Activities The Great Outdoors What Does SCUBA Stand For? Share PINTEREST Email Print Joe Dovala / Getty Images The Great Outdoors Scuba Diving & Snorkeling Gear Skills Safety Hiking Climbing Skiing Snowboarding Surfing Paddling Fishing Sailing Learn More By Natalie Gibb Natalie Gibb owns a dive shop in Mexico and is a PADI-certified open water scuba instructor and TDI-certified full cave diving instructor. our editorial process Natalie Gibb Updated February 23, 2019 The modern term scuba was originally the acronym SCUBA, which is short for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. In contemporary usage, scuba as a common noun relates to the practice of recreational diving aided by a two-stage regulator attached to a gas canister (usually air or enriched-air nitrox) affixed to a vest. This vest, called a buoyancy compensator, contains air bladders to help the recreational diver maintained neutral buoyancy within the water column. In its earlier usage, SCUBA (the acronym) referred specifically to the equipment a diver used for the dive. The modern term differs from commercial and military diving, which generally does not use the term scuba and instead refers generally to diving.