Morse code abbreviations
Morse code abbreviations are used to speed up Morse communications by foreshortening textual words and phrases. Morse abbreviations are short forms representing normal textual words and phrases formed from some (fewer) characters borrowed from the words or phrases being abbreviated.[a]
From 1845 until well into the second half of the 20th century, commercial telegraphic code books were used to shorten telegrams, e.g. PASCOELA = "Locals have plundered everything from the wreck." However, these cyphers are distinct from abbreviations.
Word and phrase abbreviations
The following Table of Morse code abbreviations and further references to Brevity codes such as 92 Code, Q code, Z code and R-S-T system serve to facilitate fast and efficient Morse code communications.
|Abbreviation||Meaning||Defined in||Type of abbreviation|
|AA||All after (used after question mark to request a repetition)||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|AB||All before (similarly)||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|ADRS||Address||ITU-T Rec. F.1||operating signal|
|ADS||Address||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|AR||End of transmission.||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|BK||Break (to pause transmission of a message, say)||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|BN||All between||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|C||Yes; correct||operating signal|
|CFM||Confirm||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|CL||Closing (I am closing my station)||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|CQ||Calling ... (calling all stations, any station)||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|CQD||All stations distress (used preceding SOS to let all operators know of an impending distress signal)||operating signal|
|CS||Call sign (used to request a call sign)||ITU-R M.1172|
|DE||From (or "this is")||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|DX||Distance (sometimes refers to long distance contact), foreign countries|
|II||I say again|
|K||Invitation to transmit||ITU-R M.1172, ITU-R M.1677-1||operating signal|
|KN||Over to you; only the station named should respond (e.g. W7PTH DE W1AW KN)||ITU-R M.1677-1||operating signal|
|LID||Poor operator||Wire telegraph slang, same as PLUG|
|MSG||Prefix indicating a message to or from the master of a ship concerning its operation or navigation||ITU-R M.1172|
|NIL||I have nothing to send you||ITU-R M.1172|
|NR||Number follows||operating signal|
|OK||Okay||ITU-R M.1172, ITU-T Rec. F.1||operating signal|
|PLS||Please||ITU-T Rec. F.1|
|PPR||Paper||ITU-T Rec. F.1|
|R||Received as transmitted (origin of "Roger")||ITU-T Rec. F.1||operating signal|
|RPT||Report / Repeat please / I repeat as follows||ITU-R M.1172, ITU-T Rec. F.1|
|RST||Signal report format (Readability-Signal Strength-Tone)||operating signal|
|SFR||So far (proword)|
|SIG||Signature||ITU-T Rec. F.1|
|SK||Out (prosign), end of contact||operating signal|
|SK||Silent Key (a deceased radio amateur)||Amateur radio slang|
|SVP||Please (French: "S'il vous plaît")||ITU-T Rec. F.1|
|W||Word / Words||ITU-T Rec. F.1|
|WA||Word after||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|WB||Word before||ITU-R M.1172||operating signal|
|WD||Word / Words||ITU-R M.1172|
|WX||Weather / Weather report follows||ITU-R M.1172|
|Z||Zulu time i.e. UTC||operating signal|
|73||Best regards||92 Code|
|88||Love and kisses||92 Code|
An amateur radio Morse code conversation example
To make Morse code communications faster and more efficient, there are many internationally agreed patterns or conventions of communication which include: extensive use of abbreviations, use of brevity codes such as 92 Code, RST code, Q code, Z code as well as the use of Morse prosigns. The skills required to have efficient fast conversations with Morse comprise more than simply knowing the Morse code symbols for the alphabet and numerals. Skilled telegraphists must also know many traditional International Morse code communications conventions.
In the following example of a typical casual Morse code conversation between two stations there is extensive use of such: Morse code abbreviations, brevity codes, Morse procedural signs, and other such conventions.
An example casual Morse code (CW) conversation between Station S1 and Station S2 is illustrated in the following paragraphs. Here the actual Morse code information stream sent by each station (S1 and S2) is shown in bold face type, in a grey box, and is followed below each bold face transmission by an interpretation of the message sent, together with short explanations of the codes. These translations and explanations are shown below each station's indicated transmission data stream.
- S1 transmits Morse message: CQ CQ CQ DE S1 K
Calling anyone (CQ CQ CQ) from (DE) station S1. Over to anyone (K).
- S2 transmits Morse message: S1 DE S2 KN
To station S1 from station S2. Over to you only.
- (KN = "–·– –·" is the unofficial prosign for inviting a reply only from the station named in the message; it is the same as the code for open parentheses [(] punctuation symbol.)
- S1 transmits Morse message: S2 DE S1 = GA DR OM UR RST 5NN HR = QTH TIMBUKTU = OP IS JOHN = HW? S2 DE S1 KN
To station S2 from station S1.
Good afternoon dear old man. You are RST 599 here
- (Note: RST is the Readability, Strength, and Tone report code; the Ns are abbreviations for the number 9. RST 5NN reports the signal is very readable (5) and very strong, with very good tone.
I'm located (QTH) in Timbuktu.
The station operator's (OP) name is John.
How do you copy? (HW?)
To station S2 from station S1: Over to you only.
- (Note that the equal signs [=] in the code should be interpreted here as the new section prosign which is also the symbol for a double hyphen [=]. See discussion in subsection below.)
- S2 transmits Morse message: S1 DE S2 = TNX FB RPRT DR OM JOHN UR 559 = QTH HIMALAYA = NM IS ANDY S1 DE S2 KN
To station S1 from station S2.
Thanks for the good report dear old man John. I read you 559
- (FB or Fine Business means "good".)
- (very readable (5), average strength (5), very good tone (9).)
I am in (QTH) the Himalayas.
My name (NM) is Andy.
To station S1 from station S2: Over to you only.
- S1 transmits Morse message: S2 DE S1 = OK TNX QSO DR ANDY = 73 ES HPE CUAGN S2 DE S1 KN
To station S2 from station S1.
Okay, thanks for this conversation (QSO), dear Andy.
Best regards (73) and (ES) hope (HPE) to see you again (CUAGN)
To station S2 from station S1: Over to you only.
- S2 sends Morse message: S1 DE S2 = R TU CUAGN 73 S1 DE S2 SK
To station S1 from station S2.
Thank you (TU) see you again (CUAGN) Best regards (73)
To station S1 from station S2: Signing off.
- (SK = "···–·–" = end of work prosign = "no more messages")
In International Morse code there is no distinct dot-dash sequence defined only for the mathematical equal sign [=]; rather the same code (–···– or dah di di di dah) is shared by double hyphen [=] and the procedural sign for section separator notated as BT. It is fairly common in the Recommended International Morse Code for punctuation codes to be shared with prosigns. For example, the code for plus or cross [+] is the same as the prosign for end of telegram, and the widely used but non-ITU "Over to you only" prosign KN is the official code for open parenthesis [(] or left bracket.
The listener is required to distinguish the meaning by context. In the example casual conversation between two station operators, above, the Morse transmissions in the grey boxes show the equal sign [=] in the same way that a simple electronic automatic Morse code reader with a one- or two-line display does: It can't distinguish context so it always displays the math symbol. It would also display an open parentheses [(] for the over to you only prosign.
The use of the end of section prosign BT in casual exchanges essentially indicates a new paragraph in the text or a new sentence, and is a little more convenient to send than a full stop [.] required for telegrams.
Normally an operator copying Morse code by hand or typewriter would decide whether the equal sign [=] or the "new section" prosign BT was meant and start new paragraph in the recorded text upon reception of the code. This new paragraph copying convention is illustrated in the following example conversation. When decoding in one's head, instead of writing text on paper or into a computer file, the receiving operator copying mentally will interpret the BT prosign for either a mental pause, or to jot down for later reference a short word or phrase from the information being sent.
Informal language-independent conversations
Rag chewer is a name applied to amateur radio Morse code operators who engage in informal Morse code conversations (known as chewing the rag) while discussing subjects such as: the weather, their location, signal quality, and their equipment. Meaningful rag chewing between fluent Morse code operators having different native languages is possible because of a common language provided by the prosigns for Morse code, the International Q code, Z code, RST code, the telegraph era Phillips Code and many well known Morse code abbreviations as discussed in this article. Together all of these traditional conventions serve as a somewhat cryptic but commonly understood language (Lingua Franca) within the worldwide community of amateur radio Morse code operators.
These codes and protocols efficiently encode many well known statements and questions from many languages into short simple character groups which may be sent manually very quickly. The international Q code for instance encodes literally hundreds of full normal language sentences and questions in short three character codes each beginning with the character Q. For example, the code word QTH means My location is. If this code word is followed by a question mark as QTH? it means What is your location?. Typically very few full words will be spelled out in Morse code conversations. Often vowels are left out to shorten transmissions and turn overs. Other examples, of internationally recognized usages of Morse code abbreviations and well known code numbers, such as those of the Phillips Code from past eras of telegraph technology, are usages such as WX for weather, or the numbers 73 for best regards and 88 for love and kisses.
These techniques are similar to, and often faster than, texting on modern cellphones. Using this extensive Lingua Franca that is widely understood across many languages and cultures, surprisingly meaningful Morse code conversations can be efficiently conducted with short transmissions independently of native languages, even between operators who cannot actually communicate by voice because of language barriers!
With heavy use of the Q code and Morse Code Abbreviations, surprisingly meaningful conversations can readily occur. Note that in the preceding example conversation very few full English words have been used. In fact, in the above example S1 and S2 might not speak the same native language.
Of course, real rag-chewing (lengthy conversations) could not be accomplished by non-native speakers without such a common language.
Contesters often use a very specialized and even shorter format for their contacts. Their purpose is to process as many contacts as possible in a limited time (e.g. 100–150 contacts per hour).
- Morse code abbreviations are not the same as prosigns. Morse abbreviations are composed of (normal) textual alpha-numeric character symbols with normal Morse code inter-character spacing; the character symbols in abbreviations, unlike the delineated character groups representing Morse code prosigns, are not "run together" or concatenated in the way most prosigns are formed.
- Reeds, James A. (Jim) (ed.). "Commercial Telegraphic Code Books". Archived from the original on 31 December 2008.
- "M.1172: Miscellaneous abbreviations and signals to be used for radiocommunications in the maritime mobile service". www.itu.int. Retrieved 2019-02-14.
- "ITU-T Recommendation F.1: Telegraph service - Operating methods for the international public telegram service". Mar 1998.
- International Telecommunication Union. (2009-10). International Morse code ITU-R M.1677-1. Geneva, Switzerland: ITU.