International alphabet? (Who uses the NATO alphabet?)


Hi, at school we learned the international alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, etc.). Now I’d like to know whether this is used by native speakers. Let’s say you are purchasing something over the phone - mail order company etc. They want you to spell your name. Do you use the international alphabet then? Thanks.


JJ, you probably mean more than you described? I’ve often seen people mix up then with than. If you know so much about international firms and how to use the English alphabet you certainly also can distinguish between then and than?


It just occured to me that it might be a good idea to post the NATO alphabet (the international alphabet) here so that everybody knows what we are talking about:

  • A - ALPHA
  • B - BRAVO
  • D - DELTA
  • E - ECHO
  • G - GOLF
  • H - HOTEL
  • I - INDIA
  • K - KILO
  • L - LIMA
  • M - MIKE
  • O - OSCAR
  • P - PAPA
  • Q - QUEBEC
  • R - ROMEO
  • S - SIERRA
  • T - TANGO
  • V - VICTOR
  • X - XRAY
  • Y - YANKEE
  • Z - ZULU

By the way, I often have met young Germans who served the Bundeswehr – the German Federal Armed Forces and they all learn to use the NATO alphabet.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: A catering customer orders food by phone[YSaerTTEW443543]


In everyday life we don’t use it. If a letter we speak over the phone is confusing, we say “B as in boy”, “C as in cat”, “P as in Paul”, “V as in Victor”, “Z as in zebra”, etc. for confirmation. The ones I’ve just given are pretty standard, but we make some of them up on the spot.

If you got on the phone and told someone “bravo, charlie, papa, zulu”, the American on the other end probably wouldn’t know what you were doing. There are probably even Americans who don’t know what Zulu means, just as there are some Americans who think New Mexico is in Mexico.


Hi Openmind

I agree with Jamie. I usually give my students the “official” list simply as information and then have them create their own list of words to use. In other words, a list of commonly used words that they feel comfortable using and can also pronounce well. (Of course their final lists have to be approved by me. :lol:)

One more “rule” I give them is that they should try not to use one-syllable words since those may not help clarify very much in some cases. Just imagine trying to clarify whether the letter you’ve just said is “F” or “S”. If you “clarify” the letter “F” by saying the word “fat”, the person listening to you just might hear the word “sat”. :shock:



well I am now cofused what had NATO to do with this??
It is commonly used at sea in radio communication
and probably was recognized by IMO ( international maritime
organization ) and it is a part of standard maritime vocuabulary well know English phrases at sea ( no by native
English speakers they ignore it and they so and so are hard learning /teaching material)
any Admirality Publication was using this but
is it really common on land ??
Sometimes I use it by mistake when calling somebody for spelling but my expierence was poorly
and people were doing mistakes and finally final I was forced to use Popular Names like Adam Barby etc.

promise to write more correctly in future now too busy


It’s the international alphabet and it’s called ‘international’ because the code words are used by international organizations such as the NATO or globally operating companies such as DHL, Fedex, Amazon, etc. Anyone who wants to learn at least the basics of English needs to learn the international alphabet.

NATO codes! What are their uses?