Military Alphabet and NATO Phonetic Alphabet: The Complete Guide

Alphabet militaire et alphabet phonétique de l'OTAN : Le Guide Complet - PhilTeam
military alphabet

Read this comprehensive guide to the Military Alphabet and the NATO Phonetic Alphabet for an easy-to-follow resource that includes definitions, examples, and the full military alphabet with every character and code, and more.

We also provide you with explanations for each code along with a helpful pronunciation guide and a simple method to memorize the entire military alphabet.

After going through this guide, you will be able to get your point across clearly to everyone. This is the same insider strategy used by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Royal Air Force, the International Telecommunication Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Australian Armed Forces, the American National Standards Institute, military veterans, infantry and government agencies around the world.

Military Alphabet and NATO Phonetic Alphabet Explained

The military alphabet and the NATO phonetic alphabet are the same alphabet. It is a system of letters and numbers used by the armed forces of the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and even by civilians to spell words and phrases or communicate in code. It is a phonetic alphabet which uses 26 code words.

These words are used to ensure that oral communication is understood. It is used in the military to avoid communication problems and to communicate in code.

Miscommunication can lead to loss of life and other tragic circumstances.

The military alphabet uses distinct words like Juliet (pronounced Jew lee ett k), Charlie (Char lee), and India (In dee ah), as well as code words like Tango Yankee, Tango Tang, Tango Mike, and many more. others, to encode and decode the messages.

These passwords are regularly used by government agencies, such as the US Army Infantry, US Navy, US Marines, US Airforce, and even other armies around the world.

To use the alphabet, spell the words correctly using these separate words while saying each syllable. For example, the word for the letter "U" is Uniform, pronounced: you nee form .

To communicate the word “up”, say: Uniform Dad. Say it" you nee form paa paa". The person you're talking to will understand that you're communicating the word "high" and will likely be looking above them.

This same phonetic alphabet is the same as the International Radiotelephone Spelling Alphabet and the Western Union Alphabet, which also consists of 26 code words.

To sum up : Every word like "Uniform" ( you nee form ) or "Yankees" ( yang touch ) represents a letter of the English alphabet. For example, "Alpha" means "A", "Bravo" means B, etc. Multiple code words are often combined to form words or phrases. For example, to say "dog", one would say "Delta-Oscar-Golf". None of the 26 code words are alike, so there is no doubt what is being communicated.

The complete military alphabet

The full military alphabet is revealed in the table below.

We designed this chart to be more than just a visual aid.

We added a search bar practice just above the military phonetic alphabet to help you memorize each word.

How to use the search bar function :

  1. Type any letter in the search bar.
  2. Guess the word that corresponds to it.
  3. Click search to check your answer.
  4. Keep practicing until you memorize every word.

It's a quick way to learn every military code word in the alphabet.

Letter code word Pronunciation
A Alpha AL fah
B Cheer BRAH voh
VS Charly char lee
D Delta tah LED
E Echo EKK oh
F Foxtrot FOKS trot
g Golf Golf
H Hotel HO say
I India FR dee ah
J Juliet jew lee ett
K Kilo KEY oh
I Lima LEE mah
M Mike Mike
NOT November NOH vem ber
O Oscar OSS car
P Dad pah pah
Q Quebec keh BECK
R Romeo ROW me oh
S Sierra see AIR ah
J Tango TANG go
you Uniform YOU need shape
V Victor VIK ter
O Whiskey WISS key
X X-ray EKS radius
Yes Yankee YANG-kee
Z Zulu ZOO toilet

Military alphabet code words

Now, after learning the meaning of each letter, take some more time to learn common military alphabet code words.

By learning these code words, you will be able to strike up interesting conversations with members of the military, military veterans, morse code experts, people working in a government agency and veterans affairs, and anyone else familiar with the military phonetic alphabet or who has an interest in the military.

Here are some code words used by the military that we have decoded for you:

11 Cheers - Army Infantry

40 mike mike - 40 mm grenade or M203 grenade launcher

Well done Zulu - Well done

Charlie Mike - Continue the mission

Echo Tango Sierra - Service term expiration (when someone is about to end their service period)

Lima Charlie - Loud and clear

mikes - Minutes

November Golf - Not good

Oscar-Mike - Moving

Tango Mike - Thank you so much

Yankee Tango - THANKS

Whiskey Charlie - WC

Whiskey Pete - White Phosphorus


BOHICA - Bend over, it's coming back. Vietnamese era slang that has endured.

Tips for learning the military alphabet:

Flashcards - Don't reinvent the wheel. Take 26 flashcards, write the letter on one side and the corresponding military alphabet term on the other. If you want to learn proverbs, military slang, or other terms, create cards for those phrases and their definitions as well. The flashcards don't take very long to make and will remain a useful reference for you as you learn.

write the alphabet - Try to write the military alphabet from memory. Do this at least once a day and try to get as many letters as possible. Do this until it becomes learned and second nature.

Ask a friend to test you - Some people are not visual learners. Ask a friend or family member to test your knowledge and help you keep track of the letters you have trouble remembering.

Record and listen to it - Make an audio recording on your phone or computer and listen to yourself repeating the military alphabet. After listening for a while, these terms will become embedded in your memory.

Think about the military alphabet while you normally read and write - Thinking about the military alphabet will help you feel more comfortable using it. Think about how to spell random everyday words the military way. It's a great way to increase your familiarity and use of the alphabet.

Read the alphabet before going to sleep - if you have trouble memorizing, try spending some time reading the alphabet before you go to bed. This is a proven method used by actors, lawyers, and musicians to learn information quickly.

Do it backwards, change the order, focus on problem words - You want to use the alphabet to become second nature. Therefore, be sure to use different orders, pairings, and multiple methods and techniques to master the alphabet.

During the first half of the 20th century, several different spelling alphabets came in and out of use. The most important of these were the CCIR alphabet used for telegraphs from 1927 and the "Able Baker" alphabet used by the US military during World War II.

After the World War, it was determined that this wartime alphabet included words and pronunciations unique to American English, which hampered communication between NATO allies. So, in 1957, NATO and the United States introduced a common system, now known as the NATO Military Alphabet, which is still in use to this day.

History of the International Radiotelephone Spelling Alphabet (IRSA)

The history of the international spelling alphabet in radiotelephony is fascinating. We have established a timeline to help understand how it evolved into the modern military alphabet. This is the same version used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the military.

World War I - World War II

The first versions of the military alphabet appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. Pilots with AM radio technology were able to coordinate with ground control, but poor signal and radio interference caused frequent errors. To solve this problem, flight associations started using code words to represent easily confused letters. This new terminology helped them communicate both more effectively and covertly.

During World War I, Britain's Royal Airforce introduced the first complete spelling alphabet, the RAF Radio Alphabet. Later, in 1927, the International Telegraph Union (ITU) developed a spelling alphabet for telegram communication. Over time, this system has grown in popularity. By the start of World War II, most commercial airlines around the world were using ITU code words.

The next major development took place in 1941, around the start of World War II. Around this time, the United States introduced a standard spelling language to all branches of the armed forces. The joint Army/Navy phonetic alphabet, also known as the "Able Baker Charlie" alphabet, can be heard in movies and television shows dating back to the 1950s. It even made its way into modern cinematic depictions of World War II, such as Saving Private Ryan.

1957 – Present

In 1957, the United States Armed Forces and NATO adopted a common alphabet known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA) or the NATO phonetic alphabet abbreviated. ICAO (International Civil Aviation Authority) developed this system after years of careful research and testing. Critically, ICAO has tested every code word in many common dialects. As a result, the IRSA has stood the test of time as an international standard.

The US government initially classified IRSA as confidential, but made it public soon after. The IRSA is still in use today and has only grown in popularity over time. Today, many have come to know this extraordinary code language simply as the “military alphabet”.

Many refer to the military alphabet as a phonetic alphabet. Technically, that's not correct.

Unlike the International Phonetic Alphabet, which indicates intonation, syllables, and other features of speech, the Military Alphabet does not actually indicate its own phonetics. The military alphabet is known as a "spelling alphabet", used to spell words and communicate clearly (eg row me oh and jew lee ett for R and J).

While phonetic alphabets use symbols to describe details and nuances of language, the military alphabet is used for oral communication. The military alphabet flattens language so everyone can communicate better.

If not used, regional accents, dialects, and unconventional voice patterns would cause communication problems. But no matter how you speak, "F Foxtrot", "E Echo", "B Bravo" and "G Golf" don't sound the same, one reason the communication code is useful.

Use in the armed forces and the International Civil Aviation Organization

Many English letters sound the same. It's easy to confuse "B" with "P" or "C" with "E". Incorrect spelling can result in a mislabeled package shipment or a misspelled dinner invitation. For a soldier, poor communication can spell disaster.

Armed forces radio operators use this alphabet to send codes or relay important messages. A spelling alphabet ensures clear communication even in the presence of heavy background noise or heavy radio interference.

Besides error-free spelling, the men and women of the service use the "Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta" alphabet as shorthand and slang. Popular expressions include:

Oscar-Mike (“moving”): a unit moves between the positions

Charlie Mike ("continue mission"): a mission will continue after an interruption

Tango-Delta ("target down"): the enemy has been eliminated

Lima Charlie (“loud and loud”): confirmation of instructions received

Discover more expressions, see our full list of military slang .

Military communication procedure

The military alphabet is the fundamental element of the army's codified communication procedure. This procedure regulates communication by radio and other communication platforms used by the military. This system assists soldiers by limiting the flow of information, emphasizing clarity, and instituting standards for orders, updates, and important information.

There are three guiding principles for military communication: precision, brevity and clarity. Whether you communicate by radio, in person or on any other platform, all tactical communication must meet these criteria. Keep tactical messages short and to the point, and limit communication to essentials. Keep messages under 30 seconds as a general rule. This way you will be easily understood, even under duress and chaos.

wireless communication

Radio communication is the most important means of communication for soldiers during operations and conflicts, and therefore has the most codified structure. This section gives you an overview of what you need to know about radio communication. Remember that whenever you spell words or codes on the alphabet, you will be using the military alphabet.

Call signs

Call signs are the first essential part of any radio message, identifying who each message is from. Call signs can be for individuals, squads, platoons, companies, or senior managers and leaders. These should be distinct from easily identifiable names or nicknames, as they are intended to mask the identity of enemies. Here is an example of how they are used:

"Hey [call sign], it's [call sign]...over."

The most famous cultural use of call signs occurs in film Top Gun. "Maverick", "Iceman" and "Viper" are all call signs you probably know from these iconic characters. In reality, however, you would like your call sign to be less tied to your personal identity.

The idea is that American soldiers can identify and communicate without revealing themselves too much, even if the messages are intercepted. Be sure to always use the call sign of the unit you are calling at the beginning of your message.

radio controls

Although quite simple, radio checks are important to ensure communication lines are intact. Radio checks are periodic checks that confirm that other call signs are indeed hearing your messages. Be sure to perform regular radio checks, especially before and after operations.


Below is a list of important procedural words, known as "Prowords", which play an important role in radio communication. You will need to know what this means and how they replace and abbreviate longer messages. Important Note: Avoid using the word repeat. Transmissions are often interrupted or interrupted, so it becomes unclear whether you are repeating a transmission or requesting a transmission to be repeated.

Note: Roger/Negative/Break/Over

Typically, radio messages will feature at least one of these prowords. These four elements are particularly important because they determine the nature of the message. roger And Negative establish agreement or disagreement at the beginning of a message. Likewise, Break and Over will determine whether a particular transmission is a complete message or not.

Use outside the military

According to the International Telecommunications Union, the “military alphabet” is not reserved for the armed forces. As we explain later in the History section of this page, this alphabet was actually developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a set of terms that would be mutually understandable within the international community. . The Able Baker alphabet, like Morse code, was designed to minimize miscommunication and is used in non-military settings where codes and clarity are essential.

Uses and Notes of the Military Aircraft Communication Alphabet

Flight coordinates and passenger names are communicated using the military alphabet.

Pilots rely on Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), which provides a continuous broadcast of weather, runway logistics and other vital information. Updates are assigned different letters of the military alphabet so pilots know how up-to-date its updates are. ATIS also features many military letters and numbers to communicate logistics data.

The military alphabet is used to compose Squawk codes, officially known as aircraft transponder codes, which are used to distinguish between flights and aircraft by air traffic control.

Airmen often use many of the same proverbs and slang terms as the military and conduct radio communications using similar standards. For example, Roger/Negative/Over/Break are just as fundamental to airborne communication as military radio communication.

Some airlines replace Delta (code for "d") with another word. This is to avoid confusion with Delta Airlines. This is sometimes known as aviation alphabet .

Financial industry uses and notes

Banks use the military phonetic alphabet to communicate security codes and verify customer information.

Banks, merchants and financial institutions use the military alphabet when negotiating or ordering large transactions.

Final Thoughts on the Military Phonetic Alphabet

This Complete Guide to the Military Alphabet and the NATO Phonetic Alphabet has given you everything you need to know to learn and use the Military Phonetic Alphabet. You have learned the code words used in the United States and the Royal Air Force. You have learned the words that correspond to each of the 26 letters of the military phonetic alphabet to communicate more clearly. And, you learned the history of the military alphabet from its earliest Able Baker Alphabet roots.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following frequently asked questions are some of the questions we are asked most often. We have compiled a list of these questions to make learning the military phonetic alphabet easier.

What is the military alphabet from A to Z?

A is for Alpha, B is for Bravo, C is for Charlie, D is for Delta, E is for Echo, F is for Foxtrot, G is for Golf, H is for Hotel, I is for India, J is for Juliet, K is for Kilo, L is for Lima, M is for Mike, N is for November, O is for Oscar, P is for Dad, Q is for Quebec, R is for Romeo, S is for Sierra, T is for Tango, U is for Uniform, V is for Victor, W is for Whiskey, X is for X-ray, Y is for Yankee, and Z is for Zulu. Memorize these words for error-free spelling.

What is the Echo Tango Sierra mission?

Mission Echo Tango Sierra means Tour of Service expiration ; a phrase used when a service member is on his last tour of duty and about to retire from the military and begin receiving his veterans benefits. These are the only four words you need to say, because only four words are enough for another soldier to realize the veterans benefits, i.e. the benefits of the GI Bill, that await them when they leave.

What is Oscar Tango Mike?

When communicating the code, Oscar Tango Mike is the military code for "On the move".

Do people create their own versions of the military alphabet?

Yes. According to the aviation organization ICAO, some people create their own versions of the military alphabet. The Association of Anesthesiologists advocates changing the NATO phonetic alphabet for medical telecommunications when necessary.

Does learning the military alphabet constitute DOD approval?

No. According to the International Telecommunications Union, learning the military alphabet does not constitute DOD endorsement.


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