The phonetic alphabet is used the world over to communicate vital information over the radio or telephone. Although originally developed for aviation purposes, it is now commonly used by businesses and organisations in everyday conversations.
Having a grasp of the phonetic alphabet will help you understand and convey the spelling of important words, such as names and post codes. For example, to spell the common English surname ‘Reid’, you would say “Romeo Echo India Delta”, so it wasn’t confused with ‘Read’ or ‘Reed’ (which all sound the same in spoken English).
Below is a table showing part of the ICAO phonetic alphabet (also known as the NATO or ITU phonetic or spelling alphabet). Note: these are not to be confused with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) which is concerned with the sounds of words, rather than the spellings.
For the full table, including audio files so you can also hear how they sound, see our Phonetic Alphabet page.