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 RST code 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
ANT Antenna
ARND Around
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
CQ Calling . . . (any station, when nothing is specified)
CQD Original International Distress Call, fell out of use before 1915
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 "OK")
FCC Federal Communications Commission
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 (often repeated, e.g. HEE HEE)
HI Humour intended or laughter (originates from American Morse "HO")
HR Here, hear
HV Have
HW How
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
MILS Milliamperes
MNI Many
MSG Message
N No; nine
NIL Nothing
NM Name
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 (proword), end of contact
SK Silent Key (a deceased radio amateur)
SKED Schedule
SMS Short message service
SN Soon
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
TT That
TU Thank you
TVI Television interference
TX Transmit, transmitter
TXT Text
U You
UR Your or You're (depending on context)
URS Yours
VX Voice; phone
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)
YF Wife
YL Young lady (originally an unmarried female operator, now used for any female)
ZX Zero beat
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 prosigns and other such conventions.

Aside: Note that in Morse code there is no dot dash sequence defined for the mathematical equal sign and so in fact equal signs are never transmitted by Morse code operators. Usually the word "EQUALS" would be sent in lieu of an actual mathematical equal sign. That said however, in the following example of a casual Morse code conversation between two station operators, the mathematical symbol, the equal sign "=", is shown in the following paragraphs in the illustrated Morse data streams. This equal sign convention is only used here in this Wikipedia article to represent the actual Morse prosign BT often verbalized as "dahdidididah". This Morse code prosign essentially indicates a new paragraph in the text. This use of the mathematical symbol "=" to represent the new paragraph Morse prosign BT is only ever encountered by operators who may be copying Morse code using certain single or dual line display electronic automatic Morse code readers. Normally when copying Morse code manually by handwriting or typewriting the equal sign "=" representation of the Morse prosign BT shown here is never actually written down by Morse operators who copy manually. Instead of writing or typing an equal sign, or writing some other representation of the prosign BT, a receiving Morse operator who is copying manually merely creates a new paragraph in the recorded text upon reception of the prosign. This new paragraph copying convention is illustrated in the following example conversation. When copying mentally instead of manually writing text on paper or to a computer file, the receiving operator copying mentally will merely use the time taken by 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.

An example casual Morse code (CW) conversation between Station 1 (S1) and Station 2 (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, and is followed below each bold face transmission by a translation of the sent data stream, together with short explanations of the data streams. These translations and explanations are shown in the shaded blocks below each station's indicated transmission data stream.

S1 sends Morse data stream: "CQ CQ CQ DE S1 K"

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

S2 sends Morse data stream: "S1 DE S2 KN"

S1 from S2 Over to you (listening for a response only from designated station) 

S1 sends Morse data stream: "S2 DE S1 = GA DR OM UR RST 5NN HR = QTH TIMBUKTU = OP IS JOHN = HW? S2 DE S1 KN"

S2 from S1 (Note the "=" sign here represents the ''new paragraph'' prosign as might be displayed on a single or dual line display automatic Morse code reader. However if copying manually the receiving operator will merely space down to create a new paragraph upon hearing the prosign indicated here by "=".)
Good afternoon dear old man. You are RST 599 here (Note: RST indicates use of the RST code, the Readability, Strength and Tone code, and the N's substitute for numeric 9's RST 599 indicates; signal is very readable (5) and very strong (9), with very good tone (9))

I'm located (QTH) in Timbuktu 

The operator's (OP) name is John
How do you copy? (HW?) S2 from S1 Over to you

S2 sends Morse data stream: "S1 DE S2 = TNX FB RPRT DR OM JOHN UR 559 = QTH HIMALAYA = NM IS YETI S1 DE S2 KN"

S1 from S2

Thanks for the Fine Business (FB means "fine") report dear old man John. I read you 559 
(very readable (5), average strength (5), very good tone (9))

I am in (QTH) the Himalayas

My name (NM) is Yeti S1 from S2 Over to you

S1 sends Morse data stream: "S2 DE S1 = OK TNX QSO DR YETI = 73 ES HPE CUAGN S2 DE S1 KN"

S2 from S1

Okay, thanks for this conversation (QSO), dear Yeti

Best regards (73) and (ES) hope (HPE) to see you again (CUAGN) S2 from S1 Over to you

S2 sends Morse data stream: "S1 DE S2 = R TU CUAGN 73 S1 DE S2 SK"

S1 from S2

Roger (R means "Roger" or "Received all") Thank you (TU) see you again (CUAGN) Best regards (73) S1 from S2 Signing off

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 Lingua Franca 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 world-wide 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 much 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, 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 per hour).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Commercial Telegraphic Code Books James A. (Jim) Reeds Archived December 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.