Where can I find the definition of the Q Codes for amateur radio?

So far I could only find

ITU-R M.1172
Miscellaneous abbreviations and signals to be used for radiocommunications in the maritime mobile service
Section I. Q Code

But this is about Q codes for maritime telegraphy and most of these make no sense for amateur radio. I have also found definitions of Q/Z Codes for aviation and military usage.

Has there ever been an official definition of Q Codes for amateur radio and if so, where can I find it?

  • $\begingroup$ Why do you believe that most of the Q-code listed in that recommendation makes no sense for amateur radio? The way I looked at Q-code was that it's a general purpose code with subsets that are of particular interest to various radio services. From what I can see, the part of Q-code listed that that is used by the amateur radio service pretty much matches the actual usage. By the way, I too spend quite a bit of time looking for a definition and couldn't go past IRU-R M1172. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jan 8, 2016 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrejaKo, thank you for your comment. By reading the list A. List of Abbreviations in Alphabetical Order in the ITU Radio Regulations one gets the impression that about half of the abbreviations are not useful for amateur radio. Take the first three for example: QOA, QOB, QOC are about telegraphy on frequencies outside the frequencies for amateur radio. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2016 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_code#Amateur_radio $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2016 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Jonas Stein I don't have the Radio Regulations at the moment (freshly formatted hard drive), but I'll take a look as soon as I get it again. In any case, my opinion is that there's really no need for a separate amateur Q-code. Instead we could just use the useful ones and not use the ones that simply do not apply. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jan 8, 2016 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Optionparty wikipedia is no primary source. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2016 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


There is basically three (somewhat overlapping) lists of Q-codes used in Ham Radio. The three lists are those used by voice operators (SSB), those used by CW operators, and those used in CW traffic handling nets (QN codes).

A full single "official" list of Q-codes is not useful to the ham radio operator. What is useful is to know those that are commonly used. The use of Q-codes is most dominant among CW operators because CW begs the use of abbreviations to limit keying. Use of Q-codes among voice operators, mostly SSB is also common but the usage is typically more limited to just a handful such as: QSL, QSO, QSB, QRM, QRN, QTH, QSY, QRZ, QRL, QRU, and maybe a few others I am missing. But, many times a voice operator will merely say something equivalent to the Q-code meaning. For example, he/she might say "I am being interfered with" instead of "there is QRM" or "there seems to be a slow fade on your signal" rather than saying "some QSB on your signal". Note that I am listing these as I think of them and obviously the same set is not the common usage of all operators. But, you can expect to hear these at times among SSB operators. [By the way, many SSB voice operators would say "QR-Mary instead of QRM or QR-Nancy instead of QRN (atmospherics noise or other non-operator RFI)].

With CW operators, you can add to the list signals (above) such as QRT, QRV, QSP, QRS (and, less frequently QRQ), QST (by scheduled nets usually).

And, within a CW traffic net, the QN signals are common such as: QNI, QNX, QNZ, QNA, QNZ, QND, and a few others.

When asking a question via a Q-code in CW it is common practice to include a ?-mark following the Q-code. For example, a CW operator will check to see if his frequency is clear by sending QRL? meaning "is the frequency busy?". An answer of the letter C from someone if the answer is yes, it is busy. The letter C is a common CW abbreviation meaning Yes.

Now, in the above lists I did not define these Q-codes because they are very easy to look up. The ARRL has lists published on their web site plus these Q codes and many more are published on many web sites. Just Google "Q signals ham radio" or some variation of that and you will find them.

Also above, I did not list every Q-code known to amateur radio. Some are never heard. I am almost 100 percent CW activity and I spend a lot of time on CW traffic nets and I use maybe a dozen total Q codes from the regular Q code lists and the QN codes.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that the QN net codes are defined by the ARRL. I don't think they are used outside of the USA. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This doesn't address the question, which is about what official definitions exist. (The answer might well be “There aren't really official definitions, except for specific situations like [ARRL defines QN codes, ...]”, but if so you should say that.) $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Jan 8, 2016 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion, for an active ham radio operator (and, this is what this forum is about), the full list is of no practical use. The list I gave are those that are commonly used. I have been operating and using Q codes longer than many of the readers here have been alive and I have a pretty good handle on what is commonly used. As far as official lists, yes there is no official list. I think every list you google is different from each other (unless someone copied some other list). The closest to official for ham radio is the ARRL lists. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Jan 8, 2016 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ -1 for not answering the question. While I do certainly agree that an amateur radio operator can work using only the "commonly used" codes that go down from one generation to another, not actually knowing the real source of information can lead to dangerous spreading of myths and legends. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jan 8, 2016 at 23:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Therefore, I believe that it is fully justified to search for actual documentation instead of just "going with the flow". $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Jan 9, 2016 at 18:33

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