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NATO phonetic alphabet

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Definition:

A spelling alphabet used by airline pilots, police, the military, and other officials when communicating over radio or telephone. The purpose of the phonetic alphabet is to ensure that letters are clearly understood.

Origin:

More formally known as the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet, the NATO phonetic alphabet was developed in the 1950s as part of the International Code of Signals (INTERCO), which originally included visual and sound signals.

Examples and Observations:

  • Here are the phonetic letters in the NATO alphabet:
    Alfa (or 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
  • "The phonetic alphabet has been around for a long time, but has not always been the same. Back in the days of World War II, the phonetic alphabet began with the letters 'Able, Baker, Charlie,' K was 'King,' and S was 'Sugar.' After the war, when the NATO alliance was formed, the phonetic alphabet was changed to make it easier for the people who speak the different languages found in the alliance. That version has remained the same, and today the phonetic alphabet begins with 'Alfa, Bravo, Charlie,' K is now 'Kilo,' and S is 'Sierra.'"
    (Thomas J. Cutler, The Bluejackets' Manual. Naval Institute Press, 2002)
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