Dictating e-mail/website addresses each one letter by one on a phone call is always challenging for me. I found that listeners often misspell certain letters like B/D/V because the pronunciation is distorted.

With a list of 26 words that represent each alphabet letter, if any, communications are going to be easier:

I: R-A-N-D-O-M-A-L-P-H-B-E-T.

Listener: (Simultaneously) R-A-N-D-O-M-A-L-P-H... wait. D or B?

I: It's B. B of 'black'.

'Black' is a quick example of my own but seems good enough because 'black' is simple, easy, and there's no word such as "vlack", "dlack", "glack", etc.

I'd love the list of words like 'black' if there is already one in common use.


3 Answers 3


What you are describing is called a phonetic alphabet.

There are a number of common phonetic alphabets used in the English language.

One of the most popular ones is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) alphabet, commonly called the NATO phonetic alphabet. See https://wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_phonetic_alphabet for a complete reference.

  • 1
    You're welcome. If you didn't know to look for a phonetic alphabet it would have been a challenge to find what you were seeking! :-) Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 8:53
  • 2
    And even if you did you would also find the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), which is a system of special letters corresponding to various sounds in human languages, and completely unrelated to what you're looking for. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 16:12
  • @JanuaryFirst-of-May raises a good point; sometimes, a distinction is made between phonetic alphabets like the IPA and spelling alphabets like the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet (the "NATO phonetic alphabet").
    – wchargin
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 23:37

Here's what I found, (phonetic alphabet) a bit blurry but you can zoom in or click the link below:

enter image description here

Source: http://morsecode.scphillips.com/alphabet.html

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    TIL Q = Quebec.
    – TMH
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 16:39
  • Kinda surprised the NYPD uses “Queen” for Q when Queens must be a common thing to hear on their radios.
    – KRyan
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 1:27

There are established lists of words that stand for the first letter of the alphabet, if that is what you are wondering about. NATO uses, Alpha, Bravo Charlie.

Speakers of American English unfamiliar with this system (which is probably 95% of speakers) usually just make up a word on the spur of the moment, like "M as in Mary" or "D as in doorknob", whatever the speaker thinks will provide clarity.

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