Introduction To The International Morse Code

This article introduces the International Morse Code as used by radio amateurs. The formal document that describes the International Morse Code for use in radio telecommunication is ITU Recommendation ITU-R M.1677-1 (10/2009). While there are extensions to handle languages other than English, we will be concerned with the English language only in this article.

The International Morse Code is an aural language. It is important to keep this in mind, especially when trying to learn the code. Don’t try to memorize dots and dashes. That is guaranteed to slow you down. Instead, say the dits and dahs out loud. Better yet, listen to well formed code being sent. The object of learning the code is to visualize a particular character when you hear a particular sound sequence.

It is also important to realize that the code is made up of two sounds, dits and dahs. it is also made up of the absence of sound, that is, the spaces between dits and dahs. If you ignore the spacing between dits and dahs, you get a very run-on sounding code that is difficult to comprehend. Unfortunately, this is all too common on the air.

The length of the dit and dah sounds and the various spacings are all based on the length of the dit. If the dit sound has a length of one, then the dah will have a length of three dits. Again, with the dit as length of one, the spacing between the dits and dahs within the same character is the same length of one. The space between characters in the same word/group is the length of three dits. The space between words or groups is seven dits.

The ITU Recommendation specifies letters, figures, punctuation, and special signals. This article shows only the first three items. The special signals will be explained in a separate article. There is more information about the sending and receiving of the code contained in the ITU Recommendation. You can find your own copy of the recommendation at .

   The International Morse Code

Char        Pronunciation

A           di-dah
B           dah-di-di-dit
C           dah-di-dah-dit
D           dah-di-dit
E           dit
F           di-di-dah-dit
G           dah-dah-dit
H           di-di-di-dit
I           di-dit
J           di-dah-dah-dah
K           dah-di-dah
L           di-dah-di-dit
M           dah-dah
N           dah-dit
O           dah-dah-dah
P           di-dah-dah-dit
Q           dah-dah-di-dah
R           di-dah-dit
S           di-di-dit
T           dah
U           di-di-dah
V           di-di-di-dah
W           di-dah-dah
X           dah-di-di-dah
Y           dah-di-dah-dah
Z           dah-dah-di-dit

1           di-dah-dah-dah-dah
2           di-di-dah-dah-dah
3           di-di-di-dah-dah
4           di-di-di-di-dah
5           di-di-di-di-dit
6           dah-di-di-di-dit
7           dah-dah-di-di-dit
8           dah-dah-dah-di-dit
9           dah-dah-dah-dah-dit
0           dah-dah-dah-dah-dah

.           di-dah-di-dah-di-dah       (period)
,           dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah      (comma)
:           dah-dah-dah-di-di-dit      (colon)
?           di-di-dah-dah-di-dit       (question mark)
'           di-dah-dah-dah-dah-dit     (apostrophe)
-           dah-di-di-di-di-dah        (hyphen)
/           dah-di-di-dah-dit          (slant bar)
(           dah-di-dah-dah-dit         (open paren)
)           dah-di-dah-dah-di-dah      (close paren)
"           di-dah-di-di-dah-dit       (quote)
=           dah-di-di-di-dah           (equal sign)
;           dah-di-dah-di-dah-dit      (semicolon)
!           dah-di-dah-di-dah-dah      (exclamation)
+           di-dah-di-dah-dit          (plus sign)
@           di-dah-dah-di-dah-dit      (at sign)


International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet

Sometimes it is difficult to get a message across the circuit correctly and you need to resort to spelling the words of the message. This is where the ‘International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet’ comes in. This alphabet was originally used by the International Civil Aeronautical Organization (ICAO) and called the ICAO Phonetic Alphabet. It used standard words and pronunciations of those words to allow airplane pilots and air traffic control operators from around the world to understand each other. The alphabet has since been adopted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) where it is called the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) as well as several other international organizations.

The alphabet covers the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet and the numbers from one to zero. Most of the letters and numbers are pronounced as in common English usage, however, some are distinctly different. It is important to pronounce all of the letters and numbers in the specified manner in order to insure maximum understanding.  The syllables in boldface type are emphasized in the pronunciation of the code word.

Letter         Code Word               Pronunciation

A                  Alfa                          AL-FAH

B                   Bravo                       BRAH-VOH

C                   Charlie                     CHAR-LEE

D                  Delta                         DELL-TAH

E                   Echo                         ECK-OH

F                   Foxtrot                     FOKS-TROT

G                   Golf                          GOLF

H                  Hotel                         HOH-TELL

I                    India                          IN-DEE-AH

J                    Juliett                        JEW-LEE-ETT

K                   Kilo                           KEY-LOH

L                    Lima                          LEE-MAH

M                   Mike                         MIKE

N                    November               NO-VEM-BER

O                    Oscar                        OS-CAH

P                     Papa                          PAH-PAH

Q                    Quebec                     KEH-BECK

R                    Romeo                       ROW-ME-OH

S                    Sierra                          SEE-AIR-RAH

T                   Tango                          TANG-GO

U                   Uniform                       YOU-NEE-FORM

V                   Victor                           VIK-TAH

W                 Whiskey                      WISS-KEY

X                  Xray                              ECKS-RAY

Y                   Yankee                         YANG-KEY

Z                   Zulu                              ZOO-LOO

1                    one                                WUN

2                    two                                TOO

3                    three                              TREE

4                    four                                 FOW-ER

5                    five                                  FIFE

6                    six                                    SIX

7                    seven                              SEV-EN

8                    eight                               AIT

9                    nine                                NINE-ER

0                    zero                                ZEE-RO



Hi. I’m Steve, WB8YLO. I’m an Extra Class amateur radio licensee.I am interested in communications. I am interested in radio communication in particular. I have a quite modest station so I’m not a top DXer, Super contester, or anything else that requires large amplifiers, huge antenna arrays, and the like.

My interests in radio communication are many and varied and are subject to change at any time. I consider this a big plus for amateur radio. There is always something new and interesting to do. There is always something to learn.

I do enjoy working the occasional contest. I generally prefer CW (Morse code) over voice and digital modes. My current big interest is in passing traffic via the National Traffic System. I am quite active in the Ohio Slow Speed CW Training Net where I am the net control station on Tuesdays. I also frequently check in to my local ARES traffic net and act as liaison to the Ohio Section CW net, the Buckeye Net. I occasionally do check in to the Ohio Single Sideband Net,  a state-wide voice net.

My intent is to post a lot of training and reference material on the blog. There is a ton of information out in net-land and elsewhere and sometimes it is difficult to find. I intend to gather a lot of useful information here and make it easy to find. I am also interested in training. I will be publishing a lot of training material here, also.

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