Word of the Day

Morse code

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a system of sending messages using signals of sound or light that represent the letters of the alphabet

Origin and usage

Morse code was so named in honour of its inventor, American Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872). Morse invented his famous code around 1858 and it was called ‘Morse key’ at first. The term Morse code dates to 1867.


Morse code refers to the international communication language invented by Samuel Morse in the 1850s. It is a way to send text-based messages without using actual letters or words. Though Morse code is no longer used in any official capacity, it has deep historical significance.

The earliest Morse code transmissions sent messages via telegraph by making indentations on paper. Eventually, Morse code evolved to include radio signals – this is when the code became so important.

Throughout the early 1900s, Morse was used in the air and on the sea by both civilians and military personnel to communicate before it was possible to transmit voice messages over radio wires. During World War II, Morse code was used to encrypt and carry essential information, especially for naval ships and long-range patrol planes.

Today, Morse code is used almost exclusively by amateur radio operators and casual hobbyists. Most military forces around the world have stopped communicating or monitoring messages in Morse code, as modern technology has replaced the Morse system and rendered it professionally redundant.


“Morse conquered his electrical difficulties although he was only a painter, and I don’t intend to give in either ’til all is completed.”
(Alexander Graham Bell)

“If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted instantaneously by electricity.”
(Samuel F. B. Morse)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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