Do You Know Military Code Words?


By: Jonnathan Chadwick

6 Min Quiz

Image: Lorado / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Before civilians were getting mad in chat rooms and social media, soldiers were saying Whiskey Tango Foxtrot over the radio as a code phrase for WTF? The battlefield isn't a pretty place, and the words needed to describe it are just as ugly. That's where code words come into play. With real bombs dropping all around, it's only fitting to replace the F-bombs with a ballroom dance and a glass of bourbon. But even before soldiers wanted unique ways to swear, members of the military were creating a robust dictionary of slang.

In the mid-18th century, when soldiers from America joined British forces, British General James Wolfe referred to them as Yankees. By 1775, the word Yankee was used a derogatory term to describe American soldiers. Today the word still exists and is in use all around the world. It's one of the first military code words put into practice, but soldiers of Ancient Rome and Greece surely had their own glossary of slang to sling.

Today's military slang sprung up as acronyms to describe uniquely military circumstances like AWOL (absent without leave) or HALO (high altitude, low opening). Then it evolved to include code words from the NATO phonetic alphabet to describe things that only military personnel would understand, like Whiskey Charlie or Bravo Zulu. And after that, military code words began popping up on their own like woobies, doolies and soup sandwiches. When you put all of it together, you get a robust glossary of military code words. Most of the words mean nothing to anyone who isn't in the military, but even if you are a normal civilian, you may be able to guess a few here and there. Take the quiz and see how well you know military code words.

Who is Uncle Sam's Canoe Club?

Uncle Sam's Canoe Club is a nickname for the United States Navy. A lot of people mistake this nickname for the Coast Guard, but the Coast Guard has a different name. Because the Navy has so many deployable vessels and aircraft, it is also the second-largest air force in the world.


Who is an XO?

An XO is an executive officer. The executive officer is usually second in command only to the commander. The XO usually runs day-to-day operations and management while the commander focuses on long-term strategy.


What are civvies?

Civvies are normal civilian clothes instead of fatigues, hats and boots. Anything from a suit to pajamas can be considered civvies when being worn by a member of the military. Civvies is also an unflattering term for civilians.


If a BOLO alert goes out, what does everybody have to do?

Both military and police units use BOLO alerts, and it means "be on lookout." BOLOs usually go out over radio dispatches and can inform officers to be on the lookout for a specific thing (i.e. a gray car) or can inform officers to be on high alert of a potential attack.


How do you explain something Barney-style?

To explain something Barney-style means to explain it as if you were talking to a small child. "Barney & Friends" was a popular television show in the 1990s where a big purple dinosaur explained things to children.


The U.S. Army is full of Yanks. What are Yanks?

Yanks are American soldiers. The term is short for Yankee, which is another name for an American. Sometimes it's used to define someone from New England, sometimes it defines someone from the North. Sometimes it describes a baseball player. In all instances, it defines America.


If somebody asks for more beans and bullets, what are they asking for?

Beans and bullets is slang for general supplies. WWII U.S. Admiral Chester Nimitz once said that winning a war came down to "beans, bullets, and oil.” By the 1950s 'beans and bullets' was being used to describe any and all types of military items.


When you want to congratulate someone on a job well done, what phrase can you use?

Bravo Zulu is the code phrase for "BZ" meaning "well done." This phrase comes from the Allied Maritime Tactical and Maneuvering Book and originated in the Navy. The signal NEGAT Bravo Zulu can be used to mean "not well done."


What type of army vehicle is commonly known as a bird?

A helicopter is commonly known as a bird in military lingo. Fighter jets usually have individual nicknames. For example, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is commonly known as the "Electric Jet" and the E-2 Hawkeye is nicknamed "Hummer."


A soldier who has fruit salad on their uniform has what?

Fruit salad is the code to describe a soldier who is decorated with a lot of medals and ribbons. There are dozens of military awards (there's even an Antarctica Service Medal) and they are all made up of multiple colors. Just having a couple will give you a proper fruit salad on your chest.


If you salute an officer in the field, it is said you just did what?

Saluting an officer in the field of battle is known as a sniper check. In the field everybody looks the same, so saluting someone outs them to enemies -- especially snipers -- as a superior officer. This gesture puts a target on their back.


When you're looking for the Whiskey Charlie, what are you looking for?

Using the NATO phonetic alphabet, Whiskey Charlie stands for "WC," which is an acronym for water closet, which is what some of the world calls a bathroom. A water closet usually has a flushable toilet.


If you're sentenced to six months confinement, six months loss of pay and a reduction in grade, you just received what?

A military member who disobeys rules and receives six months confinement, six months loss of pay and a reduction in grade receives six, six and a kick. Six months of confinement was the most severe punishment on base until a 12-month confinement was implemented.


In the corporate world, EOD means end of day, what does it mean in military slang?

In military speak, EOD stands for Explosive Ordinance Disposal. An EOD is someone who knows how to defuse live bombs. EODs are members of the bomb squad and they first emerged in war during the 19th century.


Who is Uncle Sam's Confused Group?

Uncle Sam's Confused Group is another name for the United States Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard can function as part of the Navy or as part of civilian law enforcement, making them "confused." They regularly patrol docks and harbors.


If a high-ranking officer tells you to get on your face, what do you have to do?

If a superior officer tells you to get on your face, you have to drop and start doing an unknown number of push-ups. Drop and give me 20 is another common phrase used to tell someone to do push-ups, and both are understood in civilian life.


When somebody tells you to do something on the double, what does that mean?

On the double means as fast as possible and without delay. You can use this phrase in everyday life, but it's unlikely anybody will follow the order with the seriousness of a soldier in battle. On the double in the military can mean the difference between life and death.


What is it called when enemies begin fighting each other?

Red on red means enemies are fighting each other. It's a play on phrases like black-on-black or white-on-white crime. During recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, red on red fighting was commonplace and a crucial part of the war.


What's a POV?

A POV in military slang is a privately or personally owned vehicle. Military members can have their personal vehicles shipped to wherever they are being stationed. A POV in civilian slang is an acronym for point of view.


Who are Uncle Sam's Misguided Children?

Uncle Sam's Misguided Children is the code name for the United States Marine Corps. The Marines can also be called the University of Science, Music, and Culture. The Marines are part of the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense and they conduct missions with the Army, Navy and Air Force.


COP is a slang term for a police officer but in the military it stands for what?

In military lingo, a COP is a combat outpost. COPs are strategically located in or near highly populated, hostile areas. They can be permanent or semi-permanent and usually hold up to 150 soldiers. COPs are integral in modern warfare.


What time is Zero Dark Thirty?

Zero Dark Thirty are the code words used for 12:30 a.m., which is just after midnight. Many countries around the world, plus the military, use the 24-hour clock. Midnight is designated zero on the 24-hour clock.


When everything goes haywire, it might be described as a what?

A soup sandwich describes something that is all messed up, like trying to eat a sandwich made out of soup. A soup sandwich can be a missed button during a mandofun ceremony, or it can be utter disaster on the battlefield.


Which of the following phrases can be used to say "Thanks much"?

Tango Mike is a military code that means "Thanks much." By using the NATO phonetic alphabet, you can use the word Tango for "T" and Mike for "M." This is usually used because of laziness over the radio and isn't an official military term like Bravo Zulu.


Which of these is a popular code word for the United States?

CONUS is half-acronym, half-code word for the continental United States, which is the United States minus Hawaii and Alaska. If an enemy plans to attack CONUS it means a lot more than attacking America, which can mean any American territory - not just one of the 50 states.


A zero-three is what type of style statement?

A zero-three is code for a haircut that is zero inches on the side and three on the top. Barbers use electric razors to cut hair, and the hair guards are usually numbered one through eight. A normal person can also go to the barber and ask for a zero-three.


When you receive a message clearly, you might confirm by saying?

Rog, Roger and Roger That are all code words used to confirm you have received and understood a particular message. It's usually used in radio communications, but can be said wherever and whenever one sees fit.


What is written on an alpha roster?

An alpha roster is simply a list of people's names in alphabetical order. Although the first word on the NATO phonetic alphabet is "Alfa," the slang term for this roster is commonly known as an "alpha roster."


What is the nickname for an F-14 Tomcat?

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is commonly known as Tom. It is a supersonic fighter jet that American forces began using in the Vietnam War. It was used as the primary fighter jet until it was replaced in 2006 by the Boeing Super Hornet.


A military employee who works a desk job might be referred to as what?

Someone who works a desk job - like the human resource manager, unit supply specialist or financial management technician - might be referred to as a shoe clerk. It's an unflattering term for someone who doesn't take the battlefield but believes their job is the most important.


What's the nickname for the Army-issued poncho liner?

A woobie is the code word for the Army-issued poncho liner that soldiers love so much. It is used as a blanket and traps body temperature even when it's soaking wet. It's called a woobie because soldiers woobie (would be) cold without it.


A military dinner party might be referred to as what?

Mandofun is the code word given to mandatory events no one really wants to go to but must. It is a portmanteau of mandatory and fun. Most mandofun events are understood to be mandatory, but sometimes soldiers have to be reminded.


What is another name for a first-year Air Force Academy cadet?

First-year Air Force members are called doolies. There are seven uniformed services in the U.S. military, and each one of them has unique terms to identify freshmen members. A freshman Air Force member may also be referred to as a smack.


If you obtain information through an unofficial channel, you might say you got the information through what?

A drug deal is a slang phrase describing how one attained certain information. This is the type of information somebody may pass to you in the dead of night when nobody is around. It could also be information you've obtained from an off-the-record source.


Which of these animals is a code word for bad weather?

Hawk is a code word for bad weather or winter weather. A hawk is not the same as a war hawk. A war hawk is a politician who favors war instead of debate, which is the opposite of a dove, who is a politician who favors peaceful resolution over war.


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