(pronounced as separate letters) Short for Internet Protocol. IP specifies the format of packets, also called datagrams, and the addressing scheme. Most networks combine IP with a higher-level protocol called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which establishes a virtual connection between a destination and a source.
IP by itself is something like the postal system. It allows you to address a package and drop it in the system, but there’s no direct link between you and the recipient. TCP/IP, on the other hand, establishes a connection between two hosts so that they can send messages back and forth for a period of time.
Recommended Reading: Webopedia’s IP address (Internet Protocol address) definition.