German Phonetic Spelling Code

Deutsches Funkalphabet - deutsche Buchstabiertafel

German-speakers are used to their own Funkalphabet or Buchstabiertafel for spelling on the phone or in radio communications. Germans use their own spelling code for foreign words, names, or other unusual spelling needs.

English-speaking expats or business people in German-speaking countries often run into the problem of spelling their non-German name or other words on the phone. Using the English/international phonetic code, the familiar "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie..." used by the military and airline pilots isn't any help.

The first official German spelling code was introduced in Prussia in 1890 - for the newly invented telephone and the Berlin telephone book. That first code used numbers (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.). Words were introduced in 1903 ("A wie Anton" = "A as in Anton").

Over the years some of the words used for the German phonetic spelling code have changed. Even today the words used can vary from country to country in the German-speaking region. For example, the K word is Konrad in Austria, Kaufmann in Germany, and Kaiser in Switzerland. But most of the time the words used for spelling German are the same. See the full chart below.

If you also need help in learning how to pronounce the German letters of the alphabet (A, B, C...), see the German alphabet lesson for beginners, with audio to learn to pronounce each letter.

Phonetic Spelling Chart for German (with audio)

This phonetic spelling guide shows the German equivalent of the English/international (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie...) phonetic spelling used to avoid confusion when spelling words on the phone or in radio communication.

It can be helpful when you need to spell your non-German name on the phone or in other situations where spelling confusion may arise.

Practice: Use the chart below to spell your name (first and last names) in German, using the German alphabet and the German spelling code ( Buchstabiertafel). Remember that the German formula is “A wie Anton.”

Das Funkalphabet - German Phonetic Spelling Code
compared to the international ICAO/NATO code
Listen to AUDIO for this chart! (below)
Germany*Phonetic GuideICAO/NATO**
A wie AntonAHN-toneAlfa/Alpha
Ä wie ÄrgerAIR-gehr(1)
B wie BertaBARE-tuhBravo
C wie CäsarSAY-zarCharlie
Ch wie Charlotteshar-LOT-tuh(1)
D wie DoraDORE-uhDelta
E wie Emilay-MEALEcho
F wie FriedrichFREED-reechFoxtrot
G wie GustavGOOS-tahfGolf
H wie HeinrichHINE-reechHotel
I wie IdaEED-uhIndia/Indigo
J wie JuliusYUL-ee-oosJuliet
K wie KaufmannKOWF-mannKilo
L wie LudwigLOOD-vigLima
AUDIO 1 > Listen to mp3 for A-L
M wie MarthaMAR-tuhMike
N wie NordpolNORT-poleNovember
O wie OttoAHT-toeOscar
Ö wie Ökonom (2)UEH-ko-nome(1)
P wie PaulaPOW-luhPapa
Q wie QuelleKVEL-uhQuebec
R wie RichardREE-shartRomeo
S wie Siegfried (3)SEEG-freedSierra
Sch wie SchuleSHOO-luh(1)
ß (Eszett)ES-TSET(1)
T wie TheodorTAY-oh-doreTango
U wie UlrichOOL-reechUniform
Ü wie ÜbermutUEH-ber-moot(1)
V wie ViktorVICK-torVictor
W wie WilhelmVIL-helmWhiskey
X wie XanthippeKSAN-tipp-uhX-Ray
Y wie YpsilonIPP-see-lohnYankee
Z wie ZeppelinTSEP-puh-leenZulu
AUDIO 1 > Listen to mp3 for A-L
AUDIO 2 > Listen to mp3 for M-Z

1. Germany and some other NATO countries add codes for their unique letters of the alphabet.
2. In Austria the German word for that country (Österreich) replaces the official "Ökonom." See more variations in the chart below.
3. "Siegfried" is widely used instead of the more official "Samuel."

*Austria and Switzerland have some variations of the German code. See below.
**The IACO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) spelling code is used internationally (in English) by pilots, radio operators, and others who need to clearly communicate information.


German Phonetic Spelling Code
Country Variations (German)
D wie DoraD wie DoraD wie Daniel
K wie KaufmannK wie KonradK wie Kaiser
Ö wie ÖkonomÖ wie ÖsterreichÖ wie Örlikon (1)
P wie PaulaP wie PaulaP wie Peter
Ü wie ÜbermutÜ wie ÜbelÜ wie Übermut
X wie XanthippeX wie XaverX wie Xaver
Z wie Zeppelin (2)Z wie ZürichZ wie Zürich
1. Örlikon (Oerlikon) is a quarter in the northern part of Zurich. It is also the name of a 20mm cannon first developed during WWI.
2. The official German code word is the name "Zacharias," but it is rarely used.
These country variations may be optional.


History of Phonetic Alphabets

As mentioned before, the Germans were among the first (in 1890) to develop a spelling aid. In the U.S. the Western Union telegraph company developed its own code (Adams, Boston, Chicago...).

Similar codes were developed by American police departments, most of them similar to Western Union (some still in use today). With the advent of aviation, pilots and air controllers needed to a code for clarity in communication.

The 1932 version (Amsterdam, Baltimore, Casablanca...) was used until World War II. The armed forces and international civil aviation used Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog... until 1951, when a new IATA code was introduced: Alfa, Bravo, Coca, Delta, Echo, etc. But some of those letter codes presented problems for non-English speakers. The amendments resulted in the NATO/ICAO international code in use today. That code is also in the German chart.