United States Marine Corps History and Information

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Phonetic Alphabet

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NATO Phonetic Alphabet or Spelling Alphabet

A phonetic alphabet is a list of words used to identify letters in a message transmitted by radio or telephone. Spoken words from an approved list are substituted for letters. This practice helps to prevent confusion between similar sounding letters, such as “m” and “n”, and to clarify communications that may be garbled during transmission.

Though often called “phonetic alphabets”, spelling alphabets are not in fact phonetic in the sense that linguists use the term, and they do not have any association with phonetic transcription systems like the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The code words chosen to represent some letters have changed since the phonetic alphabet was introduced. When these changes occur, they are made by international agreement. The current phonetic alphabet was adopted in 1957.

Letter
1913
1927
1938
World War II
1957-Present
Signal Flag
A
Able
Affirmative
Affirm
Afirm (Able)
Alfa
B
Boy
Baker
Baker
Baker
Bravo
C
Cast
Cast
Cast
Charlie
Charlie
D
Dog
Dog
Dog
Dog
Delta
E
Easy
Easy
Easy
Easy
Echo
F
Fox
Fox
Fox
Fox
Foxtrot
G
George
George
George
George
Golf
H
Have
Hypo
Hypo
How
Hotel
I
Item
Interrogatory
Int
Int (Item)
India
J
Jig
Jig
Jig
Jig
Juliet
K
King
King
King
King
Kilo
L
Love
Love
Love
Love
Lima
M
Mike
Mike
Mike
Mike
Mike
N
Nan
Negative
Negat
Negat (Nan)
November
O
Oboe
Option
Option
Option (Oboe)
Oscar
P
Pup
Preparatory
Prep
Prep (Peter)
Papa
Q
Quack
Quack
Queen
Queen
Quebec
R
Rush
Roger
Roger
Roger
Romeo
S
Sail
Sail
Sail
Sugar
Sierra
T
Tare
Tare
Tare
Tare
Tango
U
Unit
Unit
Unit
Uncle
Uniform
V
Vice
Vice
Victor
Victor
Victor
W
Watch
William
William
William
Whiskey
X
X-ray
X-ray
X-ray
X-ray
X-ray
Y
Yoke
Yoke
Yoke
Yoke
Yankee
Z
Zed
Zed
Zed
Zebra
Zulu

This should help answer the questions:

What is the phonetic alphabet?
What is the spelling alphabet?
What is the purpose of the phonetic alphabet?

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