CQ (call)

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CQ call of German amateur radio station DG2RBH on the 80 m band

CQ is a code used by wireless operators, particularly those communicating in Morse code, (— · — ·  — — · —), but also by voice operators, to make a general call (called a CQ call). Transmitting the letters CQ on a particular radio frequency is an invitation for any operators listening on that frequency to respond. It is still widely used in amateur radio.

History and usage[edit]

The CQ call was originally used by landline telegraphy operators in the United Kingdom. French was, and still is, the official language for international postal services,[citation needed] and the word sécurité was used to mean "safety" or "pay attention".[citation needed] It is still used in this sense in international telecommunications.[citation needed] The letters CQ, when pronounced in French, resemble the first two syllables of sécurité, and were therefore used as shorthand for the word, it sounds also like the French "c'est qui?" which in English means "who's there?". In English-speaking countries, the origin of the abbreviation was popularly changed to the phrase "seek you" or, later, when used in the CQD distress call, "Calling all distress".

CQ was adopted by the Marconi Company in 1904 for use in wireless (spark) telegraphy, and was adopted internationally at the 1912 London International Radiotelegraph Convention, and is still used.

A variant of the CQ call, CQD, was the first code used as a distress signal, it was proposed by the Marconi Company and adopted in 1904, but was replaced between 1906 and 1908 by the SOS code. When the Titanic sank in 1912, however, it initially transmitted the distress call CQD DE MGY, MGY being the ship's call sign. (The Titanic's radio operator alternated between SOS and CQD afterwards.)

In amateur radio usage, a CQ call can be qualified by appending more letters, as in CQ DX (meaning "calling all stations located in a different continent to the caller"), or the ITU call sign prefix for a particular country (e.g. CQ VK for "calling Australia"). The originator of the call can be identified by appending the letters DE (French for "from", also means "this is...") and the call sign of the transmitting station.

The code was used as part of the chorus to the song "Communications" by Slim Gaillard.

See also[edit]


  • Straw, R Dean (ed.) (October 2005). The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications 2006 (83rd ed.). Newington, CT: American Radio Relay League. ISBN 0-87259-949-3. OCLC 62026192. 
  • Bergquist, Carl J (2001-05-01). Ham Radio Operator's Guide (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Prompt Publications. ISBN 0-7906-1238-0. OCLC 47051066. 
  • Dennison, Mike and Chris Lorek (eds.) (June 2005). Radio Communication Handbook (8th ed.). Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England: Radio Society of Great Britain. ISBN 1-905086-08-3. OCLC 123027893. 
  • Commercial Traffic Regulations, 1915. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC: United States Naval Radio Service.