I always believed that DX meant out of one’s own country, and in the continental US that can be pretty far. However, tooling around on the bands I’ll often hear people calling DX inside the US receive responses from others also inside the US. Sometimes the caller will respond, and sometimes not.

  • What is the definition of DX?

  • Is it impolite to answer a CQ DX inside your own country?

  • What should you do if you're calling CQ DX and someone responds to you who you don’t believe is DX?


5 Answers 5


As Wikipedia puts it:

The name of the hobby comes from DX, telegraphic shorthand for "distance" or "distant".

There is no objective definition. If it's far enough that it might be a difficult contact, then it can be DX. Of course this all varies based on conditions, equipment, and perception.

Sometimes, callers will specify just what kind of DX they are seeking. "CQ DX Europe." "CQ DX California". Etc. Frequently, they are seeking a specific contact to qualify for some award, like worked all states, and they may specify this in the call.

If you hear "CQ DX Europe", and you aren't in Europe, then probably you shouldn't return the call. If the call didn't specify exactly what flavor of DX, then use your judgement. Working Maine to California can be DX, especially with a QRP station. If you think the contact might be challenging or rare due to distance and conditions, then it's fair game.

Also consider what other stations might be trying to return the call. If you hear someone in the same country trying to work someone across the world, then you are not "DX" to the guy in the same country. It would probably be nice if you stayed quiet so he can complete the more difficult contact.

During contests, keep in mind what the contest is about. People may explicitly mention the contest in their calls. Reply if you think your contact might be relevant to the contest.

If you receive a response to a DX call but you don't think it is good enough, reply anyway. Maybe the other guy has a question. Maybe he wants to tell you that your transmission is poorly modulated. Maybe he thought you were a challenging contact. Maybe he's transmitting with 1mW, and then you will think it was a good contact too, but you won't know this until you talk. The standard rules of social interaction still apply: be polite. If someone is calling you, they want to talk to you.

  • $\begingroup$ Additionally, remember that the challenge level varies with frequency - a 100 mile contact on 80m is not hugely challenging most of the time, but the same distance on 2.5mm is record-breaking at the time of writing. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2023 at 21:10

In the US, DX most often refers to a foreign country no matter how far the distance. I live near Seattle Washington and the nearest foreign country is Canada, about 100 miles distant from my QTH.

However, DX has some specific definitions created in support of various contests and awards. For example, the DXCC award sponsored by ARRL recognizes a DX contact as a contact with a DX entity outside of your QTH entity. All recognized DX entities (not necessarily countries) are defined by ARRL for this very purpose. Also, there are several contests where the contest rules define what DX contacts generate points in the contest. Often these are the same as the ARRL definitions.

And, a DX entity is not necessarily a foreign country. For example, two of the states (Alaska and Hawaii) of the US are DX entities separate from the one I have in Washington state. Therefore, they qualify to be counted as DX. Actually, both Alaska and Hawaii are easy everyday contacts for my QTH (near Seattle, WA).

Should you answer CQ DX if you are not DX to the caller? I do that only to offer a signal report and in CW this can be done very fast. In response, I will say something like "579 WA K7PEH". But, I will only do this for someone who is distant from me, such as an east coast QTH trying for DX such as Hawaii or Alaska or Japan, etc. Some ops get upset if you answer their DX and you are not DX but most will polite respond to your signal. A typical response to a signal report such as I mentioned earlier is sending just two dots. In CW, sending two dots (technically the letter I but you are not sending an I) is sort of like a quick way to say "OK", or "I hear ya", or even "Bye" (which is a shortened version of "shave and a haircut, two bits").

If you are calling DX and someone answers who is not DX -- be polite. You should always know though if they are DX or not merely by their call sign. All separate DX entities are defined as having recognizable (usually) call signs. By usually, I mean it is not always easy to know unless you have the DX list in front of you to check. For example, in the US, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is DX (A US entity) but it's call sign prefix of KG4 can easily be mistaken for a QTH in the states representing the number 4 call area now that many call areas are using KG as a prefix in their sequentially assigned call signs.

The ARRL DX entity list can be found at: ARRL DX CURRENT LIST

Not all DX is DX either. One example. I heard a strong DX station (CW) and planned to answer. I didn't recognize his call sign so I looked up the prefix on my ARRL DX Entity List poster hanging on the wall next to me. He was South Africa which is a particularly hard DX for my QTH. But, I listened to his CQ call again and this time heard his slash suffix -- he was operating remote in the state of Arizona. I answered anyway and we had a nice chat about his vacation visiting near the Grand Canyon. But, this QSO does not count as true DX for either him or I.

  • $\begingroup$ The "dit dit" response would technically be "EE" rather than "I", no? $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Mar 6, 2018 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @rclocher3. You could say it is either but for pure reasons it may actually depend on how it is sent. If you use a straight key, it could come across as EE depending on spacing. I use a iambic paddle with a keyer and so I sent the two dots as a single operation which most would interpret as the letter I. However, that does not prevent someone from being purposely stylish and sending (with a paddle and keyer) two separate dots, thus EE. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Mar 7, 2018 at 18:19

One definition of DX is "anything you have not worked". Someone above said that if you're in Europe then anything outside Europe is considered DX - but that rather depends where you live. If you are on the European side of Istanbul, then the Asian side of Istanbul is certainly not DX.

However, even if you were in (say) Italy and you called CQ DX and got an answer from Monk Apollo (SV2ASP/A, the only active station in Mount Athos in Greece) you might be EXTREMELY happy about it.

Also just because a station is not DX to you, it doesn't mean you can't be DX to them! A QRP station in Alaska might be delighted to work someone in Nova Scotia, even though USA to Canada might not usually be considered DX.

DX is generally considered to be anything a long distance away, but if you are not sure about it and you hear a station you want to work calling DX and getting no replies, try giving them a call and see if they answer.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that if there was a station active in Myanmar or Andaman Islands everyone would be calling them no matter how near or far away they are - I'm HS0ZLW and would be in the pileups with everyone else.

  • $\begingroup$ I just realised I forgot the most important definition of DX: DX is! $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Jul 22, 2016 at 1:19

Overe here, DX is considered to be long distance QSO, arbitrarily, greater that 2000 km.

In Europe we consider any station outside Europe to be DX.


To me it is kind of like the word "up". My dipole is up means something totally different than my computer being up. It depends on the context.

When hams talk about a DX station, they are normally talking about a DX entity for DXCC award. As such a DX station could be next door if you haven't worked a station within your own DX entity.

The other meaning is a "Distance Transmission". I general consider any contact that isn't line of sight as DX.


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