Common Radio Terms | Amateur Radio Words & Phrases

As an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

If you're looking to start Ham Radio or ( Amatur radio ) as it's often called. Then you'll need to learn some of the more common Phrases and Terms used by enthusiasts.

We have all heared the saying ' Roger, over and out ' but there are many more that you need to learn.

Some, you'll probably never use.

But several of them are used in most conversations over the airwaves by all Ham radio operators.

ham radio terms and words

Don't sit there not understanding what they mean. Take note or memorize some of the more common ones below.

Ham Radio Common Words or Phrases you need to know

Ham radio termMeaning
?Slashed zero
73Best regards
807Ham lingo for beer
88Love and Kisses
ACSBAmplitude-companded single-sideband modulation
AGCAutomatic gain control for controlling gain on the receiver to the output level
A-IndexIs an index that shows the geometric level disturbance over 24 hours
AMAmplitude Modulation
Amateur Radio ServiceIs a ham radio service established by the FCC and other regulatory bodies
AMTORAmateur Teleprinting Over Radio
Antenna FarmIn an area with multiple dedicated amateur radio antennas
Antenna GainIs the measure of how strong an antenna signal is in a particular direction
Antenna PartyIs a congregation of amateur radio operators where they help each other erect antennas
AOSAcquisition of signal
APRSAutomatic Packet Reporting System
ARRLNational Association for amateur radio operators in the US
ATVAmateur television
Autopatch/phone patchIs an amateur radio feature that allows operators to access local repeaters
AWGAmerican Wire Gauge
BarefootThe act of transmitting amateur waves without using an amplifier
BFOBasic Formal Ontology beat frequency oscillator to create audible frequency transmissions for CW
BirdAmateur lingo to mean satellite
BirdieIs a term used to describe internally generated spurious responses in amateur radio receivers
Boat AnchorIs a large and old piece of ham radio equipment
BPSKBinary Phase Shift Keying
Brass PounderSomeone that sends morse using old analog CW key sets
BrickIs a small, portable, and solid-state ham radio amplifier
BugIs a term used for mean semiautomatic keys that were used in retro CW amateur radio operations
Bureau BuroIs a system that is used to send bulk QSL cards
CansAmateur radio headphones
Channel GuardIs a name trademarked by General Electrics to mean CTCSS or Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System
ChirpThis a varying frequency in morse code transmission done by pressing the morse key on and off.
CBACallbook Address
CC&R’sCovenants, Conditions & Restrictions
CGCall Guard
Cloud WarmerAn antenna that radio most of the broadcasted signals straight up
CoaxCoaxial Cable
CQ JOTA/CQ JamboreeAsking another station to answer your call
CTCSSContinuous Tone-Coded Squelch System
CWContinuous Wave
DCSDigital-Coded Squelch
DeviationIn Frequency Modulation, this is how the signal jitters or deviates from its resting position
DielectricThis is a poor conductor of electricity that supports electrostatic fields and is used between the shield and conductor in amateur radio coax cables
DipoleIs a half-wave and balanced (has symmetrical poles) antenna that is commonly used by hams
DigipeaterIs a digital repeater that receives broadcasted signals and retransmits them for a wider coverage
DirectorThis is an element that is placed in front of the driven element in a Quad or Yagi antenna to increase radiation in a certain direction
D-LayerIs the densest and lowest part of the ionosphere with altitudes of between 50 and 80 Kilometers
Driven ElementIs the element on a Yagi antenna that is connected to the transmitter using a feedline
DoubleTwo ham stations that transmit at the same time
DownlinkThe frequency that a repeater uses to transmit
DSPDigital Signal Processor
DSSBDouble Suppressed Sideband Modulation
DSWMorse Code for Goodbye in Russian
DTMFDual Tone Multi-Frequency
Dual BandIs an amateur radio transceiver that operates on two ham frequency bands
Dummy LoadIs a device similar to an antenna that radiates heat instead of RF transmissions usually for testing purposes
DuplexIs an amateur radio station or device that broadcasts signals on one frequency and receives broadcasted signals on another frequency
DuplexerIs a device that allows an amateur radio operator to use one antenna for both transmitting and receiving signals
DXLong-distance amateur radio communication
DXCCDX Century Club
DXpeditionAn exotic ham radio expedition
Earth GroundConnection to Earth for grounding
EcholinkAn internet connection communication software that uses Voice Over IP
ElmerAn experienced amateur radio operator that gives a helping hand to amateur radio beginners
E-LayerIs a layer in the ionosphere at altitudes of between 90 and 160 kilometers
Eleven Meter BandIs the frequency band that is used by Citizen Band (CB) operators
EMFElectromagnetic Field
ERPEffective Radiated Power
EyeballIs an in-person meet between two hams
FBFine Business
FETField-Effect Transistor
Field DayIs an event that is organized yearly to encourage hams to be prepared for emergencies
Field Strength MeterIs a device that gives an accurate indication of an RF hotspot
FilterAn electrical circuit that only allows passage of specific frequencies and filters out the rest
FinalThe last transmission
FistThe characteristic style of a certain morse code operator
F-LayerThe topmost section of the ionosphere
FMFrequency Modulation
FOCFirst Class CW Operators’ Club
FoxhuntTriangulating a pirate (unlicensed) amateur radio operator by licensed operators
FSTVFast-Scan TV
Full QuietingIs used to describe a clear and high-quality RF transmission
GainIs the value of how strong an antenna can radiate signals in a certain direction
GOTAGet On The Air
Gray LineThis is a section around the earth separating daylight from darkness that is used by amateur radio operators for long-distance communication
Green StampA one-dollar bill from the USA
Ground PlaneIs a simulated horizontal conducting surface from where an antenna is placed for RF signal reflections
Ground Wave PropagationIs the propagation of ham radio frequencies over the ground surface
Half-Wave DipoleAn antenna whose feedline runs to the center
HandheldA small portable radio transceiver
Hang TimeThe period between the release of the press to talk radio button and turning off of the transmitter repeater
HamAn amateur radio operator
HamfestIs a ham event where various operators and people interested in ham radio meet
HarmonicUnwanted transmissions where multiple frequencies of the same intended transmission frequency are broadcasted
HertzIs the SI unit for frequency measurements
HFHigh Frequency
Hi HiHam lingo for laughing
Hollow StateA term for tube equipment
HomebrewThis is a term that is used to mean homemade ham radio equipment
IambicA keying style used for Morse Code
ICIntegrated Circuit
IFIntermediate Frequency
IntermodAudible interference due to other transmissions
IOTAIslands On The Air
IonosphereIs the charged layer of the Earth’s atmosphere used for HF propagation
ITUInternational Telecommunication Union
IRCInternational Reply Coupon
J-PoleAn omnidirectional half-wave antenna that is relatively easy to homebrew
KerchunkThe processing of keying up a ham repeater to see if it still in operation by briefly pressing the PTT button
KeyButton for sending CW (Morse Code)
KeyerA semi-automatic device used to send Morse Code
KiloA thousand
KilocyclesA thousand cycles
K-IndexSemi-logarithmic measurements of geometric magnetic activity
Ladder LineA feed line consisting of two unshielded lines separated by an insulator and resembling a ladder
LEDLight-Emitting Diode
LIDA poor Morse Code operator
Line of Sight PropagationThe process by which ham radio waves travel directly from the transmitter to the receiver
LimiterA component that reduces wide-band static noise and receiver impulse
LoggingRecording a log of contacts
LoadA circuit that provides electrical power at the output source
LOSLoss of Signal
LowferA ham that experiments with extremely low ham frequencies
LSBLower Sideband
MachineHam lingo for a repeater
Magic BandThe 6-meter ham band
Mag MountMagnetic mount
MARSMilitary Affiliate Radio Service
MatchboxIs a circuit placed in an antenna line used to match the impedance
MedferA ham that experiments with low-frequency communications
MegaA Million
Meteor ScatterIs the use of ionized meteor trails for ham propagation
MixerAn RF component that converts a signal from one frequency to another in a superheterodyne receiver
MobileA ham station located in a car
ModeIs the type of modulation
ModulationIs the process of adding a message/information into a carrier wave
MPRMass Produced Rig
Multimode TransceiverA transceiver that can operate in more than one type of modulation
MUFMaximum Useable Frequency
NBNoise Blanker
NCSNet Control Station
NetOn the air gathering of hams
Negative OffsetThis is when a repeater’s input frequency is lower than the output frequency
NiCadNickel Cadmium
NiMHNickel Metal Hydride
NodeAn IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Protocol) radio
N-P JunctionThe interface between two semiconductors (n-type and p-type)
NPNThe interface between 2 semiconductors
NTSNational Traffic System
NTSCNational Television System Committee
NVISNear Vertical Incidence Skywave
Odd SplitThe pairing of different frequencies in different ham bands
OffsetThis is the difference between the transmission and reception frequencies
Old ManReference of Morse Code operator regardless of his age
OMOld Man
OOOfficial Observer
Open RepeaterIs a repeater with unlimited access
OSCAROrbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio
OscillateThe swinging back and forth of radio wave
OscillatorA device that creates swings in a radio signal wave
OscilloscopeA device that is used to monitor oscillations
Out“Turning off my radio”
Over“I am done talking and I am now listening”
Packet radioDigital radio that communicates using packets of data
PaddlesContinuous Wave keyers
PatchShort form for Phonepatch
PCBPrinted Circuit Board
PEPPeak Envelope Power
PhasePoint location in an oscillating radio wave
Phase ModulationIs modulation that involves varying the amplitude of a wave depending on the message
Phone PatchIs an amateur radio feature that allows operators to access local repeaters
P-N JunctionThe interface between two semiconductors (p-type and n-type)
Picket FencingCutting in and out of ham signals rapidly due to path length changes
Pink TicketA ticket by the FCC for violating the rules
Pile-upIs a term used to mean multiple stations calling the same ham station at the same
PLPrivate Line
PMPhase Modulation
PondSlang for the Atlantic Ocean
Pond BrassOperate on Morse Code
Positive OffsetThis is when a repeater’s input frequency is higher than the output frequency
Product DetectorA demodulator that is used for single-sideband and AM radio signals
PropagationHow ham radio transmissions travel from the point of transmission to the receiver
PSK31Phase Shift Keying, 31 Baud
PTTPush to Talk
QFigure of merit
QCWAQuarter Century Wireless Club
Q-SignalsSet of common abbreviation used in Morse Code
QRPMaximizing range at a low transmission power
QRZWho is calling me
QSL“I confirm your transmission”
QSL BureauAn organization that sends out QSL cards
QSL CardA card confirming the reception of a transmission
QSL ManagerThe individual that runs QSL operations for a DX station
QSOConversation or contact
QuadA directional antenna for HF and VHF bands
QuagiAn antenna that combines both Quad and Yagi antenna designs
RACESRadio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
Rag ChewInformal ham conversation
RDFRadio Direction Finding
Reading The MailListening to ham broadcasts without transmitting
ReflectorThe rear passive element in a directional antenna
RefractBending ham radio waves
RepeaterA unit that receives radio signals and retransmits them for wider coverage
Repeater DirectoryA published list of repeaters
ResonanceAbility to vibrate efficiently at certain frequencies
RFRadio Frequency
RFIRadio Frequency Interference
RF BurnRadio Frequency Burn that is painful and can do damage to the body
RigA ham radio
RITReceive Incremental Tuning
RockIs a quartz crystal that is used to control ham frequency
Rock BoundA transmitter that uses crystals (rocks)
Roger“Loud and clear”
RSTReadability, Strength, Tone
RTTYRadio Teletype
Rubber DuckInefficient and flexible rubber antenna mainly found on handheld transceivers
SASESelf-Addressed, Stamped Envelope
SchedulePlanned contact between ham radio operators
SelectivityThe ability of a receiver to filter out signals that are close to the intended frequency
SensitivityAn indication of the weakest radio signal a receiver can pick
ShackA ham radio station
SideswiperCW key that moves side to side
Silent KeyA ham that has passed away
SimplexTransmission and reception of signals on the same frequency
Simplex RepeaterIs a repeater that takes incoming signals, records them before retransmitting them on the same frequency
SKSilent Key
Skip ZoneThe region between the transmitter and the receiving region in ionospheric propagation where signals cannot be received
SkyWavePropagation of radio waves through the ionosphere
SlugA device that allows for the reading of wattage for a certain ham frequency
S-MeterSignal Strength Meter
Solar Flux IndexNumber of solar flare emissions by the sun
Special EventA special amateur radio operation event
Split OperatingThis is where a ham broadcasts on one frequency and receives transmissions on another frequency
Sporadic EUnusual propagation of higher HF band signal by the ionosphere
Spurious EmissionsUnintended radio frequencies
SSBSingle-side band
SSTVSlow Scan TV
Straight KeyA device that sends morse code
SuperheterodyneIs a receiver that takes an incoming signal and combines it with a variable signal before demodulation
Switching Power SupplyIs a power supply that includes a switching regulator for efficient power conversion
SWLShortwave Listener
SWRStanding Wave Ratio
SWR MeterStanding Wave Ratio Meter
Tail GatingStarting another transmission quickly after you are done with a transmission
Talk-aroundTransmissions from radio to radio without a repeater
Third-Party CommunicationsCommunications of one ham to another on behalf of a third individual usually unlicensed
TicketHam radio license
Time-OutIs a timing circuit in a repeater to cut off long transmissions after the PTT button is pressed
TNCTerminal Node Controller
TrafficPassing radio messages
TransceiverA radio device that contains both a transmitter and a receiver in one
TransistorA semiconductor with 3 connections
Tropospheric DuctingTransmission of amateur radio signal beyond-line-of-sight propagation
ToneTransmission of a CTCSS tone to a repeater
Top BandFrequencies between 1.8 MHz and 2.0 MHz
UHFUltra-High Frequency
UplinkThe frequency at which a receiver receives a transmission
USBUpper Sideband
UTCUniversal Time Coordinates
VACVolts Alternating Current
VEVolunteer Examiner
VECVolunteer Exam Coordinator
Velocity FactorThe velocity of propagation of signals in a feedline in reference to the speed of light in a vacuum
VHFVery High Frequency
VFOVariable Examiner Oscillator
VOXVoice Operated Exchange
WACWorked All Continents
WallpaperAmateur radio awards and certificates
WANWorked All Neighbors
WARCWorld Administrative Radio Conference
WASWorked All States
WAZWorked All Zones
WOLFWeak-signal Operation on Low Frequency
WorkThe lingo used to mean making contact with someone
Wouff HongThe symbol for implementation of amateur radio rules
WWWA station in Colorado that broadcasts standard time
WWVHA station in Hawaii that broadcasts standard time
XCVRA device that contains both a transmitter and a receiver
XITOffsetting (up or down) of the VFO frequency during transmission
XYLEx-Young Lady (wife)
YagiA very directional single-band antenna
YLYoung Lady
ZedLetter “Z”
Zero BeatPerfectly matching morse code transmission frequency with the receiver’s frequency to minimize bandwidth
Zepp AntennaAn end-fed half-wavelength resonant antenna
ZuluUTC (Universal Time Coordinate