Morse code abbreviations

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Morse code abbreviations are used to speed up Morse communications by foreshortening textual words and phrases. Morse abbreviations are short forms representing normal textual words and phrases formed from some (fewer) characters borrowed from the words or phrases being abbreviated. Aside: Morse code abbreviations are not the same as the so-called Prosigns for Morse code. Morse abbreviations are composed of (normal) textual alpha-numeric character symbols with normal Morse code inter-character spacing; the character symbols in abbreviations, unlike the delineated character groups representing Morse code prosigns, are not "run together" or concatenated in the way most prosigns for Morse code are formed.

From 1845 until well into the second half of the 20th century, commercial telegraphic code books were used to shorten telegrams, e.g. "Pascoela = Natives have plundered everything from the wreck".[1]

The following Table of Morse code abbreviations and further references to Brevity codes such as the Q code, Z code and R-S-T system serve to facilitate fast and efficient Morse code communications.

Table of selected Morse code abbreviations[edit]

AA All after (used after question mark to request a repetition)
AB All before (similarly)
ARRL American Radio Relay League
ABT About
ADR Address
AGN Again
ANR Another
ANT Antenna
ARND Around
AS Wait
BCI Broadcast interference
BCNU Be seeing you
BK Break (to pause transmission of a message, say)
BN All between
BTR Better
BTU Back to you
BUG Semiautomatic mechanical key
BURO Bureau (usually used in the phrase PLS QSL VIA BURO, "Please send QSL card via my local/national QSL bureau")
B4 Before
C Yes; correct
CBA Callbook address
CFM Confirm
CK Check
CL Clear (I am closing my station)
CLG . . . Calling
CONDX Conditions
COS Because
CQ Calling ... (calling all stations, any station)
CQD All Stations Distress (Often Used Before SOS to Let All Operators Know of Distress)
CS Callsign
CTL Control
CUD Could
CUL See you later
CUZ Because
CW Continuous wave (i.e., radiotelegraph)
CX Conditions
DE From (or "this is")
DN Down
DR Dear
DSW Goodbye (Russian: до свидания [Do svidanya])
DX Distance (sometimes refers to long distance contact), foreign countries
EMRG Emergency
ENUF Enough
ERE Here (more commonly: HR)
ES And
FB Fine business (Analogous to "good")
FM From
FREQ Frequency
FWD Forward
GA Good afternoon or Go ahead (depending on context)
GE Good evening
GG Going
GL Good luck
GM Good morning
GN Good night
GND Ground (ground potential)
GUD Good
GX Ground
HEE Humour intended or laughter (originates from American Morse "HO") often repeated twice i.e. HEE HEE
HI Humour intended or laughter
HR Here, hear
HV Have
HW How (Also: "Here waiting" when used at end of transmission e.g. by ships on 500kHz HW 5TT)
II I say again
IMP Impedance
K Over
KN Over; only the station named should respond (e.g. W7PTH DE W1AW KN)
LID Poor operator (Licensed I*Diot)
MH Meters high (antenna height) often used by Japanese CW operators
MILS Milliamperes
MNI Many
MSG Message
N No; nine
NIL Nothing
NR Number
NW Now
NX Noise; noisy
OB Old boy
OC Old chap
OK Okay
OM Old man (any male amateur radio operator is an OM regardless of age)
OO Official observer
OP Operator
OT Old timer
OTC Old timers club (ARRL-sponsored organization for radio amateurs first licensed 20 or more years ago)
OOTC Old old timers club (organization for those whose first two-way radio contact occurred 40 or more years ago; separate from OTC and ARRL)
PLS Please
PSE Please
PWR Power
PX Prefix
QCWA Quarter Century Wireless Association (organization for radio amateurs who have been licensed for 25 or more years)
R Are; received as transmitted (origin of "Roger"), or decimal point (depending on context)
RCVR Receiver
RFI Radio-frequency interference
RIG Radio apparatus
RPT Repeat or report (depending on context)
RPRT Report
RST Signal report format (Readability-Signal Strength-Tone)
RTTY Radioteletype
RX Receiver, radio
SAE Self-addressed envelope
SASE Self-addressed, stamped envelope
SED Said
SEZ Says
SFR So far (proword)
SIG Signal or signature
SIGS Signals
SK Out (prosign), end of contact
SK Silent Key (a deceased radio amateur)
SKED Schedule
SN Soon
SN used as an "ahem" (like a throat clearing before transmission)
SN originally "understood" (German VE "Verstanden" now in disuse, replaced by "R"
SNR Signal-to-noise ratio
SRI Sorry
SSB Single sideband
STN Station
T Zero (usually an elongated dah)
TEMP Temperature
TFC Traffic
TKS Thanks
TMW Tomorrow
TNX Thanks
TRE There
TT That
TU Thank you
TVI Television interference
TX Transmit, transmitter
TXRX Transceiver, transmitter + receiver
TXT Text
U You
UFB Ultra Fine business (Analogous to "very good")
UR Your or You're (depending on context) Alt: YR
URS Yours
VX Voice; phone + French "Vieux" (Old Man as per English "OM")
VY Very
W Watts
WA Word after
WB Word before
WC Wilco
WDS Words
WID With
WKD Worked
WKG Working
WL Will
WUD Would
WTC Whats the craic? (Irish Language: [Conas atá tú?])
WX Weather
XCVR Transceiver
XMTR Transmitter
XYL Wife (ex-YL) (Extra Young Lady, i.e. wife)
YF Wife
YL Young lady (originally an unmarried female operator, now used for any female)
YR Your or You're (depending on context) Alt: UR
Z Zulu time i.e. UTC (GMT)
ZX Zero beat
33 Used as a greeting between YLs (as half of an 88)
44 Hand shake, half of 88. Often used in Flora and Fauna connections
55 Wishing success (originates from German "Viele Punkte" -- Many dots/points)
72 Best Wishes QRP (Low Power) often used by low power station operators (5W or less)
73 Best regards
77 Long Live CW (Morse Code), wishing you many happy CW contacts
88 Love and kisses
99 Get lost!

An amateur radio Morse code conversation example[edit]

To make Morse code communications faster and more efficient, there are many internationally agreed patterns or conventions of communication which include: extensive use of abbreviations, use of brevity codes such as the RST code, Q code, Z code as well as the use of Morse prosigns. The skills required to have efficient fast conversations with Morse comprise more than simply knowing the Morse code symbols for the alphabet and numerals. Skilled telegraphists must also know many traditional International Morse code communications conventions.

In the following example of a typical casual Morse code conversation between two stations there is extensive use of such: Morse code abbreviations, brevity codes, Morse procedural signs, and other such conventions.

An example casual Morse code (CW) conversation between Station S1 and Station S2 is illustrated in the following paragraphs. Here the actual Morse code information stream sent by each station (S1 and S2) is shown in bold face type, in a grey box, and is followed below each bold face transmission by an interpretation of the message sent, together with short explanations of the codes. These translations and explanations are shown below each station's indicated transmission data stream.

S1 transmits Morse message:

Calling anyone (CQ CQ CQ) from (DE) station S1. Over to anyone (K).

S2 transmits Morse message:

To station S1 from station S2. Over to you only.

(KN = "–·– –·" is the unofficial prosign for inviting a reply only from the station named in the message; it is the same as the code for open parentheses [(] punctuation symbol.[2])
S1 transmits Morse message:

To station S2 from station S1.
Good afternoon dear old man. You are RST 599 here

(Note: RST is the Readability, Strength, and Tone report code; the Ns are abbreviations for the number 9. RST 599 reports the signal is very readable (5) and very strong (9), with very good tone (9).)

I'm located (QTH) in Timbuktu.
The station operator's (OP) name is John.
How do you copy? (HW?)
To station S2 from station S1: Over to you only.

(Note that the equal signs [=] in the code should be interpreted here as the new section prosign which is also the symbol for a double hyphen [=].[2] See discussion in subsection below.)
S2 transmits Morse message:

To station S1 from station S2.
Thanks for the good report dear old man John. I read you 559

(FB or Fine Business means "good".)
(very readable (5), average strength (5), very good tone (9))

I am in (QTH) the Himalayas.
My name (NM) is Andy.
To station S1 from station S2: Over to you only.

S1 transmits Morse message:

To station S2 from station S1.
Okay, thanks for this conversation (QSO), dear Andy.
Best regards (73) and (ES) hope (HPE) to see you again (CUAGN)
To station S2 from station S1: Over to you only.

S2 sends Morse message:
S1 DE S2 = R TU CUAGN 73 S1 DE S2 SK

To station S1 from station S2.
Roger (R)
Thank you (TU) see you again (CUAGN) Best regards (73)
To station S1 from station S2: Signing off.

(SK = "···–·–" = end of work prosign = "no more messages")

Aside on shared codes[edit]

In International Morse code there is no distinct dot-dash sequence defined only for the mathematical equal sign [=]; rather the same code ("–···–" or dah di di di dah) is shared by double hyphen [=] and the procedural sign for section separator notated as BT. It is fairly common in the Recommended International Morse Code for punctuation codes to be shared with prosigns. For example, the code for plus or cross [+] is the same as the prosign for end of telegram, and the widely used but non-ITU "Over to you only" prosign KN is the official code for open parenthesis [(] or left bracket.[2]

The listener is required to distinguish the meaning by context. In the example casual conversation between two station operators, above, the Morse transmissions in the grey boxes show the equal sign [=] in the same way that a simple electronic automatic Morse code reader with a one- or two-line display does: It can't distinguish context so it always displays the math symbol. It would also display an open parentheses [(] for the over to you only prosign.

The use of the end of section prosign BT in casual exchanges essentially indicates a new paragraph in the text or a new sentence, and is a little more convenient to send than a full stop [.] required for telegrams.

Normally an operator copying Morse code by hand or typewriter would decide whether the equal sign [=] or the "new section" prosign BT was meant and start new paragraph in the recorded text upon reception of the code. This new paragraph copying convention is illustrated in the following example conversation. When de-coding in one's head, instead of writing text on paper or into a computer file, the receiving operator copying mentally will interpret the BT prosign for either a mental pause, or to jot down for later reference a short word or phrase from the information being sent.

Informal language-independent conversations[edit]

Rag chewer is a name applied to amateur radio Morse code operators who engage in informal Morse code conversations (known as chewing the rag) while discussing subjects such as: the weather, their location, signal quality, and their equipment. Meaningful rag chewing between fluent Morse code operators having different native languages is possible because of a common language provided by the prosigns for Morse code, the International Q code, Z code, RST code, the telegraph era Phillips Code and many well known Morse code abbreviations as discussed in this Wikipedia article. Together all of these traditional conventions serve as a somewhat cryptic but commonly understood language (Lingua Franca) within the worldwide community of amateur radio Morse code operators.

These codes and protocols efficiently encode many well known statements and questions from many languages into short simple character groups which may be sent manually very quickly. The international Q code for instance encodes literally hundreds of full normal language sentences and questions in short three character codes each beginning with the character Q. For example, the code word QTH means My location is. If this code word is followed by a question mark as QTH? it means What is your location?. Typically very few full words will be spelled out in Morse code conversations. Often vowels are left out to shorten transmissions and turn overs. Other examples, of internationally recognized usages of Morse code abbreviations and well known code numbers, such as those of the Phillips Code from past eras of telegraph technology, are usages such as WX for weather, or the numbers 73 for best regards and 88 for love and kisses.

These techniques are similar to, and often faster than, texting on modern cellphones. Using this extensive Lingua Franca that is widely understood across many languages and cultures, surprisingly meaningful Morse code conversations can be efficiently conducted with short transmissions independently of native languages, even between operators who cannot actually communicate by voice because of language barriers!

With heavy use of the Q code and Morse Code Abbreviations, surprisingly meaningful conversations can readily occur. Note that in the preceding example conversation very few full English words have been used. In fact, in the above example S1 and S2 might not speak the same native language.

Of course, real rag-chewing (lengthy conversations) could not be accomplished by non-native speakers without such a common language.

Contesters often use a very specialized and even shorter format for their contacts. Their purpose is to process as many contacts as possible in a limited time (e.g. 100–150 contacts per hour).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Commercial Telegraphic Code Books James A. (Jim) Reeds Archived December 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c International Telecommunications Union. (2009-10). International Morse code ITU-R M.1677-1. Geneva, Switzerland: ITU.