; ear (n.2) "grain part of corn;" edge (n.); egg (v.) "to goad on, incite;" eglantine; epoxy; ester; exacerbation; hammer; hypoxia; mediocre; oxalic; oxide; oxy-; oxygen; oxymoron; paragon; pyracanth; paroxysm; selvage; vinegar.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek akros "at the end, at the top, outermost; consummate, excellent," akis "sharp point," akros "at the farthest point, highest, outermost," akantha "thorn," akme "summit, edge," oxys "sharp, bitter;" Sanskrit acri- "corner, edge," acani- "point of an arrow," asrih "edge;" Oscan akrid (ablative singular) "sharply;" Latin acer (fem. acris) "sharp to the senses, pungent, bitter, eager, fierce," acutus "sharp, pointed," acuere "to sharpen," acerbus "harsh, bitter," acere "be sharp, be bitter," acus "a needle, pin," ocris "jagged mountain;" Lithuanian ašmuo "sharpness," akstis "sharp stick;" Old Lithuanian aštras, Lithuanian aštrus "sharp;" Old Church Slavonic ostru, Russian óstryj "sharp;" Old Irish er "high;" Welsh ochr "edge, corner, border;" Old Norse eggja "goad;" Old English ecg "sword;" German Eck "corner."
word formed from the first letters of a series of words, 1943, American English coinage from acro- + -onym "name" (abstracted from homonym; ultimately from PIE root *no-men- "name"). With the exception of cabalistic esoterica and acrostic poetry, this way of forming words was exceedingly uncommon before 20c. For distinction of usage (regretfully ignored on this site), see initialism.