Spelling alphabet

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A spelling alphabet (also called by various other names) is a set of words used to represent the letters of an alphabet in oral communication, especially over a two-way radio or telephone. The words chosen to represent the letters sound sufficiently different from each other to clearly differentiate them. This avoids any confusion that could easily otherwise result from the names of letters that sound similar, except for some small difference easily missed or easily degraded by the imperfect sound quality of the apparatus. For example, in the Latin alphabet, the letters B, P, and D ("bee", "pee" and "dee") sound similar and could easily be confused, but the words "bravo", "papa" and "delta" sound completely different, making confusion unlikely.

Any suitable words can be used in the moment, making this form of communication easy even for people not trained on any particular standardized spelling alphabet. For example, it is common to hear a nonce form like "A as in 'apple', D as in 'dog', P as in 'paper'" over the telephone in customer support contexts. However, to gain the advantages of standardization in contexts involving trained persons, a standard version can be convened by an organization. Many (loosely or strictly) standardized spelling alphabets exist, mostly owing to historical siloization, where each organization simply created its own. International air travel created a need for a worldwide standard.

Today the most widely known spelling alphabet is the ICAO International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, also known as the NATO phonetic alphabet, which is used for Roman letters. Spelling alphabets also exist for Greek and for Russian.


Spelling alphabets are called by various names, according to context. These synonyms include spelling alphabet, word-spelling alphabet, voice procedure alphabet, radio alphabet, radiotelephony alphabet, telephone alphabet, and telephony alphabet. A spelling alphabet is also often called a phonetic alphabet, especially by amateur radio enthusiasts,[1] recreational sailors in the US and Australia,[2] and NATO military organizations,[3] despite this usage of the term producing a naming collision with the usage of the same phrase in phonetics to mean a notation used for phonetic transcription or phonetic spelling, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is used to indicate the sounds of human speech.


The names of the letters of the English alphabet are "a", "bee", "cee", "dee", "e", etc. These can be difficult to discriminate, particularly over a limited-bandwidth and noisy communications channel, hence the use in aviation and by armed services of unambiguous substitute names for use in electrical voice communication such as telephone and radio.

A large number of spelling alphabets have been developed over the past century, with the first ones being used to overcome problems with the early wired telephone networks, and the later ones being focused on wireless two-way radio (radiotelephony) links. Often, each communications company and each branch of each country's military developed its own spelling alphabet, with the result that one 1959 research effort documented a full 203 different spelling alphabets, comprising 1600 different words, leading the author of the report to ask:

Should an efficient American secretary, for example, know several alphabets—one for use on the telephone, another to talk to the telegraph operator, another to call the police, and still another for civil defense?[4]

Each word in the spelling alphabet typically replaces the name of the letter with which it starts (acrophony). It is used to spell out words when speaking to someone not able to see the speaker, or when the audio channel is not clear. The lack of high frequencies on standard telephones makes it hard to distinguish an 'F' from an 'S' for example. Also, the lack of visual cues during oral communication can cause confusion. For example, lips are closed at the start of saying the letter "B" but open at the beginning of the letter "D" making these otherwise similar-sounding letters more easily discriminated when looking at the speaker. Without these visual cues, such as during announcements of airline gate numbers "B1" and "D1" at an airport, "B" may be confused with "D" by the listener. Spelling out one's name, a password or a ticker symbol over the telephone are other scenarios where a spelling alphabet is useful.

British Army signallers began using a partial spelling alphabet in the late 19th century. Recorded in the 1898 "Signalling Instruction" issued by the War Office and followed by the 1904 Signalling Regulations[5] this system differentiated only the letters most frequently misunderstood: Ack (originally "Ak") Beer (or Bar) C D E F G H I J K L eMma N O Pip Q R eSses Toc U Vic W X Y Z. This alphabet was the origin of phrases such as "ack-ack" (A.A. for anti-aircraft), "pip-emma" for pm and Toc H for an ex-servicemen's association. It was developed on the Western Front of the First World War. The RAF developed their "telephony spelling alphabet", which was adopted by all three services and civil aviation in the UK from 1921.

It was later formally codified to provide a word for all 26 letters (see comparative tabulation of Western military alphabets).

For civilian users, in particular in the field of finance, alternative alphabets arose. Common personal names were a popular choice, and the First Name Alphabet came into common use.

Voice procedure[edit]

Spelling alphabets are especially useful when speaking in a noisy environment when clarity and promptness of communication is essential, for example during two-way radio communication between an aircraft pilot and air traffic control, or in military operations. Whereas the names of many letters sound alike, the set of replacement words can be selected to be as distinct from each other as possible, to minimise the likelihood of ambiguity or mistaking one letter for another. For example, if a burst of static cuts off the start of an English-language utterance of the letter J, it may be mistaken for A or K. In the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet known as the ICAO (or NATO) phonetic alphabet, the sequence J–A–K would be pronounced Juliett–Alfa–Kilo. Some voice procedure standards require numbers to be spelled out digit by digit, so some spelling alphabets replace confusable digit names with more distinct alternatives; for example, the NATO alphabet has “niner” for 9 to distinguish it better from 5 (pronounced as “fife”) and the German word “nein”.

Flaghoist spelling alphabets[edit]

Although no radio or traditional telephone communications are involved in communicating flag signals among ships, the instructions for which flags to hoist are relayed by voice on each ship displaying flags, and whether this is done by shouting between decks, sound tubes, or sound-powered telephones, some of the same distortions that make a spelling alphabet for radiotelephony also make a spelling alphabet desirable for directing seamen in which flags to hoist. The first documented use of this were two different alphabets used by U.S. Navy circa 1908. By 1942, the U.S. Army's radiotelephony spelling alphabet was associated with the International Code of Signals (ICS) flags.[6]

Symbol c. 1908[7] 1920


c. 1942[6] 1969–present[9] ICS flag
A Actor Ash Argentine Afirm Alpha/Alfa
B Baker Back Brussels Baker Bravo
C Canteen Chain Canada Cast Charlie
D Diver Dog Damascus Dog Delta
E Eagle Egg Ecuador Easy Echo
F Fisher Fox France Fox Foxtrot
G Gangway Gig Greece George Golf
H Halliard Horse Hanover Hypo Hotel
I Insect Ice Italy Int India
J Jockey Jake Japan Jig Juliett
K Knapsack King Khartoum King Kilo
L Lugger Lash Lima Love Lima
M Musket Mule Madrid Mike Mike
N Neptune Net Nancy Negat November
O Oyster Oak Ostend Option Oscar
P Pistol Page Paris Prep Papa
Q Quadrant Quail Quebec Queen Quebec
R Reefer Raft Rome Roger Romeo
S Shipmate Scout Sardinia Sail Sierra
T Topsail Tide Tokio Tare Tango
U Unload Use Uruguay Unit Uniform
V Vessel Vast Victoria Victor Victor
W Windage Winch Washington William Whiskey
X Xray Xray Xaintrie Xray X-ray
Y Yeoman Yacht Yokohama Yoke Yankee
Z Zebra Zoo Zanzibar Zed Zulu

Telephone spelling alphabets[edit]

While spelling alphabets today are mostly used over two-way radio voice circuits (radiotelephony), early on in telecommunications there were also telephone-specific spelling alphabets, which were developed to deal with the noisy conditions on long-distance circuits. Their development was loosely intertwined with radiotelephony spelling alphabets, but were developed by different organizations; for example, AT&T developed a spelling alphabet for its long-distance operators, another for its international operators; Western Union developed one for the public to use when dictating telegrams over the telephone;[10] and ITU-T developed a spelling alphabet for telephone networks, while ITU-R was involved in the development of radiotelephony spelling alphabets. Even though both of these groups were part of the same ITU, and thus part of the UN, their alphabets often differed from each other. Uniquely, the 1908 Tasmanian telegraph operator's code was designed to be memorized as follows:[11]

Englishmen Invariably Support High Authority Unless Vindictive.
The Managing Owners Never Destroy Bills.
Remarks When Loose Play Jangling. Fractious Galloping Zigzag Knights eXpeditely Capture Your Queen.

Symbol 1904 British Army[12] (Signalling Regulations) 1904 AT&T[4] 1908 Tasmania[11] 1910 Western Union[4] 1912 Western Union[4] 1914 British Post Office[13] 1917 AT&T[4] c. 1917 AT&T Overseas[4] 1918 Western Union[4][13][10] c. 1928 Western Union[13][10] 1932 ITU-T IITS Article 40 (Code A; French)[13][14] 1932 ITU-T IITS Article 40 (Code B; English)[13][14] 1942 Western Union[4] 1947 International Telecommunications Convention 1958 International Telecommunications Convention
A Ack Authority Adams Apple Alice AMERICA Adams Adams Amsterdam Andrew Adams Amsterdam Amsterdam
B Beer ab Bills Boston Brother Bertha BENJAMIN Boston Boston Baltimore Benjamin Boston Baltimore Baltimore
C abc Capture Chicago Charlie Charles CHARLIE Chicago Chicago Casablanca Charles Chicago Casablanca Casablanca
D bcd Destroy Dora Denver Dover David DAVID Denver Denver Danemark David Denver Danemark Danemark
E Englishmen Edward Eastern Edward EDWARD Edward Edward Edison Edward Edward Edison Edison
F def Fractious D-E-F Frank Father Frank FRANK Frank Frank Florida Frederick Frank Florida Florida
G Galloping George George George GEORGE George George Gallipoli George George Gallipoli Gallipoli
H fgh High Henry Harry Henry HARRY Henry Henry Havana Harry Henry Havana Havana
I Invariably Ireland (late 1912=Ida) India Ida ISAAC Ida Ida Italia Isaac Ida Italia Italia
J Juggling Jersey Jack James JACK John John Jérusalem Jack John Jude Jude
K Knights King King Kate KING King King Kilogramme King King Kilogramme Kilogramme
L Loose Lincoln London Louis LONDON Lincoln Lincoln Liverpool Lucy Lincoln Liverpool Liverpool
M eMma klm Managing Mary Mother Mary MARY Mary Mary Madagascar Mary Mary Madagascar Madagascar
N lmn Never Newark November Nelly ? New York New York New York Nellie New York New York New York
O Owners Ocean October Oliver OLIVER Ocean Ocean Oslo Oliver Ocean Oslo Oslo
P Pip nop Play Peter Peter Peter PETER Peter Peter Paris Peter Peter Paris Paris
Q Queen Queen Queen Quaker QUEBEC Queen Queen Québec Queen Queen Quebec Quebec
R Remarks Robert Robert Robert ROBERT Robert Robert Roma Robert Robert Roma Roma
S eSses qrs Support Sugar Sugar Samuel SAMUEL? Sugar Sugar Santiago Samuel Sugar Santiago Santiago
T Toc rst The Texas Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas Tripoli Tommy Thomas Tripoli Tripoli
U Unless Union Uncle Utah ? Union Union Upsala Uncle Union Upsala Upsala
V Vic tuv Vindictive Violet Victoria Victor VICTORY Victor Victor Valencia Victor Victory Valencia Valencia
W When William Wednesday William WILLIAM William William Washington William William Washington Washington
X vwx eXpeditely X-Ray Xmas X-Ray ? X-Ray X-ray Xanthippe Xray X-ray Xanthippe Xanthippe
Y wxy Your Yale Yellow Young ? Young Young Yokohama Yellow Young Yokohama Yokohama
Z xyz Zigzag X-Y-Z Zero Zebra Zebra ? Zero Zero Zürich Zebra Zero Zurich Zurich
0 Zero[Note 1] Zero[Note 1]
1 One[Note 1] One[Note 1]
2 Two[Note 1] Two[Note 1]
3 Three[Note 1] Three[Note 1]
4 Four[Note 1] Four[Note 1]
5 Five[Note 1] Five[Note 1]
6 Six[Note 1] Six[Note 1]
7 Seven[Note 1] Seven[Note 1]
8 Eight[Note 1] Eight[Note 1]
9 Nine[Note 1] Nine[Note 1]
, Comma Comma
/ Fraction bar Fraction bar
. Full stop (period) Full stop (period)

Radiotelephony spelling alphabets[edit]

During WWI[edit]

Instruction page from WW I U.S. Army trench code, Seneca edition, with spelling alphabet for telephone and radio use

In World War I battle lines were relatively static and forces were commonly linked by wired telephones. Signals could be weak on long wire runs and field telephone systems often used a single wire with earth return, which made them subject to inadvertent and deliberate interference. Spelling alphabets were introduced for wire telephony as well as on the newer radio voice equipment.[15]

Symbol 1915 British Army[13] 1917 Royal Navy[13] 1918 British Army[13]
A Ack Apples Ack
B Beer Butter Beer
C Charlie Cork
D Don Duff Don
E Edward Eddy
F Freddy
G George
H Harry
I Ink Ink
J Johnnie Jug
K King
L London
M eMma Monkey eMma
N Nuts
O Orange
P Pip Pudding Pip
Q Queenie Quad
R Robert
S eSses Sugar eSses
T Toc Tommy Talk
U Uncle
V Vic Vinegar Vic
W Willie
X Xerxes
Y Yellow
Z Zebra

Between WWI and WWII[edit]

Commercial and international telephone and radiotelephone spelling alphabets.

Symbol 1919 U.S. Air Service[4] 1920 UECU Proposal (never adopted)[8] 1927 (Washington, D.C.) International Radiotelegraph Convention (CCIR)[16] 1930 ARRL List (same as 1918 Western Union)[4] 1930 Bokstaveringstabell Televerket[17] 1932 General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (CCIR/ICAN)[18][13] 1932 American Association of Railroads (same as 1918 Western Union)[4] 1936 ARRL[19] 1938 (Cairo) International Radiocommunication Conference code words[20]
A Able Argentine Amsterdam Adams Adam Amsterdam Adams Able Amsterdam
B Boy Brussels Baltimore Boston Bertil Baltimore Boston Boy Baltimore
C Cast Canada Canada Chicago Caesar Casablanca Chicago Cast Casablanca
D Dock Damascus Denmark Denver David Danemark Denver Dog Danemark
E Easy Ecuador Eddystone Edward Erik Edison Edward Easy Edison
F Fox France Francisco Frank Filip Florida Frank Fox Florida
G George Greece Gibraltar George Gustav Gallipoli George George Gallipoli
H Have Hanover Hanover Henry Helge

(Harald prior 1960)

Havana Henry Have Havana
I Item Italy Italy Ida Ivar Italia Ida Item Italia
J Jig Japan Jerusalem John Johan Jérusalem John Jig Jérusalem
K King Khartoum Kimberley King Kalle Kilogramme King King Kilogramme
L Love Lima Liverpool Lincoln Ludvig Liverpool Lincoln Love Liverpool
M Mike Madrid Madagascar Mary Martin Madagascar Mary Mike Madagascar
N Nan Nancy Neufchatel New York Nicklas New York New York Nan New-York
O Oble Ostend Ontario Ocean Olof Oslo Ocean Oboe Oslo
P Pup Paris Portugal Peter Petter Paris Peter Pup Paris
Q Quack Quebec Quebec Queen Quintus Québec Queen Quack Québec
R Rush Rome Rivoli Robert Rudolf Roma Robert Rot Roma
S Sail Sardinia Santiago Sugar Sigurd Santiago Sugar Sail Santiago
T Tare Tokio Tokio Thomas Tore Tripoli Thomas Tare Tripoli
U Unit Uruguay Uruguay Union Urban Upsala Union Unit Upsala
V Vice Victoria Victoria Victor Viktor Valencia Victor Vice Valencia
W Watch Washington Washington William Willhelm Washington William Watch Washington
X X-ray Xaintrie Xantippe X-Ray Xerxes Xanthippe X-ray X-ray Xanthippe
Y Yoke Yokohama Yokohama Young Yngve Yokohama Young Yoke Yokohama
Z Zed Zanzibar Zululand Zero Zäta Zürich Zero Zed Zurich
Å Åke
Ä Ärlig
Ö Östen
Nolla Zero

(Etta prior 1960)

Tvåa Two
Trea Three
Fyra Four
Femma Five
Sexa Six

(Sjua prior 1960)

Åtta Eight
Nia Nine

During WWII[edit]

The later NATO phonetic alphabet evolved from the procedures of several different Allied nations during World War II, including:

  • The United States Navy (multiple versions in 1913, 1927, 1938, and WWII)
  • The United States Army (multiple versions in 1916, 1939, 1944, and 1961)
  • The United States Army Air Force
  • Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet (1941–1956)
  • The British Royal Air Force phonetic alphabet (1921 onwards)
Allied military alphabet history
Symbol United Kingdom United States
Royal Navy Royal Air Force Navy Department Joint Army/Navy phonetic
1914–1918 (World War I) 1924–1942 1943–1956 1927–1937 1941–1956
A Apples Ace Able/Affirm Afirm Able
B Butter Beer Baker Baker Baker
C Charlie Charlie Charlie Cast Charlie
D Duff Don Dog Dog Dog
E Edward Edward Easy Easy Easy
F Freddy Freddie Fox Fox Fox
G George George George George George
H Harry Harry How Hypo How
I Ink Ink Item/Interrogatory Int Item
J Johnnie Johnnie Jig/Johnny Jig Jig
K King King King King King
L London London Love Love Love
M Monkey Monkey Mike Mike Mike
N Nuts Nuts Nab/Negat Negat Nan
O Orange Orange Oboe Option Oboe
P Pudding Pip Peter/Prep Prep Peter
Q Queenie Queen Queen Quack Queen
R Robert Robert Roger Roger Roger
S Sugar Sugar Sugar Sail Sugar
T Tommy Toc Tare Tare Tare
U Uncle Uncle Uncle Uncle Uncle
V Vinegar Vic Victor Vice Victor
W Willie William William William William
X Xerxes X-ray X-ray X-ray X-ray
Y Yellow Yorker Yoke Yoke Yoke
Z Zebra Zebra Zebra Zebra Zebra


Symbol 1946 ARRL[4] 1947 (Atlantic City) International Radio Conference[21] 1949 ICAO[4] 1951 IATA code words 1957 American Association of Railroads (same as 1917 AT&T)[4] 1959 (Geneva) Administrative Radio Conference code words[22] 1969–present code words[whose?] 1969–present pronunciation[citation needed]
A Adam Amsterdam Alfa Alfa Alice Alfa Alfa AL FAH
B Baker Baltimore Beta Bravo Bertha Bravo Bravo BRAH VOH
C Charlie Casablanca Coca Coca Charles Charlie Charlie CHAR LEE
D David Danemark Delta Delta David Delta Delta DELL TAH
E Edward Edison Echo Echo Edward Echo Echo ECK OH
F Frank Florida Foxtrot Foxtrot Frank Foxtrot Foxtrot FOKS TROT
G George Gallipoli Golf Gold George Golf Golf GOLF
H Henry Havana Hotel Hotel Henry Hotel Hotel HOH TELL
I Ida Italia India India Ida India India IN DEE AH
J John Jerusalem Julietta Juliett James Juliett Juliett JEW LEE ETT
K King Kilogramme Kilo Kilo Kate Kilo Kilo KEY LOH
L Lewis Liverpool Lima Lima Louis Lima Lima LEE MAH
M Mary Madagascar Metro Metro Mary Mike Mike MIKE
N Nancy New York Nectar Nectar Nelly November November NO VEM BER
O Otto Oslo Oscar Oscar Oliver Oscar Oscar OSS CUR
P Peter Paris Polka Papa Peter Papa Papa PAH PAH
Q Queen Quebec Quebec Quebec Quaker Quebec Quebec KEH BECK
R Robert Roma Romeo Romeo Robert Romeo Romeo ROW ME OH
S Susan Santiago Sierra Sierra Samuel Sierra Sierra SEE AIR RAH
T Thomas Tripoli Tango Tango Thomas Tango Tango TANG GO
U Union Upsala Union Union Utah Uniform Uniform YOU NEE FORM or OO NEE FORM
V Victor Valencia Victor Victor Victor Victor Victor VIK TAH
W William Washington Whiskey Whiskey William Whiskey Whiskey WISS KEY
X X-ray Xanthippe eXtra eXtra X-Ray X-ray X-ray ECKS RAY
Y Young Yokohama Yankey Yankee Young Yankee Yankee YANG KEY
Z Zebra Zurich Zebra Zulu Zebra Zulu Zulu ZOO LOO
0 Zero[Note 1] Zero[Note 1] (proposal A: ZE-RO; proposal B: ZERO) Nadazero NAH-DAH-ZAY-ROH
1 One[Note 1] One[Note 1] (proposal A: WUN; proposal B: WUN) Unaone OO-NAH-WUN
2 Two[Note 1] Two[Note 1] (proposal A: TOO; proposal B: BIS) Bissotwo BEES-SOH-TOO
3 Three[Note 1] Three[Note 1] (proposal A: TREE; proposal B: TER) Terrathree TAY-RAH-TREE
4 Four[Note 1] Four[Note 1] (proposal A: FOW-ER; proposal B: QUARTO) Kartefour KAR-TAY-FOWER
5 Five[Note 1] Five[Note 1] (proposal A: FIFE; proposal B: PENTA) Pantafive PAN-TAH-FIVE
6 Six[Note 1] Six[Note 1] (proposal A: SIX; proposal B: SAXO) Soxisix SOK-SEE-SIX
7 Seven[Note 1] Seven[Note 1] (proposal A: SEV-EN; proposal B: SETTE) Setteseven SAY-TAY-SEVEN
8 Eight[Note 1] Eight[Note 1] (proposal A: AIT; proposal B: OCTO) Oktoeight OK-TOH-AIT
9 Nine[Note 1] Nine[Note 1] (proposal A: NIN-ER; proposal B: NONA) Novenine NO-VAY-NINER
, Comma Comma
/ Fraction bar Fraction bar Forward slash
Break signal Break signal
. Full stop (period) Full stop (period) Stop STOP
. Point (proposal A: DAY-SEE-MAL; proposal B: DECIMAL) Decimal DAY-SEE-MAL
Thousand (Proposal A: TOUS-AND)

For the 1938 and 1947 alphabets, each transmission of figures is preceded and followed by the words "as a number" spoken twice.

The ITU adopted the International Maritime Organization's phonetic spelling alphabet in 1959,[23] and in 1969 specified that it be "for application in the maritime mobile service only".[24]

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, there were two international aviation radio spelling alphabets, the "Able Baker" was used by most Western countries, while the "Ana Brazil" alphabet was used by South American and Caribbean regions.[25][26]

Pronunciation was not defined prior to 1959. From 1959 to present, the underlined syllable of each code word[whose?] for the letters should be stressed, and from 1969 to present, each syllable of the code words for the digits should be equally stressed, with the exceptions of the unstressed second syllables of fower, seven, niner, hundred.

ICAO Radiotelephone Spelling Alphabet[edit]

After WWII, the major work in producing a better spelling alphabet was conducted by the ICAO, which was subsequently adopted in modified form by the ITU and IMO. Its development is related to these various international conventions on radio, including:

  • Universal Electrical Communications Union, Washington, D.C., December 1920[8]
  • International Radiotelegraph Convention, Washington, 1927 (which created the CCIR)[27]
  • General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (Madrid, 1932)[28]
  • Instructions for the International Telephone Service, 1932 (ITU-T E.141; withdrawn in 1993)
  • The c. 1936 ARRL and 1928 Western Union alphabets likely originated earlier.[29]
  • General Radiocommunication Regulations and Additional Radiocommunication Regulations (Cairo, 1938)[30]
  • Radio Regulations and Additional Radio Regulations (Atlantic City, 1947),[31] where "it was decided that the International Civil Aviation Organization and other international aeronautical organizations would assume the responsibility for procedures and regulations related to aeronautical communication. However, ITU would continue to maintain general procedures regarding distress signals."
  • 1959 Administrative Radio Conference (Geneva, 1959)[32]
  • Final Acts of WARC-79 (Geneva, 1979).[33] Here the alphabet was formally named "Phonetic Alphabet and Figure Code".
  • International Code of Signals for Visual, Sound, and Radio Communications, United States Edition, 1969 (Revised 2003)[34]
  • NATO phonetic alphabet history[35]
  • International Telecommunication Union, Radio

The ICAO Radiotelephony Alphabet is defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization for international aircraft communications.[36][37]

Symbol 1932 ITU/ICAN 1951 IATA 1956–Present ICAO
A Amsterdam Alfa Alfa
B Baltimore Bravo Bravo
C Casablanca Coca Charlie
D Denmark Delta Delta
E Edison Echo Echo
F Florida Foxtrot Foxtrot
G Gallipoli Golf Golf
H Havana Hotel Hotel
I Italia India India
J Jerusalem Juliett Juliett
K Kilogramme Kilo Kilo
L Liverpool Lima Lima
M Madagascar Mike Mike
N New York November November
O Oslo Oscar Oscar
P Paris Papa Papa
Q Quebec Quebec Quebec
R Roma Romeo Romeo
S Santiago Sierra Sierra
T Tripoli Tango Tango
U Upsala Uniform Uniform
V Valencia Victor Victor
W Washington Whiskey Whisky
X Xanthippe X-ray X-ray
Y Yokohama Yankee Yankee
Z Zurich Zulu Zulu
1 One (Wun)
2 Two
3 Tree
4 Fower
5 Fife
6 Six
7 Seven
8 Eight
9 Niner
0 Zero
-00 Hundred[38]
-,000 Tousand[38]
. Decimal

Law enforcement[edit]

Defined by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International.[39]

The APCO first suggested that its Procedure and Signals Committee work out a system for a "standard set of words representing the alphabet should be used by all stations" in its April 1940 newsletter.[40][41]

Note: The old APCO alphabet has wide usage among Public Safety agencies nationwide, even though APCO itself deprecated the alphabet in 1974, replacing it with the ICAO spelling alphabet. See https://www.apcointl.org and APCO radiotelephony spelling alphabet.

Symbol APCO Project 2


APCO Project 14 (1974)[43]
E Edward ECHO
G George GOLF
L Lincoln LIMA
R Robert ROMEO
X X-ray XRAY
Z Zebra ZULU
0 ZERO (with a strong Z and a short RO)
1 WUN (with a strong W and N)
2 TOO (with a strong and long OO)
3 TH-R-EE (with a slightly rolling R and long EE)
4 FO-WER (with a long O and strong W and final R
5 VIE-YIV (with a long I changing to short and strong Y and V)
6 SIKS (with a strong S and KS)
7 SEV-VEN (with a strong S and V and well-sounded VEN)
8 ATE (with a long A and strong T)
9 NI-YEN (with a strong N at the beginning, a long I and a well sounded YEN)

Amateur radio[edit]

The FCC regulations for Amateur radio state that "Use of a phonetic alphabet as an aid for correct station identification is encouraged" (47 C.F.R. § 97.119(b)(2)[44]), but does not state which set of words should be used. Officially the same as used by ICAO, but there are significant variations commonly used by stations participating in HF contests and DX (especially in international HF communications).[45][46]

The official ARRL alphabet changed over the years, sometimes to reflect the current norms, and sometimes by the force of law. In rules made effective beginning April 1, 1946, the FCC forbade using the names of cities, states, or countries in spelling alphabets.[47]

Symbol 1930 ARRL List (same as 1918 Western Union)[4] 1936–1946 ARRL[19] 1946–1969 ARRL[47] 1970–present ARRL[48] (ICAO) DX[49] DX alternate[49]
A Adams Able ADAM Alpha America Amsterdam
B Boston Boy BAKER Bravo Boston Baltimore
C Chicago Cast CHARLIE Charlie Canada Chile
D Denver Dog DAVID Delta Denmark
E Edward Easy EDWARD Echo England Egypt
F Frank Fox FRANK Foxtrot France Finland
G George George GEORGE Golf Germany Geneva
H Henry Have HENRY Hotel Honolulu Hawaii
I Ida Item IDA India Italy Italy
J John Jig JOHN Juliett Japan
K King King KING Kilo Kilowatt Kentucky
L Lincoln Love LEWIS Lima London Luxembourg
M Mary Mike MARY Mike Mexico Montreal
N New York Nan NANCY November Norway Nicaragua
O Ocean Oboe OTTO Oscar Ontario Ocean
P Peter Pup PETER Papa Pacific Portugal
Q Queen Quack QUEEN Quebec Quebec Queen
R Robert Rot ROBERT Romeo Radio Romania
S Sugar Sail SUSAN Sierra Santiago Sweden
T Thomas Tare THOMAS Tango Tokyo Texas
U Union Unit UNION Uniform United Uruguay
V Victor Vice VICTOR Victor Victoria Venezuela
W William Watch WILLIAM Whiskey Washington
X X-Ray X-ray X-RAY X-ray X-Ray
Y Young Yoke YOUNG Yankee Yokohama
Z Zero Zed ZEBRA Zulu Zanzibar Zulu
1 One
2 Two
3 Tree
4 Fower
5 Fife
6 Six
7 Seven
8 Eight
9 Niner
0 Zero
. Stop
. Decimal

Additions in other languages[edit]

Certain languages' standard alphabets have letters, or letters with diacritics (e.g., umlauts, rings, tildes), that do not exist in the English alphabet. If these letters have two-letter ASCII substitutes, the ICAO/ITU code words for the two letters are used.


Czech "ů", historically uo, is Uniform-Oscar (uo).[citation needed]

Danish and Norwegian[edit]

In Danish and Norwegian the letters "æ", "ø" and "å" have their own code words. In Danish Ægir, Ødis and Åse represent the three letters,[50] while in Norwegian the three code words are Ægir, Ørnulf and Ågot for civilians and Ærlig, Østen and Åse for military personnel.[51]


Estonian has four special letters, õ, ä, ö and ü. Õnne represents õ, Ärni for ä, Ööbik for ö and Ülle for ü.[citation needed]


In Finnish there are special code words for the letters å, ä and ö. Åke is used to represent å, Äiti is used for ä and Öljy for ö. These code words are used only in national operations, the last remnants of the Finnish radio alphabet.[52]


German alphabet used in Austria.

In German, Alfa-Echo (ae) may be used for "ä", Oscar-Echo (oe) for "ö", Sierra-Sierra (ss) for "ß", and Uniform-Echo (ue) for "ü".


The Greek spelling alphabet is a spelling alphabet for the Greek language, i.e. a set of names used in lieu of alphabet letters for the purpose of spelling out words. It is used by the Greek armed and emergency services.


Malay (including Indonesian) represents the letter "L" with "London", since the word lima means "five" in this language.[53][54][55]


The Russian spelling alphabet is a spelling alphabet for the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet.


In Spanish the word ñoño ([ˈɲo.ɲo], 'dull') is used for ñ.[56][57]


Åke is used for "å" Ärlig for "ä" and Östen for "ö" in the Swedish spelling alphabet, though the two-letter substitutes aa, ae and oe respectively may be used in absence of the specific letters.[58][17]

Table of spelling alphabets by language[edit]

Letters NATO phonetic alphabet French
German Dutch / Flemish
Italian Spanish Portuguese Scandinavian Finnish Turkish[59] Romanian[60] Czech[61] Yugoslav[62] Serbian Slovene[63]
(Inter­national) (France) (Belgium) [64] (Switzer­land)[64] (Québec)[65] (Germany, 2022)[66] (Austria)[67] (Germany, informal, 2022)[Note 2] (Nether­lands) (Belgium) (Brazil) (Portugal) Swedish


Danish Norwegian
A Alfa [sic] Anatole Arthur Anna Alice Aachen Anton Albert Anna/Anton Arthur Ancona Antonio Amor Aveiro Adam Anna Anna Aarne Adana Ana Adam Avala Avala Ankaran
Å - Ringakzent Aachen - Åke Åse Åse Åke -
Ä - Umlaut Aachen Ärger Änderung - Ärlig - Äiti -
Æ - Verbund Aachen Essen - Ægir Ærlig -
B Bravo Berthe Bruxelles Berthe Berthe Berlin Berta Bernhard Bern(h)ard Brussel Bologna Burgos Bandeira Braga Bertil Bernhard Bernhard Bertta Bolu Barbu Božena Beograd Beograd Bled
C Charlie Célestin César Cécile Charles Chemnitz Cäsar Cäsar Cornelis Carolina Como Carmen Cobra Coimbra Caesar Cecilie Caesar Celsius Ceyhan Constantin Cyril Cetinje Cetinje Celje
Ç - Hakenstrich Chemnitz - Çanakkale -
Ch - - Charlotte Charlotte - Chocolate - Chrudim -
Č - Winkelakzent Chemnitz - Čeněk Čačak Čačak Čatež
Ć - Aufwärtsakzent Chemnitz - Ćuprija Ćuprija -
D Delta Désiré David Daniel David Düsseldorf Dora David Dirk Desiré Domodossola David Dado Dafundo David David David Daavid Denizli Dumitru David Dubrovnik Drina Drava
- džamija Džep -
Đ - Querstrich Düsseldorf - Đakovo Đeravica -
Ď - Ďáblice -
E Echo Eugène Émile Émile Édouard Essen Emil Emil Eduard Emiel Empoli España Estrela Évora Erik Erik Edith Eemeli Edirne Elena Emil Evropa Evropa Evropa
F Foxtrot François Frédéric François François Frankfurt Friedrich Friedrich Ferdinand Frederik Firenze Francia Feira Faro Filip Frederik Fredrik Faarao Fatsa Florea František Foča Futog Fala
G Golf Gaston Gustave Gustave George Goslar Gustav Gustav Gerard Gustaaf Genova Granada Goiaba Guarda Gustav Georg Gustav Gideon Giresun Gheorghe Gustav Gorica Golija Gorica
Ğ - Bogenakzent Goslar - Yumuşak G[Note 3] -
H Hotel Henri Hamburg Heinrich Heinrich Hendrik Hendrik Hotel Historia Hotel Horta Helge Hans Harald Heikki Hatay Haralambie Helena Hercegovina Heroj Hrastnik
I India Irma Isidor Ida Isabelle Ingelheim Ida Ida Izaak Isidoor Imola Inés Índio Itália Ivar Ida Ivar Iivari Isparta Ion Ivan Istra Igalo Izola
İ - Überpunkt Ingelheim - İzmir -
J Juliett [sic] Joseph Joseph Jeanne Jacques Jena Julius Jakob Johan/Jacob


Jozef Jolly,
José José José Johan Johan Johan Jussi Jandarma Jean Josef Jadran Jadran Jadran
K Kilo Kléber Kilogramme Kilo Kilo Köln Kaufmann / Konrad Katharina Karel Kilogram Kappa,[Note 3]
Kilo Kiwi Kodak Kalle Karen Karin Kalle Kars Kilogram Karel Kosovo Kosovo Kamnik
L Lima Louis Léopold Louise Louis Leipzig Ludwig Ludwig Lodewijk/Leo Leopold Livorno Lorenzo Lua Lisboa Ludvig Ludvig Ludvig Lauri Lüleburgaz Lazăr Ludvik Lika Lovćen Ljubljana
Ll - Llave -
LJ - Ljubljana Ljubovija -
M Mike Marcel Marie Marie Marie München Martha Marie Maria Maria Milano Madrid Maria Maria Martin Mari Martin Matti Muş Maria Marie Mostar Morava Maribor
N November Nicolas Napoléon Nicolas Nicolas Nürnberg Nordpol Nathan Nico Napoleon Napoli Navidad Navio Nazaré Niklas Nikolaj Nils Niilo Niğde Nicolae Norbert Niš Niš Nanos
Ñ - Tilde Nürnberg - Ñoño -
NJ - Njegoš Njegoš -
Ň - Nina -
O Oscar Oscar Oscar Olga Olivier Offenbach Otto Otto Otto Oscar Otranto Oviedo Ouro Ovar Olof Odin Olivia Otto Ordu Olga Oto (Otakar) Osijek Obilić Ormož
Ö - Umlaut Offenbach Ökonom / Österreich / Öse Ökonom - Östen - Öljy Ödemiş -
Ø - Schräggestrichen Offenbach - Øresund Østen -
P Papa Pierre Piano Paul Pierre Potsdam Paula Paula Pieter Piano Padova París Pipa Porto Petter Peter Petter Paavo Polatlı Petre Petr Pirot Pirot Piran
Q Quebec Quintal Quiévrain Quittance Québec Quickborn Quelle Quelle Quirinus/Quinten


Quotiënt Quadro Queso Quilombo Queluz Quintus Quintus Quintus Kuu[Note 3] - Qu (Chiu)[Note 3] Quido kvadrat Ku[Note 3] Queen
R Romeo Raoul Robert Robert Robert Rostock Richard Richard Richard/Rudolf Robert Roma Ramón Raiz Rossio Rudolf Rasmus Rikard Risto Rize Radu Rudolf Rijeka Ruma Ravne
Ř - Řehoř -
S Sierra Suzanne Simon Suzanne Samuel Salzwedel Samuel / Siegfried Samuel Simon Sofie Savona Sábado Saci Setúbal Sigurd Søren Sigrid Sakari Sinop Sandu Svatopluk Skopje Sava Soča
Ş - Hakenstrich Salzwedel - Şırnak -
Sch - - Schule Schule -
ß - Eszett[Note 3] Eszett[Note 3] / scharfes S Eszett [Note 3] -
Š - Winkelakzent Salzwedel - Šimon Šibenik Šabac Šmarje
T Tango Thérèse Téléphone Thérèse Thomas Tübingen Theodor Theodor Theodor Telefoon Torino Toledo Tatu Tavira Tore Theodor Teodor Tyyne Tokat Tudor Tomáš Tuzla Timok Triglav
Ť - Těšnov -
U Uniform Ursule Ursule Ulysse Ursule Unna Ulrich Ulrich Utrecht Ursula Udine Ulises Uva Unidade Urban Ulla Ulrik Urho Uşak Udrea Urban Užice Užice Unec
Ü - Umlaut Unna Übermut / Übel Überfluss - Ünye -
V Victor Victor Völklingen Viktor Viktor Victor Victor Verona,
Valencia Vitória Vidago Viktor Viggo Enkelt-V Vihtori Van Vasile Václav Valjevo Valjevo Velenje
W Whiskey William Waterloo William William Wuppertal Wilhelm Wilhelm Willem Waterloo Whiskey,
Washington Wilson Waldemar Wilhelm William Dobbelt-W[Note 3] Wiski - dublu v[Note 3] dvojité V[Note 3] duplo ve[Note 3] Duplo ve[Note 3] Dvojni v[Note 3]
X X-ray Xavier Xantippe Xavier Xavier Xanten Xanthippe / Xaver Xanthippe Xant(h)ippe Xavier Ics,[Note 3] Xilofono Xilófono Xadrez Xavier Xerxes Xerxes Xerxes Äksä[Note 3] - Xenia Xaver iks[Note 3] Iks[Note 3] Iks[Note 3]
Y Yankee Yvonne Ypsilon[Note 3] Ypsilon[Note 3] Ypsilon[Note 3] Ypsilon[Note 3] Yvonne York,
Yolanda Yolanda York Yngve Yrsa Yngling Yrjö Yozgat I grec[Note 3] Ypsilon[Note 3] ipsilon[Note 3] Ipsilon[Note 3] Ipsilon[Note 3]
IJ - Verbund Ingelheim Jena - IJmuiden/IJsbrand -
Z Zulu Zoé Zéro Zurich Zoé Zwickau Zacharias / Zürich Zacharias Zaandam/Zacharias Zola Zara,
Zaragoza Zebra Zulmira Zäta[Note 3] Zackarias Zakarias Tseta[Note 3] Zonguldak Zahăr Zuzana Zagreb Zemun Zalog
Ž - Winkelakzent Zwickau - Žofie Žirovnica Žabljak Žalec

Other alphabets[edit]

The PGP word list, the Bubble Babble wordlist used by ssh-keygen, and the S/KEY dictionary, are spelling alphabets for public key fingerprints (or other binary data) – a set of names given to data bytes for the purpose of spelling out binary data in a clear and unambiguous way via a voice channel.

Many unofficial spelling alphabets are in use that are not based on a standard, but are based on words the transmitter can remember easily, including first names, states, or cities. The LAPD phonetic alphabet has many first names. The German spelling alphabet ("Deutsches Funkalphabet" (literally "German Radio Alphabet")) also uses first names. Also, during the Vietnam war, soldiers used 'Cain' instead of 'Charlie' because 'Charlie' meant Viet Cong (Charlie being short for Victor Charlie, the International alphabet spelling of the initials VC).

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an Each transmission of figures is preceded and followed by "as a number" spoken twice.
  2. ^ With DIN 5009 of June 2022, the German Institute for Standardisation has introduced a new spelling alphabet based on city names instead of first names. The system, which had been established for a good hundred years, had been slightly changed several times, including the replacement of Jewish names on a large scale by the Nazi regime in 1936, which was only partially corrected after the war. With the 2022 edition, DIN has largely reinstated the old first names from before 1936 and incorporated this alphabet, adjusted for Nazi interference, into the standard as an informal "postal spelling alphabet".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad This is simply the ordinary name of the letter.


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External links[edit]