Morse code abbreviations
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".
Table of Selected Morse Code Abbreviations
|AA||All after (used after question mark to request a repetition)|
|AB||All before (similarly)|
|ARRL||American Radio Relay League|
|BK||Break (to pause transmission of a message, say)|
|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")|
|CL||Clear (I am closing my station)|
|CQ||Calling any station|
|CQD||Original International Distress Call, fell out of use before 1915|
|CUL||See you later|
|CW||Continuous wave (i.e., radiotelegraph)|
|DE||From (or "this is")|
|DSW||Goodbye (Russian: до свидания [Do svidanya])|
|DX||Distance (sometimes refers to long distance contact), foreign countries|
|FB||Fine business (Analogous to "OK")|
|FCC||Federal Communications Commission|
|GA||Good afternoon or Go ahead (depending on context)|
|GND||Ground (ground potential)|
|HEE||Humour intended (often repeated, e.g. HEE HEE)|
|HI||Humour intended (possibly derived from HEE)|
|II||I say again|
|KN||Over; only the station named should respond (e.g. W7PTH DE W1AW KN)|
|OM||Old man (any male amateur radio operator is an OM regardless of age)|
|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)|
|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)|
|RPT||Repeat or report (depending on context)|
|RST||Signal report format (Readability-Signal Strength-Tone)|
|SASE||Self-addressed, stamped envelope|
|SFR||So far (proword)|
|SIG||Signal or signature|
|SK||Out (proword), end of contact|
|SK||Silent Key (a deceased radio amateur)|
|SMS||Short message service|
|T||Zero (usually an elongated dah)|
|UR||Your or You're (depending on context)|
|WTC||Whats the craic? (Irish Language: [Conas atá tú?])|
|YL||Young lady (originally an unmarried female operator, now used for any female)|
|88||Love and kisses|
An amateur radio conversation in Morse code
The skill to have sensible conversations with Morse is more than knowing just the alphabet. To make communication efficient, there are many internationally agreed patterns of communication.
A sample CW conversation between station 1 (S1) and station 2 (S2)
CQ CQ CQ DE S1 K Calling anyone (CQ), this is (DE) S1, listening for any response (K)
S1 DE S2 KN Calling S1, this is S2, listening for a response only from designated station (KN) (Two-way connection established)
S2 DE S1 = GA DR OM UR RST 5NN HR = QTH TIMBUKTU = OP IS JOHN = HW? S2 DE S1 KN Good afternoon dear old man. You are RST 599 here (the N's substitute for 9's; signal is very readable (5) and very strong (9), with very good tone (9)) I'm located in Timbuktu. The operator's name is John. How do you copy?
S1 DE S2 = TNX FB RPRT DR OM JOHN UR 559 = QTH HIMALAYA = NAME IS YETI S1 DE S2 KN Thanks for the nice (fine-business) report dear old man John. I read you 559 (very readable (5), average strength (5), very good tone (9)). I am in the Himalayas. My name is Yeti.
S2 DE S1 = OK TNX QSO DR YETI = 73 ES HPE CUAGN S2 DE S1 KN Okay, thanks for this conversation (QSO), dear Yeti. Best regards and hope to see you again.
S1 DE S2 = R TU CUAGN 73 S1 DE S2 SK Understood. Thank you. Best regards. (signing off)
Informal Language Independent Conversations
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 discussed in this article which together serve as a somewhat cryptic but commonly understood language 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. 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 be had. Note that very few English words have been used ("is" and "name"), only abbreviations. S1 and S2 might not speak the same native language.
Of course, real rag-chewing (lengthy conversations) cannot be done 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).