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Dec 30, 1997
Can anyone tell me what CQD stands for?I have seen Come Quickly Danger and CQ All stations D Distress.I understand that SOS does not stand for save our ship but it is the easiest to tap out,or maybe I'm wrong Anything on this would be greatly appreciated.Thanks
Mar 13, 2000
becky cqd as far as i know means come quickly danger sos doesnt have any meaning its just a better way to say that someone needs help jennifer mueller


Jan 15, 1998
Hi Becky, CQD stands for - Come Quickly Distress. I hope I've helped you Jen
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
My understanding is that the CQ part was a general call for attention with the D meaning danger or distress.

The ease of tapping out the SOS was exactly the reason it was chosen...and the fact that it could be easily recognised.

Michael H. Standart

Pat Cook

Apr 26, 2000
As a side note here, and I don't know where I read this or if it's even documented, but the CQ part was used (and easily remembered) by operators because of the phonetic similarities of the two letters to two words, relating their meaning quite nicely:

CQ = 'Seek You'

Best regards, Cook

William Conrad

I think that Michael has the right idea here. I read that CQD and SOS DIDN'T stand for Come Quick Distress or Save Our Ship! They are simply two three letter codes that meant 'distress'. CQD was first, but the distress code was later changed to the more easily recognisable SOS, circa 1905!

I emphasize my point, I believe that all ships of the period, that had wireless, had call signs composed of letters. I can't remember what the Californian or Carpathia's were, but the Titanic's call sign was MGY. A three letter code that meant the ship 'Titanic', but I don't think the individual letters meant anything.

Also, an interesting side note here is the fact that the Titanic was apparently the first Ocean Liner EVER to use the distress call SOS! Although, I believe it had been used before by other ships...

Dan Cherry

Dec 14, 1999
Harold Bride was asked this question during the
inquiry proceedings. He was asked if CQD and SOS
stood for anything (i.e, initials for words such
as come quicky, distress). The reply was that they
were merely code calls. SOS was easily
recognizable because of its makeup of three dots,
three dashes, three dots. Even the most novice
would be able to identify the signal.

The answer, therefore, would be no, CQD and SOS
are not initials for phrases of distress. There
were only code calls.

William, I believe the Republic has a 1909 claim
as the first ship to use the code SOS, although I,
too, cannot be sure. There are conflicting reports
on the first claim to use the SOS distress call.
There is a third ship of which I cannot recall the
name which also has been said to use the SOS,
sometime between 1909 and 1912.


Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
The story of the distress signals is messy and not entirely clear.

CQD was the Marconi signal from February 1904 and as Marconi ruled the airwaves it was the best known. The CQ means everybody stand by and listen. The D was originally used to signify an important message. It’s a coincidence that it is the first letter of danger or distress. At one time the Americans used NC as a distress call and that survives when given by flags of the International Code of Signals.

The Germans in early days used SOE because it was easy to transmit. At an international conference in 1906 the German signal was proposed but it was thought the single dot of the E was too easy to miss, so SOS was decided on. The Germans had already been using SOS among themselves since 1905. It officially became the international distress signal in July 1908. Marconi ships generally stuck to CQD and as late as 1912 it was still the best-known distress signal.

Exactly who used SOS first is an open question. Republic is generally believed to have sent CQD. The first SOS is generally credited to the American ship SS Arapahoe in August 1909. Some sources say that she was beaten to it by Cunard’s Slavonia in June of 1909, which would make her the first liner to use it. Oddly enough, Arapahoe was one of the first ships to receive an SOS. Late in 1909 she got one from SS Iroquois. All this ignores anything done by the Germans earlier. For all we know, the first SOS might have been sent by Kapitan Fritz Leberwurst of the Apfelstrudel in 1905.


Dec 26, 1997
Petaluma, California
I heard SOS meant Save Our Souls and CQD meant Come Quickly Distress. But you seem to be experts.
I just wanted to add that SOS has been retired.
I remember reading about it. Officially SOS is no longer used as a distress call. I don't know why.
I read this in the late 1990's.

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
SOS went out recently when Morse code went out of official use.

Morse will live for many years yet in the world of amateur radio, but even there the skill level required for a licence is being reduced.

Martin Pirrie

Jun 28, 2000
I believe that the CQ codes came from American telegraphers in the 1880's.

In early days with only a single line, an operator would let other operators on the line know that he was only pausing between trasmitting messages and that the line was not free. He would send something which sounded OK and was easy to tap out while he sorted out his next message. An example is the code for the start of a message: CT and at the end of the message AR.

CT, I do not believe, started out as "Commence Transmission" as many will tell you, it just sounds nice and is easy to send: "dah dit dah dit dah". AR, by the way, is the reverse of CT in Morse!

After telegraphy came telephony and the codes were carried on and added to.

Radio amateurs do not use CQ codes anymore apart from CT, they use three letter codes starting with Q. It is an international language and I have "spoken" on air to people whose native language is not english using only the Q codes and one or two other abbreviations. Our common language is Morse!
Nov 5, 2000
CQ means Common Query. A call is initated by CQ followed by the identity (e.g. MGY).
The identity code of Marconi-stations started with 'M'.
CQD means Common Query, Distress.

Come quickly, Distress (or Danger) is another popular translation.

Jonathon Jedd

Mark Barber:

Thanks for that great link to the SOS/CQD article (and ultimately to the entire "Telegraph Office" site). It's quite an awesome resource!

And since, as the article relates, the use of SOS was originated by the Germans, it's unlikely that it "means" anything specific in English; just adopted by convention as easy to send and recognize.

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