How many times have you used the terms "MAYDAY", "ROGER"…… Did you ever bother to find out wht these words mean?

This idea just stuck my mind while i was having a chat with shafraz today.

According to AC6V


Incidentally according to the “Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins” by William and Mary Morris(Harper Collins, New York, 1977, 1988). ROGER — "in the meaning of 'Yes, O.K., I understand you — is voice code for the letter R. It is part of the 'Able, Baker, Charlie' code known and used by all radiophone operators in the services in the 40's – 50's.

From the earliest days of wireless communication, the Morse code letter R (dit-dah-dit) has been used to indicate 'O.K. — understood.' So 'Roger' was the logical voice-phone equivalent." Also from “I Hear America Talking” by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).“Roger! A code word used by pilots to mean ‘your message received and understood’ in response to radio communications; later it came into general use to mean ‘all right, OK.’ Roger was the radio communications morse code word for the letter R, which in this case represented the word ‘received.’ ‘Roger Wilco’ was the reply to ‘Roger’ from the original transmitter of the radio message, meaning ‘I have received your message that you have received my message and am signing off.” Wilco implies "I will comply"………..


Opinions From The Internet

Why do ships and aircraft in trouble use "mayday" as their call for help? This comes from the French word m'aidez – meaning "help me" – and is pronounced "mayday." (Note: not exactly…. it's pronounced "med-ay", but close enough)


Jim, N2EY writes on a news group

In 1859, Western Union standardized on the "92 code" in which the numbers from 1 to 92 were assigned meanings. It was in this list that 73 got its present meaning. Later more numbers were added. Here's a partial list:

1 Wait a moment
2 Important Business
3 What time is it?
4 Where shall I go ahead?
5 Have you business for me?
6 I am ready
7 Are you ready?
8 Close your key; circuit is busy
9 Close your key for priority business (Wire chief, dispatcher, etc)
10 Keep this circuit closed
12 Do you understand?
13 I understand
14 What is the weather?
15 For you and other to copy
17 Lightning here
18 What is the trouble?
19 Form 19 train order
21 Stop for a meal
22 Wire test
23 All copy
24 Repeat this back
25 Busy on another wire
26 Put on ground wire
27 Priority, very important
28 Do you get my writing?
29 Private, deliver in sealed envelope
30 No more (end)
31 Form 31 train order
32 I understand that I am to …
33 Car report (Also, answer is paid for)
34 Message for all officers
35 You may use my signal to answer this
37 Diversion (Also, inform all interested)
39 Important, with priority on thru wire (Also, sleep-car report)
44 Answer promptly by wire
73 Best regards
88 Love and kisses
91 Superintendent's signal
92 Deliver promptly
93 Vice President and General Manager's signals
95 President's signal
134 Who is at the key?

Editor Note; Had an input for 99 = Get Lost (probably unofficial)

"19" and "31" refer to train orders of two different types (absolute and permissive). They were so well known that the terms "19 order" and "31 order" were still in railroad use in the 1970s, after the telegraph was gone from railroad operations.

The Morse code used in US wire telegraphy was the "American" Morse code, which shares some codes with the "Continental" code we still use today. (The continent referred to in the name is Europe, and it became the standard code for radio work early in the 20th century).

The abbreviation "es" for "and" derives from the American Morse character "&" which was
dit dididit. The prosign "SK" with the letters run together derives from the American Morse "30", which was didididahdit daaaaaaaah (extra long dah is zero in that code).

There are some urban legends about Winchester rifles and such, but they do not stand up to historical fact.

73 de Jim, N2EY


10 thoughts on “HAM – CODES

  1. […] Me and my buddy Ravith used to chat in HAM Codes, and suddently in a middle of a project he asked me whether i know what "Roger That", and Mayday means.. i know he gets freaky questions in mind but it leads to more interesting topic which takes us back to 150 years.. he has it all covered in his blog post, its pretty nifty, but useful for short messages, Click here for the post […]

    1. SK – Silent Key meaning that the station is signed off or unmanned. It is also used to salute deceased operators (permanently silent keys)
      Jim thanks for the handy listing!

  2. First i have to tell that I’m not at all a user of HAM codes. I got all this information through google.

    “The prosign “SK” with the letters run together derives from the American Morse “30”, which was didididahdit daaaaaaaah (extra long dah is zero in that code).”

    this is what google gives for prosign
    prosign ->Procedure signal used on CW. Often used prosigns on CW include signs for end of message, end of transmission, break, from, go ahead designated station only, and invitation to transmit (go ahead anybody).

    This was another meaning i found for SK

    Our familiar prosign SK also had its origin in landline Morse. In the Western Union company’s “92 code” used even before the American Civil War, the number 30 meant “the end. No more.” It also meant “good night.” It so happens that in Landline Morse, 30 is sent didididahdit daaah, the zero being a long dash. Run the 30 together and it has the same sound as SK.

    More info @


  3. ORIGIN OF 10-4: this phrase originated on the TV show “Highway patrol” (1955-59)(starring Broderick Crawford as Chief Dan Matthews. The official fan site is here http://www.highwaypatroltv.com/. According to an interview with Crawford a few years before his death in 1988, he stated that the original dialogue in Highway Patrol often occurred via radio between a patrolman in a patrol car and Highway Patrol headquarters. The show had no way of indicating that either side understood the other’s transmission. So the actors started saying “10-4” at the end of each radio transmission because it sounded official. Within months the jargon caught on with many real highway patrols throughout the United States, the apparent belief being that each state highway patrol saw the 10-4 language on the TV show and decided that’s the way every other state’s highway patrol communicated and they want to sound official too. Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a good story.

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