All of us have somewhere read or heard the abbreviation RSVP, but is it an English abbreviation and what does RSVP stand for in English? It is used in situations when you invite someone and wish to get his/her reply. It is, so to say, your request for a reply to your invitation.
The abbreviated expression is French actually. It comes from a French expression “Répondez s’il vous plait”. The initial letters are RSVP, as you can see. If we translated it into English it would mean “Please reply/respond”. It was accepted in high classes of English society during the last few decades of the eighteenth century. Back then, it meant that the one who gets the letter with “RSVP” in the end, simply has to reply as soon as possible. It makes a kind of obligation to the person it refers to and it would be very rude to ignore this request.
There are several cases when we use RSVP and those cases are very different among each other. There is a version of this expression that refers to rather unpleasant situations and this is “RSVP, regrets”. Let’s explain: it means that someone regrets that he/she can’t take an invitation.
It is a part of an old tradition, but it is still in use. Some might ask: “Well, why is it needed anyway? It is understood that you should always respond to invitations. You do not have to accept the invitation form someone, but the least you can do is to respond”. This is very true, and considered to be a normal thing in being polite. Well-behaving people do not have to be reminded. But this is more an old custom than a real reminder. So you should not be surprised or offended if you read the “RSVP” phrase in a letter.