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The International Morse Code

The International Morse Code, also known as the Radiotelegraph Code, is used to form letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation, and prodcedure symbols through the use of a combination of sounds and spaces. Each sound is of the same frequency; however, the dots and dashes are represented by different durations of the particular sound tone. The long duration dash (dah) is three times the length of the short duration dot (dit). The table shown below is presented as a familiarization tool and should not be memorized. The most effective method for learning the code and for increasing code proficiency is to practice listening to the rhythm of each character and eventually to that of the individual words. This reduces the extra time needed to mentally convert from the sounds to a visual concept of the characters. Practice sessions should also include sending the code as well as receiving so that a sense of timing and rhythm is developed.

I was first introduced to the morse code via signal flags while in the Boy Scouts. A short time later, I became interested in radio and wanted to become a ham. Although I knew the morse code character symbol sequences, I had to practically start from zero with learning the character sounds and rhythms. At first, my copying speed was actually slower than it was with the flags because there were mental delays involved in correlating the sounds to the visual symbols previously learned. I realized that it is much better to learn the code using the sounds and rhythms at the beginning, rather than memorizing a table of symbols. This does away with the extra hurdle of association to visual symbols. Once you learn the character rhythms, your code speed will automatically increase as you use it in practice or in actual QSO's on the air.

Morse Code, as used in CW operation, will always be an asset to amateur radio.  It is not only an important part of the heritage; but, it continues to provide challenges which require a ham radio operator's special skills and expertise.  Every CW QSO seems to increase operating proficiency and helps to develop and maintain a unique "fist".  Round up an old key, bug, or keyer and get on the air with CW.  The skill requires such mental concentration that it is difficult to think about any of life's problems.  Try pushing the limits of your CW operating speed capabilities and you'll experience some great mental therapy.

Morse Code (CW)
Text Code Symbols Text Code Symbols
A di-dah U di-di-dah
B dah-di-di-dit V di-di-di-dah
C dah-di-dah-dit W di-dah-dah
D dah-di-dit X dah-di-di-dah
E dit Y dah-di-dah-dah
F di-di-dah-dit Z dah-dah-di-dit
G dah-dah-dit 1 di-dah-dah-dah-dah
H di-di-di-dit 2 di-di-dah-dah-dah
I di-dit 3 di-di-di-dah-dah
J di-dah-dah-dah 4 di-di-di-di-dah
K dah-di-dah 5 di-di-di-di-dit
L di-dah-di-dit 6 dah-di-di-di-dit
M dah-dah 7 dah-dah-di-di-dit
N dah-dit 8 dah-dah-dah-di-dit
O dah-dah-dah 9 dah-dah-dah-dah-dit
P di-dah-dah-dit 0 dah-dah-dah-dah-dah
Q dah-dah-di-dah . di-dah-di-dah-di-dah
R di-dah-dit , dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah
S di-di-dit ? di-di-dah-dah-di-dit
T dah / dah-di-di-dah-dit
CW Prosign Code Symbols
Seeking contact with any station (CQ) dah-di-dah-dit||dah-dah-di-dah
From, This is (DE) dah-di-dit||dit
Open Invitation to Xmit, Go (K) dah-di-dah
Station Invitation to Xmit, Go Only (KN) dah-di-dah-dah-dit
Received Correctly (R) di-dah-dit
A Break or Pause (BT) dah-di-di-di-dah
Stand-By, Wait (AS) di-dah-di-di-dit
Back to You (BK) dah-di-di-dit||dah-di-dah
End of Message, Over (AR) di-dah-di-dah-dit
End of QSO, Clear (SK) di-di-di-dah-di-dah
Closing Station, Going off the air (CL) dah-di-dah-dit||di-dah-di-dit
Emgergency or Distress (SOS) di-di-dit||dah-dah-dah||di-di-dit
Error (8 dits) di-di-di-di-di-di-di-dit

 Virtual Code Practice Oscillator - Generate and translate Morse Code


  • di or dit represents the morse code short duration dot () sound.
  • dah represents the morse code long duration dash () sound.
  • Underlined prosigns are sent as one character

    § 97.503 Element Standards - A telegraphy examination must be sufficient to prove that the examinee has the ability to send correctly by hand and to receive correctly by ear, texts in the international Morse code at not less than the prescribed speed, using all the letters of the alphabet, numerals 0-9, period, comma, question mark, slant mark (/), and CW Procedural Signals (Prosigns) AR, BT, and SKThis test is no longer required.

    Element 1 is a 5 words per minute (wpm) code test.  This is no longer required for General Class and Amateur Extra Class operators.

    Don't become a living Silent Key ... Enjoy CW, it's a ham radio tradition!

    73, Charlie W5AM

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