My abbreviations are not expanding when I type the abbreviations

I have the following in my ~/.emacs for initiating the abbrev mode

(setq-default abbrev-mode t)

(setq save-abbrevs t)

(setq abbrev-file-name "~/abbrev.el")

(if (file-readable-p abbrev-file-name)
  (read-abbrev-file abbrev-file-name))

(dolist (hook '(erc-mode-hook
  (add-hook hook #'abbrev-mode))

I get the following message saying that the abbreviation file is loaded

Loading /Users/baburaj/abbrev.el (source)...done
For information about GNU Emacs and the GNU system, type C-h C-a.
Mark set
Automatic display of crossref information was turned on
Applying style hooks...
Loading /Users/baburaj/auto/junk.el (source)...done
Loading /Users/baburaj/.emacs.d/elpa/auctex-12.2.0/style/article.elc...do
Applying style hooks...done
Sorting environment...done
Removing duplicates...done
Mark set

I also get the following when I type M-x list-abbrev


";af"          1    "aerofoil"

However when I type ;af it does not expand to aerofoil

What is the error that I am making? How can I fix this?

1 Answer 1


From the documentation:

M-x abbrev-mode toggles Abbrev mode.

Either, you want Abbrev mode always on, everytime/everywhere, then you put the following in your ~/.emacs file: (setq-default abbrev-mode t)

Either you want Abbrev mode on, but only for the some modes, for example: erc-mode, emacs-lisp-mode, text-mode, in this case, you can put in your ~/.emacs file:

    ;; enable Abbrev mode only for erc, emacs-lisp, and text modes
    (dolist (hook '(erc-mode-hook
      (add-hook hook #'abbrev-mode))

Now, it is also written in another part of the documentation that:

and any word-constituent character can be part of an abbrev.

A ; is not word constituent, unless you want it to be. So a semicolon can't be part of an abbrev.

Maybe it's time to write some Fortran :)

  • Thank you, I removed the ; in my abbreviations and it worked. I was using XEmacs earlier and ; used to work there. Had tried using my same abbreviations file in GNU Emacs too. Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 6:11

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