what does sos mean’

What Does SOS Stand For?

In Morse code, SOS is made up of three dots, three dashes, and three more dots: …—…

Because it’s made up of three letters, it’s natural to assume SOS is an acronym. However, it was never meant to stand for anything. The Marconi Yearbook of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, published in 1918, gives an explanation of the meaning, or lack of meaning, behind the letter choices:

“This signal [SOS] was adopted simply on account of its easy radiation and its unmistakable character. There is no special significance in the letters themselves….”

Simply, SOS was chosen as a distress signal because it was easy to understand in Morse code and not likely to be confused with other signals. It also has the added benefit of being a palindrome, a series of letters that reads the same backwards and forwards. In addition, SOS looks the same upside down as it does right side up, making it an ideal series of letters to view from the air if written on a beach or in the snow.

Reverse Acronyms for SOS

Because it is made up of three letters, there have been many reverse acronyms proposed for SOS. These are two of the most common:

  • Save Our Ship
  • Save Our Souls

In reality, SOS does not mean either of these things. It’s simply a series of attention-grabbing and easily understandable letters that create a universal code.

History of SOS and Morse Code Distress Signals

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Morse code was the only way ships could communicate with one another while at sea. Wireless operators could send messages from one ship to another using the telegraph and Morse code, and there were shorthand ways to communicate important messages quickly.

CQD – Predecessor to SOS

In the early days of telegraphs, each country had its own distress signal. In Great Britain, the official signal was CQD. When asked whether CQD stood for anything, Harold Bride, a wireless operator who survived the sinking of the Titanic, reported that it was “merely a code call” and not an acronym.

SOS Adopted in 1906

In 1906, the International Radio Telegraphic Convention in Berlin agreed on a new official distress signal: SOS.

Ships in distress shall use the following signal: …—… repeated at brief intervals… It seems necessary to specify that indications concerning a case of distress should be given by means of conventional signals in order that they may be understood by all stations.

However, many telegraph operators refused to adopt the new universal signal and stuck with their own signals for several years after SOS was adopted. That would all change with the sinking of the Titanic.

Distress Call of the Titanic

In 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg crossing the Atlantic and sank rapidly in frigid waters. The loss of life and dramatic nature of the disaster revolutionized the way people thought about the SOS distress signal. The telegraph operators on board the Titanic sent a mix of SOS and CQD, joking that this might be their last chance to try the new signal of SOS. The messages became confusing in the panic. Help did not come in time, and after the disaster, SOS became the standard international distress call.

Modern Use of SOS

Because of the advancement in modern telecommunications, SOS and Morse code are falling into disuse. In 2007, the Federal Communication Commission eliminated the requirement that radio operators must know Morse code. The Navy still uses it, but it is not their primary method of signaling distress anymore.

Pro sign

In modern terminology, SOS is a “procedural signal” or “pro-sign”, and it’s officially written as a slash on a letter. In modern terminology, SOS is Morse’s “procedural signal” or “prosign” [3], used as a message start sign for transmissions requiring assistance when loss of life or catastrophic property damage is imminent.


However, the original use of “SOS” dates back to 1908, when the International Morse Code distress signal was used for maritime radio systems. However, the use of “SOS” as the official distress signal ended on January 1, 1998, and was replaced by modern satellite communication systems and the use of voice messages, not Morse code. The use of SOS quickly became ubiquitous, and it wasn’t until early 1999 that standard signals prevailed on the high seas.


In International Morse Code, three dots form the letter “S” and three dashes form the letter “O”. January 12, 1907, which states that “ships in distress use a special SOS signal repeated at short intervals. Because the international Morse code had an S representing three dots and an O three dashes, the original distress signal soon became known as SOS. Since the letter S consisted of three dots, each of which led to an SOS, for convenience it was considered an SOS. Since it consists of three letters, it is natural to assume that SOS is an abbreviation.

No dots

In truth, SOS is not an abbreviation for anything, so putting dots between each letter is wrong. While people often think that SOS means “save our ship,” SOS doesn’t actually mean anything. SOS is the internationally recognized Morse code telegraphic distress signal, commonly known as “Save Our Souls” or “Save Our Ship”, but SOS is not really an acronym for anything. SOS is often said to mean things like “Save our souls”, “Save our ship” and “Stop other signals”.


SOS can also be used more broadly as a noun or verb to refer to any request for help. SOS is also sometimes used as a visual distress signal, consisting of three short/three long/three short flashes, or writing “SOS” in a single letter, such as printed on a snowdrift or formed from a log to a beach. “ SOS is used in Morse code as a distress signal – a way of calling for help in an emergency, such as on a ship.

Request for help

This Morse code distress call in Morse code is “* * * – – – * * *, ‘”, and a simple rule to remember when sending is that the dash signal should be about three times the length of the dot.

Morse Dots

The “SOS” sign is a continuous group of Morse dots and dashes rather than individual letters, and was chosen because the design is simple and unmistakable. Unlike CQD, which was transmitted as three separate letters, the SOS distress signal was always officially transmitted as a continuous sequence of dots and dashes, rather than three separate letters – both under the German law of April 1, 1905, and under the German law of 1906 d. The Berlin Rules clearly defined the sequence of Morse code without mentioning any letter equivalent.


In International Morse, VTB, IJS and SMB are also correctly translated into distress sequences * * * – – – * * *, but traditionally only SOS is used. The standardized distress signal was the international distress signal until 1999, when large ships abandoned Morse code in favor of a satellite-based global maritime distress and safety system.

Signalling Code

In the International Signaling Code, the flag’s visual signal “NC” means “in danger; immediate assistance is required”; SS Robison suggested this may also be accepted internationally as a distress signal for radio operators. Part of that book indicates that the International Signaling Code symbols for visual signals may also be adopted by radio services. It represents a standard visual cue for the flag, called the International Signal Code, which may also be adopted by radio use. By choosing a single signal, the international community ensures that the SOS stands out from other transmissions, and because the SOS is internationally recognized, ships of any nationality are Can come to rescue ships in distress.

Other Signals

The international distress signal superseded the other signals used by many other countries, and due to the choice of three-point three-dash and three-dot Morse code signals can be read as the three letters of Morse code, this is how the signal must be knowledge. .Due to SOS’s ease of use and the fact that messages are unlikely to be sent, SOS – three dots followed by three dashes followed by three dots sent in a line – has become the agreed message for reporting emergencies. misunderstood. The three-letter combination has no real meaning, just because it’s a code… – – … (three dots, three dashes, so add three dots) is the simplest telegram transmitter, big Most participants received an easily identifiable reporting code.

Easy to transmit

SOS was chosen solely for the reason that it was easy to transmit. To report an alarm with a flashlight, aim it at a target and blink three times quickly, then three long ones, and three more fast ones. After activation, the SOS signal must be taken by the handle and turned.


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