Lidar – Is it a Portmanteau or an Acronym?

This blog post is on a lighter note, as you have probably already guessed. We have had our share of physics lately, but I still think you will learn some things, or at least be able to pass the video on to someone who needs a basic introduction to the concept of lidar.

Photo of airplane using lidar

Aerial Lidar in Action

Let’s start at the beginning with the term lidar, or however you prefer to spell it – not going there. I have always thought that lidar is an acronym (not an abbreviation) for light detecting and ranging. It is just like radar, but instead of radio waves it uses light waves to do the ranging.

According to the energetic presenter in the following video, the term lidar is actually a portmanteau that was first used in the 1960’s. Wikipedia provides this reference.

What you may wonder is a portmanteau? Well, according to good old Google it is a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others. Lewis Carroll made them famous in his children’s stories.  Like smoke and fog which make up smog, or motor and hotel – motel. You may prefer to describe it is as a mashup: laser + radar = lidar. Not as good a fit if you ask me.

It wasn’t until the 70’s, that by some stroke of luck, that it conveniently also fit perfectly into the acronym for light detection and ranging. Go figure.

Next time, I doubt there will be one, we can look at where the term laser altimeter was coined. Have a look at the video. If you have the right age children they may enjoy it.

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2 Responses to Lidar – Is it a Portmanteau or an Acronym?

  1. Lewis Graham says:

    Of course, I prefer Laser Imaging, Detection and Ranging.

  2. lidar says:

    You make a good point Lewis.

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