The military alphabet or military phonetic alphabet dates back tp 1927. Terms such as alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, and foxtrot are part of a unique phonetic system used to ensure accurate communication. The characters and pronunciations we use today were created by the International Civil Aviation Organization in the 1950s to streamline communication so that transmissions came across as clearly and as efficiently as possible. It has since been adopted worldwide by military, aviation, maritime, and emergency organizations. Since even a small miscommunication can mean disaster, these groups rely upon the highly accurate system.
The Military Phonetic Alphabet Goes By Many Names
This military alphabet is known to different groups by different names. For that reason, it can be known as the Marine alphabet, Navy alphabet, Army alphabet, NATO phonetic alphabet, and international radiotelephony spelling alphabet, among others.
The military alphabet offers a designated word for each letter in the English language alphabet. The words that are used such as Tango and Foxtrot were specifically chosen based on their distinct pronunciation and their low risk of being confused with a similar word. The system as we know it was tested by the International Civil Aviation Association by observing thousands of transmissions from 31 different languages before confirming the alphabet we now use today.
Military Alphabet Chart
The chart below shows each character of the alphabet next to the code word alongside its pronunciation and morse code.
|Al · fah
|Brah · voh
|Char · lee
|Eck · oh
|Foks · trot
|Hoh · tell
|In · dee · ah
|Jew · lee · ett
|Key · loh
|Lee · mah
|No · vem · ber
|Oss · ker
|Pah · pah
|Kweh · beck
|Row · me · oh
|See air rah
|Tang · go
|You · nee · form
|Vik · tore
|Wiss · key
|Ecks · ray
|Yang · key
|Zoo · loo
Military Slang & Military Alphabet Code Words
There are a variety of distinctive situations and concepts in military service that non-military personnel are not familiar with. Due to the necessity for quick and clear communication, the military use a vocabulary that is completely separate from the language of everyday life in the civilian world. Some terms are self-explanatory while others are obscure, but they all (generally) have a meaningful significance. In some cases, these slang phrases or terms are composed of elements of a version of the military alphabet. For example, the term “Charlie Foxtrot” is often used to describe a chaotic and completely disorganized, and poorly handled situation.
Committing the code words below to memory will enable you to start interesting conversations with people from the armed forces, ex-servicemen, morse code practitioners, those in a state department and veterans affairs, and others who know the military alphabet or have an interest in the military.
|Chaotic and Unorganized
|Echo Tango Sierra
|Expiration Term of Service
(Date Tour of Duty Complete)
|Loud and Clear
|On The Move
|Water Closet (Bathroom)
Military Communication Procedure Words (Prowords)
Radio contact is the most critical means of communication for troops during military operations and procedures. As you would expect, this means communication has a highly organized format. This section will give you an idea of what is needed to be aware of in terms of radio communication. Please remember that when spelling out words or codes, the military alphabet must be used.
The military alphabet can be confused with prowords for the unfamiliar. The armed forces utilize distinct terminology and specific phrases, otherwise known as procedure words, to transmit messages to other members of the military. Many of the prowords below may be familiar to civilians from movies and television.
|The portion of the message to which I have reference is all that which follows
|The portion of the message to which I have reference is all that which proceeds
|I hereby indicate the separation of the text from other portions of the message
|You are correct or what you have transmitted is correct
|An error has been made in this transmission.
|DISREGARD THIS TRANSMISSION
|This transmission is in error. Disregard it.
|DO NOT ANSWER
|Stations called are not to answer this call, receipt for this message, or otherwise to transmit in connection with this transmission.
|Numerals or numbers follow
|The originator of this message is indicated by address designation immediately following
|This message contains the number of groups indicated.
|I READ BACK
|The following is my response to your instructions to read back
|I SAY AGAIN
|I am repeating transmission or portion indicated
|I spell the next word phonetically
|That which follows has been verified at your request and is repeated. (To be used as a reply to verify.)
|The addressees immediately following are addressed for information
|A message which requires recording is about to follow (Transmitted immediately after the call. )
|Please limit your transmissions to essential traffic.
|Minimize is lifted.
|MORE TO FOLLOW
|More information to follow.
|This is the end of my transmission to you and no answer is required or expected.
|This is the end of my transmission to you and a response is necessary. Go ahead; transmit
|Repeat this entire transmission back to me exactly as received.
|Transmit this message to all addresses (or addresses immediately following this proword).
|I have received your last transmission satisfactorily.
|Message is routine and normal.
|Repeat all of your last transmission.
|The message that follows is a service message.
|Your transmission is at too fast a speed. Reduce speed of transmission
|This transmission is from the station whose designator immediately follows
|That which immediately follows is the time or date/time group of the message
|The addressee(s) immediately following is (are) addressed for action
|The identity of the station with whom I am attempting to establish communication is unknown.
|Verify entire message (or portion indicated) with the originator and send correct version.
|I must pause for a few seconds.
|I must pause for more than a few seconds.
|I have received your signal, understand it, and will comply.
|The word of the message to which I have reference is that which follows.
|The word of the message to which I have reference is that which precedes.
|Communication is difficult. Transmit each phrase twice.
History of the Military and Use of the Phonetic Alphabet
The history of the military alphabet, which dates back to 1927, came into existence to make communication more accurate and faster. Throughout the years, militaries have developed and evolved in order to meet the changing needs of their respective countries. From the early days of small bands of warriors to massive armies with advanced weapons, the development of warfare, and in turn communication, has been used by the military throughout human history. Communication is perhaps one of the most critical components of military operations both big or small. The military plays an important role in protecting a nation’s interests both at home and abroad and has become an essential part of many governments around the world.
Before World War I and the growth of two-way radio technology that enabled vocal communication, telephone spelling alphabets were designed to enhance transmission on poor-quality and long-distance telephone lines.
The original, non-military form of a worldwide accepted spelling alphabet was debuted in 1927 by the International Telecommunications Union. This framework was used for most civil aviation until World War II broke out. A patchwork of versions was in use during World War II as countries began using their own version of the phonetic alphabet. Throughout the war, the U.S. military worked diligently researching various spelling alphabets. Harvard University’s Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory was relied on to find the best combination of words to suit clear communication considering the high level of noise present in warfare.
This framework would be put to use and see many revisions and iterations over the years and it was in 1956 that the spelling alphabet we use today came to be after being accepted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which is part of the United Nations.