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Phillips Code

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First page of the Phillips Code, 1879 edition

The Phillips Code is a brevity code (shorthand) created in 1879 by Walter P. Phillips (then of the Associated Press) for the rapid transmission of press reports by telegraph.


It was created in 1879 by Walter P. Phillips. It defined hundreds of abbreviations and initialisms for commonly used words that news authors and copy desk staff would commonly use. There were subcodes for commodities and stocks called the Market Code, a Baseball Supplement, and single-letter codes for Option Months. The last official edition was published in 1925, but there was also a Market supplement last published in 1909 that was separate.

The code consists of a dictionary of common words or phrases and their associated abbreviations. Extremely common terms are represented by a single letter (C: See; Y: Year); those less frequently used gain successively longer abbreviations (Ab: About; Abb: Abbreviate; Abty: Ability; Acmpd: Accompanied).

Later, The Evans Basic English Code[1] expanded the 1,760 abbreviations in the Phillips Code to 3,848 abbreviations.

Examples of use[edit]

Using the Phillips Code, this ten-word telegraphic transmission:


expands to this:

Abbreviating long words can save exorbitant amounts of money, avoiding filing a petition in bankruptcy.

In 1910, an article explaining the basic structure and purpose of the Phillips Code appeared in various US newspapers and magazines.[2] One example given is:

T tri o HKT ft mu o SW on Ms roof garden, nw in pg, etc.

which the article translates as:

The trial of Harry K. Thaw for the murder of Stanford White on Madison Square Roof Garden, now in progress, etc.

Notable codes[edit]

The terms POTUS and SCOTUS originated in the code.[3][4][5] SCOTUS appeared in the very first edition of 1879[6] and POTUS was in use by 1895,[3] and was officially included in the 1923 edition. These abbreviations entered common parlance when news gathering services, in particular, the Associated Press, adopted the terminology.

Telegraph operators would often interleave Phillips Code with numeric wire signals that had been developed during the American Civil War era, such as the 92 Code. These codes were used by railroad telegraphers to indicate logistics instructions and they proved to be useful when describing an article's priority or confirming its transmission and receipt. This meta-data would occasionally appear in print when typesetters included the codes in newspapers,[7][failed verification] especially the code for "No more—the end", abbreviated as "- 30 -" on a typewriter.

Excerpts of the codes[edit]

Example abbreviations of the Phillips Code
Code Expansion
Hag Haggle
Hz Hazard
Igo In consequence of
Kf Confer
Kft Conflict
Kpt Compete
Oac On account of
Ot Owing to
Pcu Preclude
Pkg Packing
Pkj Package
Pmnt Prominent
Px Price
Pxl Political
Rept Repeat
Rlav Relative
Rpv Representative
Sac Senate Committee
Scf Sacrifice
Sovy Sovereignty
Spn Suspicion
Thu The house
Wam Ways and means
_ _ _ _ Paragraph mark
Co County
Dr Doctor
Dx Dash
Ea Each
Ed Editor
Eu Europe
Fm From
Gb Great Britain
Gj Grand Jury
Hc Habeas corpus
Hf Half
Hi High
Kg King
Ld London
Lp Liverpool
Lx Pounds sterling
Mm Mid-meridian (midnight)
Mo Month
Mr Mister
Oc O'clock
Qm Quartermaster
Ry Railway
Sa Senate
Ss Steamship
Td Treasury Department
Xm Extreme
Za Sea
Xg Legislate
Xb Exorbitant
ITC In this connection
IQO In consequence of
IAB Introduced a bill
IAR Introduced a resolution
HVNB Have not been
Hur House of Representatives
GX Great excitement
GOH Guest of honor
IWR It was reported
IXJ It is alleged
KAH Knots an hour
CIC Commander In Chief
UMPS Umpires


  • 1879: The Phillips Telegraphic Code for the Rapid Transmission by Telegraph, published by Gibson Brothers Printers[6]
  • 1909 Market Supplement
  • 1918 edition (implied by an article in the September 1923 edition of the Commercial Telegraphers' Journal, Volume 21[8])
  • April 1, 1923, edited by E. E. Bruckner and published by Telegraph & Telephone Age.[9]
  • 1925

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Evans, John (1947). The Evans Basic English Code (PDF). Chicago, IL: John & Clarence Evans.
  2. ^ "IXX 5 POTUS WI: How News Comes in to 'The Sun' ". Indianapolis Sun. June 28, 1910. p. 2. In the Sun's version of the article, the text tri is given as trio and Ms as Msq—evidently typographical errors.
  3. ^ a b "President of the United States". World Wide Words (copyright Michael Quinion). Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  4. ^ Safire, William (October 12, 1997). "On Language; POTUS and FLOTUS". The New York Times Magazine. Section 6, p. 28. Retrieved 2009-01-25. N.B.: Mistakenly claims POTUS first appeared in the later 1925 edition.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  5. ^ "Entry from July 30, 2011 SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States)".
  6. ^ a b Phillips, Walter (1879). The Phillips Telegraphic Code for the Rapid Transmission by Telegraph. Washington, D.C.: Gibson Brothers, Printers.
  7. ^ "So Why Not 29?". American Journalism Review. October–November 2007. Archived from the original on 2010-12-12. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  8. ^ "September 1923 edition of the Commercial Telegraphers' Journal, Volume 21". 1922.
  9. ^ "Morse Telegraph Club, Inc. Sampling of the Phillips Code" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-21. Retrieved 2012-04-17.