Sailor Speak of the Week – Mayday



  • The international radio distress call.


Made official by an international telecommunications conference in 1948. An anglicized term of the French word, m’aidez, meaning “help me.”


A modern distress signal commonly used in the maritime and aviation fields with the advent of radio voice communications. This is definitely a call you don’t want to make, but one that you should definitely pay attention to should you hear it. Mayday calls should be transmitted on Channel 16 VHF (156.8 MHz) which is monitored around the clock. Note that this channel is reserved for emergency and safety communications only. It is also a crime to broadcast a false mayday.


Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport.

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