What Is SOS in Morse Code?

SOS in Morse code is signaled by three dots, three dashes, and three more dots: "... --- ...."

This sequence is known all over the world as a distress signal. When people use Morse code for SOS in verbal communication, or written text, it indicates they are in a dangerous situation and urgently need help.

Use the Morse code translator to convert further text to Morse code.

When Would You Use Morse Code SOS?

Knowing how to communicate a Morse Code SOS message is useful if you're in a situation where you can't speak or can't be heard, especially when other audio distress signals might not be effective. Or if you don't want anyone to know you're calling for help.

For example, if you're too far away from someone to call for help and are in the dark, you can use a flashlight to signal SOS.

Or if you're in danger and want to communicate that you need help to someone, tapping SOS in Morse code on their hand or the table can signal help without anyone else knowing.

SOS Morse code can be transmitted by:

  • Using a flashlight
  • Tapping on a wall or table
  • Humming the sound
  • Texting the combination of dots and dashes
  • Writing the sequence down
  • Playing the signal via radio or telephone

After mastering the SOS signal, you might consider investing time to learn Morse code.

How Do You Tap SOS in Morse Code?

Tapping the Morse code SOS signal is quick and simple. Because the sequence only uses nine codes, it can easily be recognized by someone familiar with the Morse code alphabet, following signal patterns of dots and dashes.

Dots are short signals and dashes are long signals. The SOS sequence is made of three dots (short signals), three dashes (long signals), and three dots (short signals).

To tap an SOS message in Morse code, you simply have to tap three short signals, three long signals, and three short signals again.

Where Did SOS Morse Code Come From?

SOS was chosen as a standard distress signal in Morse code because the letters are simple, quick, and easy to remember, with the three Morse code sequences included being three dots, three dashes, and three dots.

Contrary to popular belief, SOS is not an acronym in Morse code. Rumor has it that SOS stands for Save Our Souls or Save Our Ship.

This stems from how the signal was initially used as a maritime radio distress signal on sinking ships or boats in danger and in need of help.

Yet the letters SOS were simply chosen because of how easy they are to translate into Morse code, rather than as an acronym for anything.

What Came First SOS or Morse Code?

Morse code was invented before the SOS distress signal by about 70 years.

Morse code was first invented in the 1830s in the US by electrical telegraphy inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse. An internationally recognized Morse code was agreed upon in 1851, which is when its use became popular and for more official purposes at wireless telegraph stations. It was a form of communication that helped lead to the development of other encoding systems, like binary code.

It wasn't until 1906 that the SOS distress signal was officially adopted. However, it had been in use unofficially for some time before this as a way of communicating distress messages over radio signals. The International Radio Telegraphic Convention played an important role in this process, standardizing radio distress signals and formalizing the use of SOS.

What Is an Example of a Distress Signal?

SOS distress call is the globally agreed signal to communicate distress. It's primarily used by the military, navy, aircrafts, boating, government agencies, and police forces, all of which follow national radio regulations.

It's also used colloquially as a slang term to communicate minor inconveniences or gossip to friends or family. For example, a teenager might text a friend SOS when they've been grounded or if there's new drama to talk about.