The military alphabet is a list of code words that are assigned to each letter of the English alphabet. This is called a phonetic or spelling alphabet.
Using these code words instead of letters makes it easier to understand combinations of letters over the phone or radio.
For example, there are many letters in the English language that sound similar when pronounced over the phone. These include B, D, E, P and T. The letters M and N are also easily confused over the phone.
To ensure that your communication is clear, you can use the military alphabet to get your point across clearly.
Let’s say your name is Ted. When trying to spell your name over the phone, you would use the corresponding words in the military alphabet to pronounce the letters. Instead of saying T – E – D, you would say Tango – Echo – Delta.
NATO Phonetic Alphabet
You may have heard the military alphabet also called the NATO phonetic alphabet. This is because in a classified document released by NATO to allied navies, they describe a phonetic alphabet that should be used when communicating over the radio.
Today this spelling alphabet has been been released in public versions so even you and I can use it.
Since 1914 there have been many variations of the military alphabet used globally. However, it was not until 1956 that the universal spelling alphabet we know today was officially adopted.