What is the Phonetic Alphabet?

Precise communication is vital in a wide range of situations and circumstances. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to be precise when you must use letters to communicate over radio and telephone. That is why the phonetic alphabet was created. It allows users to identify precise letters when communicating so that interested parties understand the exact letters being transmitted.

If you plan to use two-way radios for business, it is wise to master the phonetic alphabet. The international phonetic alphabet, and most common use, is the NATO alphabet. The letter substitutions are largely location names. The original NATO phonetic alphabet included:

  • Amsterdam
  • Baltimore
  • Casablanca
  • Denmark
  • Edison
  • Florida
  • Gallipoli
  • Havana
  • Italia
  • Jerusalem
  • Kilogram
  • Liverpool
  • Madagascar
  • New York
  • Oslo
  • Paris
  • Quebec
  • Roma
  • Santiago
  • Tripoli
  • Uppsala
  • Valencia
  • Washington
  • Xanthippe
  • Yokohama
  • Zurich

However, in 1956, NATO adopted a new alphabet designed to account for speakers of other languages, including English, French, and Spanish. This phonetic alphabet will sound more familiar to readers:

  • Alpha
  • Bravo
  • Charlie
  • Delta
  • Echo
  • Foxtrot
  • Golf
  • Hotel
  • India
  • Juliet
  • Kilo
  • Lima
  • Mike
  • November
  • Oscar
  • Papa
  • Quebec
  • Romeo
  • Sierra
  • Tango
  • Uniform
  • Victor
  • Whiskey
  • X-ray
  • Yankee
  • Zulu

It is worth nothing that military, security, and law enforcement operators use different phonetic alphabet systems in their communications.

Push to talk two-way radios are excellent tools for paving the way toward clearer communication for your organization. Once you master the phonetic alphabet you can make even greater strides and improve your communication efforts even more.


Phonetic codes aren’t the only codes used when communicating via radio, though. Other codes include the 10-codes. The problem with 10 codes is that they have a long history of inconsistency. With that in mind, there are some that continue to endure. They are widely understood and utilized, even today. These are a few prime examples:

  • 10-1, indicating poor reception.
  • 10-4, affirmative response.
  • 10-9, requesting the user to repeat the message.
  • 10-36, asking for the current time.
  • 10-69, indicating that the message was received.
  • 10-77, indicating an estimated time of arrival (ETA).

The codes themselves and words used to represent letters and messages may change over the years. One thing that has remained fairly consistent is that people who talk over radios very often do, invariably, begin using the lingo on and off their radios, so it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with the latest communications protocols so messages and signals don’t get lost or mixed in the process.

Peak PTT is happy to help with all your push to talk two-way radio and communication needs. Contact us today with questions, concerns, and requests for information about our exciting push to talk two-way radio offerings.  855-600-6161

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