Can You Translate These Military Slang Terms?


By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Throughout recorded history, the world seems to have been constantly at war. It certainly is not a safe place for many who live in it, and never really has been. Looking back in time, each nation that came to power and ruled over others did so through the use of its military.

Just take a look back to one of the world's first really dominant groups, the Romans. They expanded their territory through military might. No negotiations, no diplomacy. Just military might. The Roman army was feared around the known world.

Even in more modern times, military might has remained important. Think of Napoleon and France and their domination of Europe, or the Japanese expansion in the Far East and the Pacific or German expansion in Europe under Hitler. All of these nations expanded their territories through their military might, in some cases forcing other countries to capitulate at the mere threat of action.

Today, nothing much has changed, with military forces of many countries still as large as they were during the Cold War. And militaries everywhere have their own unique jargon. How many of these terms do you think you can decipher?

What does "on the double" mean in military speak?

Now, this is probably one that you have heard before. To a Marine, "on the double" means doing whatever task they are performing as fast as possible and certainly without delay.


In the military, "at ease" means _______?

You've seen enough Army movies to know the meaning of "at ease," right? Essentially, it means to carry on with what you were doing before you stood to attention when rank entered the room.


What type of vehicle is a "helo"?

"Helo" is military slang for a helicopter. They form a vital role in any military situation and have proved an indispensable vehicle as shown to such a significant effect in the Vietnam War, either bringing soldiers to contact points or removing the injured.


During a firefight in Vietnam, someone calling for a "band-aid" needed what?

Band-aids fix anything, right? Well, almost anything. In World War II, most soldiers would call for a medic, but by the time Vietnam rolled around, a medic had a slang name, a "band-aid."


If told to go to your "bunk" while in the military, where would you go?

Again, this one is fairly easy. A bunk is a bed. Bunks are the perfect way to get a lot of men into a small space to sleep. They were particularly useful on ships when transporting troops to the Pacific in World War II.


When "meat wagons" are called in, what vehicle is on its way?

Sad but true, an ambulance is called a "meat wagon" by the military. This name originated due to the severity of war injuries, as soldiers sometimes left the battlefield missing limbs.


In Afghanistan in particular, soldiers have to deal with "moon dust" on a daily basis. What is it?

In Afghanistan in particular (but in certain parts of Iraq as well), the surrounding landscapes where base camps are set up are often churned into fine particles thanks to the construction vehicles, armored vehicles and other heavy machinery that work in and around the camp. This dust, called "moon dust" by soldiers, covers everything!


If a soldier asks for a "moonbeam," what does he need?

Actually, that's a brilliant description for a flashlight ... a moonbeam. Obviously, flashlights are never used on the battlefield, but useful in camp on a dark night when you have to find the latrine.


In World War II, the military slang term "Tommy Gun" referred to which of these below?

By the time World War II rolled along, the Thompson machine gun was already famous. Why? Well, it was the weapon of choice for the 1920s and '30s gangsters. The "Tommy" gun was a fine weapon and of critical importance during World War II.


In World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had a slang nickname. What was it?

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force that invaded France in June 1944. He was affectionately known as "Ike" to his men. Eisenhower went on to become the 34th President of the United States.


In modern military slang, what is a "411"?

Military operations are always well planned. Before a squad goes on a patrol or mission, they will meet to discuss their exact plan, route and actions should they meet enemy fire. This before-mission briefing is known as a "411."


What rank is an officer referred to as a "lance criminal"?

Lance corporals, the third lowest rank for enlisted men, are not that well liked by regular troops without rank.


If a squad calls in backup from a "fast mover" what are they calling for?

"Fast mover," in military jargon, describes a fighter jet. Why are they called this? Well, of all the aircraft in the U.S. air force, fighter jets are the fastest movers. Used to clear the skies of any airborne enemy threats, fighter aircraft have proved a critical part of warfare since World War I.


Pilots reporting "ack-ack" have encountered what?

"Ack-ack" refers to enemy fire from the ground aimed at aircraft. It does not include small arms fire, but specific anti-aircraft weapons such as cannons. In World War I, this was known as "Archie" and in World War II "flak."


In military jargon, what does it mean to "rack out"?

Sleep is something soldiers don't often get on the front line. So any downtime will see a soldier taking some "rack time." And they will sleep wherever they can, including vehicles or even in entrenched areas or foxholes. Of course, the best "rack time" is spent back at base.


"Cage Kickers" are another branch of the U.S. military, often loathed. Who are they?

The United States military has its own police force, the military police, and it is their duty to enforce law and order at military facilities. Generally, they are loathed by the other servicemen, possibly because they break up their parties!


In U.S. navy jargon, what is a "bird barn?"

During World War II, aircraft carriers changed the face of naval warfare. Japan's attack on the Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor was launched to destroy the fleet and particularly the aircraft carriers. Luckily, they were out at sea already. Battles later in the war (for example, Midway) saw just how powerful the aircraft carrier was. Essentially, it was a mobile airfield.


Which U.S. armed forces weapon is described as a "fitty"?

First introduced in 1933, the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun is still in use by United States armed forces stationed around the world. Firing a .50 cartridge, the M2 has been called many names over the years including "ma deuce" and "fitty."


In U.S. military jargon, what is "monopoly money"?

Although they were paid in American currency, getting their hands on foreign money could be an advantage to a U.S. soldier, especially if they were based in England before D-Day or in France on their way to Germany. Foreign money was called "Monopoly money."


Which weapon does the Vietnam-era term "blooper" describe?

M-79 Grenade Launchers were used extensively during the Vietnam War. It could only fire a single grenade at a time, but it was easily loaded thanks to its break action. And the name? Well, it was called the "blooper" as that was the sound it made when it launched its deadly payload.


A wounded soldier needing a "medevac" will be transported to a medical facility by a _______?

When evacuating wounded soldiers, those who have been severely wounded will need to get to a medical facility fast. This is achieved by airlifting them out of the combat zone and to the facility as soon as possible. A helicopter, normally a Blackhawk, is used to do this and the process is known as a "medevac."


When flying over a "DZ" where would you be in military speak?

Air assault troopers or paratroops will know all about the drop zone. This is the point which they will aim for when jumping out of their aircraft or helicopter.


If a Marine is wearing his "blues" what does he have on?

A Marine wearing his "blues" is wearing his blue dress uniform. This name, however, is also used by the U.S. Air Force to describe their service dress uniform. Basically, this is the most formal uniform in both services.


In World War II, what was "Eagle Day" for American forces?

Payday was known as "Eagle Day" to most of the U.S. Armed forces during World War II. Why? Well, some coins issued to the soldiers during that period featured an eagle crest on them. And that's how payday received its name.


In World War I, what did the term "toot sweet" mean?

This is derived from a French term, ''tout de suite," which when literally translated means "all at once" or "right now." For example, "They attacked toot sweet."


English troops often used the term "Blighty." What country does it refer to?

Records show that soldiers away from England and on active service during World War I used to refer to their country as "Blighty." It's a tradition that continues to this day.


What did British forces call their German counterparts during World War I?

The term "Hun" was certainly used in a derogatory way by the British troops to describe their German counterparts. It's a reference to Attila the Hun.


In World War II, which weapon was referred to as a "grease gun"?

A "grease gun" is an M3 submachine gun. It received its name due to the fact that it looked similar to the tool of the same name. The M3 carried a 30-round magazine and entered service in 1943.


What are "beans and bullets" in U.S. military slang?

Supply lines to and from the front run a range of things to soldiers serving their country. Of course, these supplies need to include ammunition, but soldiers often need a range of other supplies as well, most notably food. A variety of supplies is commonly called "beans and bullets."


Which of these weapons describes a "boomstick?"

Breaching shotguns are an important part of modern warfare, especially in urban environments. Often, a soldier in a squad will carry one, and it will be used for door breaches when entering houses in an urban setting.


Non-critical wounds were given a name by English soldiers on the Western Front. What did they call them?

A wound that was small and not life-threatening, but maybe enough to send a soldier home, was called "cushy." Certainly nothing cushy about them, however!


In military slang, if a pilot is taking a "dollar ride" it is his _______?

Even the most experienced pilots could take a "dollar ride." In fact, they may have taken many during the course of their career as they flew different aircraft and new, modern aircraft entered service as their careers wore on.


"Boat" is the slang term given to which type of naval vessel?

Submarines have been around for ages but really showed their usefulness from World War I onwards. In World War II, the Germans inflicted huge amounts of damage on Atlantic convoys which supplied the United Kingdom from the United States. The United States Navy also used submarines very effectively against Japanese shipping in the Pacific. Today, submarines have the ability to launched nuclear warheads and remain a crucial part of naval forces around the world.


If a soldier is said to have "Gone Elvis" what has happened to him?

A soldier who has "gone Elvis" is missing after a battle with the enemy. This is also known as "M.I.A." or missing in action. If the soldier's body is later found, it is changed to "K.I.A." or killed in action.


In World War I, a severely wounded soldier could be referred to as a "basket case." Why?

The term referred to them being carried around in a basket, since that is what their body without limbs would fit in.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!