Spelling alphabet

A spelling alphabet, word-spelling alphabet, voice procedure alphabet, radio alphabet, or telephone alphabet is a set of words used to stand for the letters of an alphabet in oral communication.

A large number of spelling alphabets have been developed over the past hundred-plus years, 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?[1]

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.

A spelling alphabet is also often called a phonetic alphabet, especially by amateur radio enthusiasts,[2] recreational sailors in the US and Australia,[3] and NATO military organizations.[4] However, this conflicts 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.


Prior to spelling alphabets, the words used to indicate English letters were "a", "bee", "cee", "dee", "e", etc. Their spoken sounds are difficult to discriminate, particularly over a limited-bandwidth and noisy communications channel, hence the use by armed services of unambiguous phonetic alphabets for electrical voice communication (telephone and radio, but not telegraph). Confusion between letters may not be problematic in some circumstances but, particularly in some military contexts, it can have lethal consequences.

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 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 phonetic equivalent for all 26 letters (see comparative tabulation of Western military alphabets).

For civilian users, in particular in the field of finance, terms such as "November" for N and "Kilo" for K were considered too long or obscure, and an alternative alphabet arose. Common first names were a popular choice, and the First Name Alphabet came into common use.

Voice procedure

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 Juliet–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

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 ICS flags.[6]

Symbol c. 1908[7] 1920


c. 1942[6] 1969–present[9]
A Actor Ash Argentine Afirm Alpha
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

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 Xpeditely Capture Your Queen.

Symbol 1904 British Army[12] (Signalling Regulations) 1904 AT&T[1] 1908 Tasmania[11] 1910 Western Union[1] 1912 Western Union[1] 1914 British Post Office[13] 1917 AT&T[1] c. 1917 AT&T Overseas[1] 1918 Western Union[1][13][10] ~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[1] 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 Ropert Robert Robert ROBERT Ropert 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 Xpeditiously 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

During WWI

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

Commercial and international telephone and radiotelephone spelling alphabets.

Symbol 1919 U.S. Air Service[1] 1920 UECU Proposal (never adopted)[8] 1927 (Washington, D.C.) International Radiotelegraph Convention (CCIR)[15] 1930 ARRL List (same as 1918 Western Union)[1] 1932 General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (CCIR/ICAN)[16][13] 1932 American Association of Railroads (same as 1918 Western Union)[1] 1936 ARRL[17] 1938 (Cairo) International Radiocommunication Conference code words[18]
A Able Argentine Amsterdam Adams Amsterdam Adams Able Amsterdam
B Boy Brussels Baltimore Boston Baltimore Boston Boy Baltimore
C Cast Canada Canada Chicago Casablanca Chicago Cast Casablanca
D Dock Damascus Denmark Denver Danemark Denver Dog Danemark
E Easy Ecuador Eddystone Edward Edison Edward Easy Edison
F Fox France Francisco Frank Florida Frank Fox Florida
G George Greece Gibraltar George Gallipoli George George Gallipoli
H Have Hanover Hanover Henry Havana Henry Have Havana
I Item Italy Italy Ida Italia Ida Item Italia
J Jig Japan Jerusalem John Jérusalem John Jig Jérusalem
K King Khartoum Kimberley King Kilogramme King King Kilogramme
L Love Lima Liverpool Lincoln Liverpool Lincoln Love Liverpool
M Mike Madrid Madagascar Mary Madagascar Mary Mike Madagascar
N Nan Nancy Neufchatel New York New York New York Nan New-York
O Oble Ostend Ontario Ocean Oslo Ocean Oboe Oslo
P Pup Paris Portugal Peter Paris Peter Pup Paris
Q Quack Quebec Quebec Queen Québec Queen Quack Québec
R Rush Rome Rivoli Ropert Roma Robert Rot Roma
S Sail Sardinia Santiago Sugar Santiago Sugar Sail Santiago
T Tare Tokio Tokio Thomas Tripoli Thomas Tare Tripoli
U Unit Uruguay Uruguay Union Upsala Union Unit Upsala
V Vice Victoria Victoria Victor Valencia Victor Vice Valencia
W Watch Washington Washington William Washington William Watch Washington
X X-ray Xaintrie Xantippe X-Ray Xanthippe X-ray X-ray Xanthippe
Y Yoke Yokohama Yokohama Young Yokohama Young Yoke Yokohama
Z Zed Zanzibar Zululand Zero Zürich Zero Zed Zurich

During WWII

The later NATO spelling 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
Royal Navy RAF phonetic alphabet 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[1] 1947 (Atlantic City) International Radio Conference[19] 1949 ICAO[1] 1951 IATA code words 1957 American Association of Railroads (same as 1917 AT&T)[1]1959 (Geneva) Administrative Radio Conference code words[20]1969–Present Phonetic1969–Present Pronunciation
A Adam Amsterdam Alfa Alfa AliceAlfaAlfaAL FAH
B Baker Baltimore Beta Bravo BerthaBravoBravoBRAH VOH
C Charlie Casablanca Coca Coca CharlesCharlieCharlieCHAR LEE
D David Danemark Delta Delta DavidDeltaDeltaDELL TAH
E Edward Edison Echo Echo EdwardEchoEchoECK OH
F Frank Florida Foxtrot Foxtrot FrankFoxtrotFoxtrotFOKS TROT
G George Gallipoli Golf Gold GeorgeGolfGolfGOLF
H Henry Havana Hotel Hotel HenryHotelHotelHOH TELL
I Ida Italia India India IdaIndiaIndiaIN DEE AH
J John Jerusalem Julietta Juliett JamesJuliettJuliettJEW LEE ETT
K King Kilogramme Kilo Kilo KateKiloKiloKEY LOH
L Lewis Liverpool Lima Lima LouisLimaLimaLEE MAH
M Mary Madagascar Metro Metro MaryMikeMikeMIKE
N Nancy New York Nectar Nectar NellyNovemberNovemberNO VEM BER
O Otto Oslo Oscar Oscar OliverOscarOscarOSS CUR
P Peter Paris Polka Papa PeterPapaPapaPAH PAH
Q Queen Quebec Quebec Quebec QuakerQuebecQuebecKEH BECK
R Robert Roma Romeo Romeo RobertRomeoRomeoROW ME OH
S Susan Santiago Sierra Sierra SamuelSierraSierraSEE AIR RAH
T Thomas Tripoli Tango Tango ThomasTangoTangoTANG GO
U Union Upsala Union Union UtahUniformUniformYOU NEE FORM or OO NEE FORM
V Victor Valencia Victor Victor VictorVictorVictorVIK TAH
W William Washington Whiskey Whiskey WilliamWhiskeyWhiskeyWISS KEY
X X-ray Xanthippe ? eXtra X-RayX-rayX-rayECKS RAY
Y Young Yokohama Yankey Yankee YoungYankeeYankeeYANG KEY
Z Zebra Zurich Zebra Zulu ZebraZuluZuluZOO LOO
0 Zero[Note 1] Zero[Note 1] (proposal A: ZE-RO; proposal B: ZERO)NadazeroNAH-DAH-ZAY-ROH
1 One[Note 1] One[Note 1] (proposal A: WUN; proposal B: WUN)UnaoneOO-NAH-WUN
2 Two[Note 1] Two[Note 1] (proposal A: TOO; proposal B: BIS)BissotwoBEES-SOH-TOO
3 Three[Note 1] Three[Note 1] (proposal A: TREE; proposal B: TER)TerrathreeTAY-RAH-TREE
4 Four[Note 1] Four[Note 1] (proposal A: FOW-ER; proposal B: QUARTO)KartefourKAR-TAY-FOWER
5 Five[Note 1] Five[Note 1] (proposal A: FIFE; proposal B: PENTA)PantafivePAN-TAH-FIVE
6 Six[Note 1] Six[Note 1] (proposal A: SIX; proposal B: SAXO)SoxisixSOK-SEE-SIX
7 Seven[Note 1] Seven[Note 1] (proposal A: SEV-EN; proposal B: SETTE)SettesevenSAY-TAY-SEVEN
8 Eight[Note 1] Eight[Note 1] (proposal A: AIT; proposal B: OCTO)OktoeightOK-TOH-AIT
9 Nine[Note 1] Nine[Note 1] (proposal A: NIN-ER; proposal B: NONA)NovenineNO-VAY-NINER
, Comma Comma
/ Fraction bar Fraction barForward slash
Break signal Break signal
. Full stop (period) Full stop (period)StopSTOP
. Point (proposal A: DAY-SEE-MAL; proposal B: DECIMAL)DecimalDAY-SEE-MAL
Thousand (Proposal A: TOUS-AND)

For the 1938 and 1947 phonetics, 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,[21] and in 1969 specified that it be "for application in the maritime mobile service only".[22]

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.[23][24]

Pronunciation was not defined prior to 1959. For the 1959–Present phonetics, the underlined syllable of each letter word should be emphasized, and each syllable of the code words for the figures (1969–Present) should be equally emphasized.

ICAO Radiotelephone Spelling Alphabet

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)[25]
  • General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (Madrid, 1932)[26]
  • Instructions for the International Telephone Service, 1932 (ITU-T E.141; withdrawn in 1993)
  • The ~1936 ARRL and 1928 Western Union alphabets likely originated earlier.[27]
  • General Radiocommunication Regulations and Additional Radiocommunication Regulations (Cairo, 1938)[28]
  • Radio Regulations and Additional Radio Regulations (Atlantic City, 1947),[29] 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)[30]
  • Final Acts of WARC-79 (Geneva, 1979).[31] 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)[32]
  • NATO phonetic alphabet history[33]
  • International Telecommunications Union, Radio

The ICAO Radiotelephony Alphabet is defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization for international aircraft communications.[34][35]

Symbol1932 ITU/ICAN Phonetic1951 IATA Phonetic1956–Present ICAO Phonetic
NNew YorkNovemberNovember

Law enforcement

Defined by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International.[36]

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.[37][38]

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.

SymbolAPCO Project 2


APCO Project 14 (1974)[40]
0ZERO (with a strong Z and a short RO)
1WUN (with a strong W and N)
2TOO (with a strong and long OO)
3TH-R-EE (with a slightly rolling R and long EE)
4FO-WER (with a long O and strong W and final R
5VIE-YIV (with a long I changing to short and strong Y and V)
6SIKS (with a strong S and KS)
7SEV-VEN (with a strong S and V and well-sounded VEN)
8ATE (with a long A and strong T)
9NI-YEN (with a strong N at the beginning, a long I and a well sounded YEN)

Amateur radio

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)[41]), but does not state which phonetic alphabet 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).[42][43]

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 phonetic spelling alphabets.[44]

Symbol 1930 ARRL List (same as 1918 Western Union)[1] 1936–1946 ARRL[17] 1946–1969 ARRL[44]1970–present ARRL[45] (ICAO)DX[46]DX alternate[46]
A Adams Able ADAMAlphaAmericaAmsterdam
B Boston Boy BAKERBravoBostonBaltimore
C Chicago Cast CHARLIECharlieCanadaChile
D Denver Dog DAVIDDeltaDenmark
E Edward Easy EDWARDEchoEnglandEgypt
F Frank Fox FRANKFoxtrotFranceFinland
G George George GEORGEGolfGermanyGeneva
H Henry Have HENRYHotelHonoluluHawaii
I Ida Item IDAIndiaItalyItaly
J John Jig JOHNJuliettJapanJapan
K King King KINGKiloKilowattKentucky
L Lincoln Love LEWISLimaLondonLuxembourg
M Mary Mike MARYMikeMexicoMontreal
N New York Nan NANCYNovemberNorwayNicaragua
O Ocean Oboe OTTOOscarOntarioOcean
P Peter Pup PETERPapaPacificPortugal
Q Queen Quack QUEENQuebecQuebecQueen
R Ropert Rot ROBERTRomeoRadioRomania
S Sugar Sail SUSANSierraSantiagoSweden
T Thomas Tare THOMASTangoTokyoTexas
U Union Unit UNIONUniformUnitedUruguay
V Victor Vice VICTORVictorVictoriaVenezuela
W William Watch WILLIAMWhiskeyWashington
X X-Ray X-ray X-RAYX-rayX-Ray
Y Young Yoke YOUNGYankeeYokohama
Z Zero Zed ZEBRAZuluZanzibarZulu
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

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).

Danish and Norwegian

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,[47] while in Norwegian the three code words are Ægir, Ørnulf and Ågot for civilians and Ærlig, Østen and Åse for military personnel.[48]


Estonian has 4 special letters, õ, ä, ö and ü. Õnne represents õ, Ärni for ä, Ööbik for ö and Ülle for ü.


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.[49]

German and Swedish

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".[50] The same applies to "ä" and "ö" in Swedish, though Ärlig and Östen, from the Swedish spelling alphabet, are also used; similarly, Åke may be used for "å".[51]


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 and related languages (Indonesian etc.) represent letter "L" with "London", since the word lima also means "five" in these languages.[52][53][54]


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.[55][56]

Table of other language additions

Symbol NATO phonetic alphabet French German (DIN 5009) / Austrian (ÖNORM A 1081) Dutch Italian Spanish Swedish Danish Norwegian Finnish Turkish[57] European Portuguese Brazilian Portuguese Romanian Czech Yugoslav[58] Slovene[59]
A Alfa Anatole Anton Anna/Anton Ancona Antonio Adam Anna Anna Aarne Adana Aveiro Amor Ana Adam Avala Ankaran
Ä - - Ärger - - - Ärlig - - Äiti - - - - - - -
Å - - - - - - Åke Åse Åse Åke - - - - - - -
Æ - - - - - - - Ægir Ærlig - - - - - - - -
B Bravo Berthe Berta Bernard Bologna Burgos Bertil Bernhard Bernhard Bertta Bolu Braga Bandeira Barbu Božena Beograd Bled
C Charlie Célestin Cäsar Cornelis Como Carmen Caesar Cecilie Caesar Celsius Ceyhan Coimbra Cobra Costică Cyril Cetinje Celje
Ç - - - - - - - - - - Çanakkale - - - - - -
Ch - - Charlotte - - Chocolate - - - - - - - - Chrudim - -
Č - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Čačak Čatež
Ć - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Ćuprija -
D Delta Désiré Dora Dirk Domodossola David David David David Daavid Denizli Dafundo Dado Dumitru David Dubrovnik Drava
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - džamija -
Đ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Đakovo -
E Echo Eugène Emil Eduard Empoli España Erik Erik Edith Eemeli Edirne Évora Estrela Elena Emil Evropa Evropa
F Foxtrot François Friedrich Ferdinand Firenze Francia Filip Frederik Fredrik Faarao Fatsa Faro Feira Florică František Foča Fala
G Golf Gaston Gustav Gerard Genova Granada Gustav Georg Gustav Gideon Giresun Guarda Goiaba Gheorghe Gustav Gorica Gorica
Ğ - - - - - - - - - - Yumuşak G[Note 2] - - - - - -
H Hotel Henri Heinrich Hendrik Hotel Historia Helge Hans Harald Heikki Hatay Horta Hotel Horia Helena Hercegovina Hrastnik
I India Irma Ida Izaak Imola Inés Ivar Ida Ivar Iivari Isparta Itália Índio Ilie Ivan Istra Izola
İ - - - - - - - - - - İzmir - - - - - -
J Juliet Joseph Julius Julius Jolly José Johan Johan Johan Jussi Jandarma José José Jean Josef Jadran Jadran
K Kilo Kléber Kaufmann / Konrad Karel Kappa[Note 2] Kilo Kalle Karen Karin Kalle Kars Kodak Kiwi Kappa / kilogram Karel Kosovo Kamnik
L Lima Louis Ludwig Lodewijk Livorno Lorenzo Ludvig Ludvig Ludvig Lauri Lüleburgaz Lisboa Lua Lazăr / Lenuța Ludvik Lika Ljubljana
Ll - - - - - Llave - - - - - - - - - - -
LJ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Ljubljana -
M Mike Marcel Martha Maria Milano Madrid Martin Mari Martin Matti Muş Maria Maria Maria Marie Mostar Maribor
N November Nicolas Nordpol Nico Napoli Navidad Niklas Nikolaj Nils Niilo Niğde Nazaré Navio Nicolae ( Nae ?) Norbert Niš Nanos
Ñ - - - - - Ñoño - - - - - - - - - - -
NJ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Njegoš -
O Oscar Oscar Otto Otto Otranto Oviedo Olof Odin Olivia Otto Ordu Ovar Ouro Olga Otakar Osijek Ormož
Ö - - Ökonom / Österreich - - - Östen - - Öljy Ödemiş - - - - - -
Ø - - - - - - - Øresund Østen - - - - - - - -
P Papa Pierre Paula Pieter Padova París Petter Peter Petter Paavo Polatlı Porto Pipa Petrică Petr Pirot Piran
Q Quebec Quintal Quelle Quotiënt Quadro Queso Quintus Quintus Quintus Kuu[Note 2] - Queluz Quilombo ??? Quido kvadrat Queen
R Romeo Raoul Richard Richard Roma Ramón Rudolf Rasmus Rikard Risto Rize Rossio Raiz Radu / Rodica Rudolf Rijeka Ravne
S Sierra Suzanne Samuel / Siegfried Simon Savona Sábado Sigurd Søren Sigrid Sakari Sinop Setúbal Saci Sandu Svatopluk Skopje Soča
Ş - - - - - - - - - - Şırnak - - - - - -
Sch - - Schule - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ß - - Eszett[Note 2] / scharfes S - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Š - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Šibenik Šmarje
T Tango Thérèse Theodor Theodor Torino Toledo Tore Theodor Teodor Tyyne Tokat Tavira Tatu Tudor Tomáš Tuzla Triglav
U Uniform Ursule Ulrich Utrecht Udine Ulises Urban Ulla Ulrik Urho Uşak Unidade Uva Udrea Urban Užice Unec
Ü - - Übermut / Übel - - - - - - - Ünye - - - - - -
V Victor Victor Viktor Victor Venezia Valencia Viktor Viggo Enkelt-V Vihtori Van Vidago Vitória Vasile Václav Valjevo Velenje
W Whiskey William Wilhelm Willem Washington Washington Wilhelm William Dobbelt-W[Note 2] Wiski - Waldemar Wilson Walter / dublu-v dvojité V duplo ve Dvojni v
X X-ray Xavier Xanthippe / Xaver Xanthippe Ics,[Note 2] Xeres, Xilofono Xilófono Xerxes Xerxes Xerxes Äksä[Note 2] - Xavier Xadrez Xenia, ics Xaver iks Iks
IJ - - - IJmuiden - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Y Yankee Yvonne Ypsilon[Note 2] Ypsilon[Note 2] York, yacht Yolanda Yngve Yrsa Yngling Yrjö Yozgat York Yolanda i-grec Ypsilon ipsilon Ipsilon
Z Zulu Zoé Zacharias / Zürich Zaandam Zara Zaragoza Zäta[Note 2] Zackarias Zakarias Tseta[Note 2] Zonguldak Zulmira Zebra Zoe Zuzana Zagreb Zalog
Ž - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Žirovnica Žalec

Other alphabets

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.

In the film "The Return of the Living Dead" a soldier uses an humorous alternative version, saying "Archimedes, Hotdog, Rhubarb, Niner, Zero, Niner" for "AHR909".

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


  1. Each transmission of figures is preceded and followed by "as a number" spoken twice.
  2. This is simply the ordinary name of the letter.


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