TL;DR: AR = ArmaLite Rifle
In recent years, the mainstream media others have falsely stated that the AR in AR-15 stands for “Assault Rifle.” In reality, “AR” is an abbreviated acronym of ArmaLite Rifle. The ArmaLite company designed and manufactured the AR-15 rifle platform in the late 1950’s and later licensed the design to Colt.
As the official story goes on ArmaLite.com, after their early success with the AR-10,
“Army officials asked Armalite to develop a smaller version of the AR-10 in 1956 as a potential replacement for the M1 Garand. The ensuing rifle was called the AR-15 and was produced with aircraft grade aluminum receivers, weighing less than seven pounds.”