In Morse code, hams use "hi" to indicate a laugh, and "es" to mean "and".

Where did these abbreviations come from? Both being all dots, they are short and easy to send and easy to recognize, but why these particular abbreviations?

For example, we use "de" instead of "this is" for similar reasons of brevity, but it's easy to see where this one comes from: "de" means "from" in Spanish.

My personal guess for "hi" is that it just sounds funny when you hear it, and almost brings to mind the rhythm of the old phrase "shave and a haircut, two bits. But I could be quite mistaken; there must be more to it than that. And I have no clue where "es" came from.

Would anyone know?

hi hi tks es 73 de WJ6V dit dit


Many Morse abbreviations and conventions come from before the days of radio, and we are relative latecomers to the game compared to the telegraphy guys. For this question, I found an old reference here from a 1920 Morse Telegraphy manual where the ES abbreviation is shown in the old American code as being the code for the ampersand character &.

It is quite likely that this is the source for the ES = AND abbreviation.

Furthermore, the HI abbreviation seems to have originated from the telegraph abbreviation HEE (usually repeated as HEE HEE) for laughter. I have heard HEE used more than HI on air, but that was largely due to listening to old G3s and G2s back in the day. I found one reference that mentions it here


I've heard that is short for hee hee hee.

I also heard it was a prosign meaning "HUMOR INTENDED".

All of these are wrong.

Actually, laughter in Morse code, if pronounced "HO HO", like Santa's laugh.

It comes from the old American Morse code where the letter "O" was sent as a dit-short pause and another dit.

SO, instead of sounding like HI or HEE, it should be sent like H E E.

It should sound like di-di-di-dit dit dit, or H E E.

Look up the old American Morse code and the letters CORYZ.

When radio came around and where most OPs started as landline telegraphers, they brought HO HO with them.


In German, "hihihi" is the transcript of the sound of giggling.

(Which could be transcribed as heeheehee in the English language.)

Thus the theory of "hee" 'mutating' to "hi" might hold.


66 years ago, my Elmer, W5OLV, told me that 'and' evolved into 'es' as a short form because it occurred so often. He said it started out as dit-dah dah-dit dah-dit-dit and for efficiency, the operators dropped the dahs and started sending dit dit dit-dit which then evolved into dit dit-dit-dit. But that might have just been Shorty's theory.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ When I was a freshman at Texas A&M in the 1950s, I was surprised at the number of people sending 'hii' with their car horns. Turns out, it was the beginning cadence for the Aggie War Hymn, "Hullabaloo, Caneck, Caneck", i.e. dit-dit-dit-dit dit-dit dit-dit. $\endgroup$ – Cecil - W5DXP Apr 3 '19 at 11:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.