Why Pilots Are Always Calling Everyone 'Roger'

"Roger, Roger."

airplane pilots flight cockpit flightdeck
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

While pilot lingo may sometimes seem bizarre, there's actually a traceable history that demystifies the odd-seeming use of the name "Roger."

In the early days of aviation, when there was no standard of communication between planes, it was necessary to develop something quick and efficient to respond to commands.

Before voice communication, pilots used morse code and instead of tapping out that a message was "received" they used shorthand and just tapped out "r" (short long short). In 1915, pilots began making the switch over from morse code wireless telegraphy to voice commands. However, it wasn't until 1930 that voice radio communication became the standard for airplane pilots.

"R" was already in place to mean "received," something that aviators didn't see a need to change. But just saying "r" could lead to communication errors. So they took "Roger" from the U.S. phonetic alphabet. (In 1957, the English phonetic alphabet changed the R to "Romeo," but by that time, "Roger" was deeply embedded in the minds of pilots.)

So, in short, "Roger" means "r" which stands for "received." The word "Roger" means nothing more.

Taking it a step further, some may know "Roger" as part of the full reply "Roger Wilco." Translated into typical English, that phrase actually means "Received, will comply."

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