What is the Meaning of SOS

Discover the true meaning of the emergency distress signal SOS and its significance in saving lives. Learn about its origin, usage, examples, case studies, and statistics.


Have you ever wondered what the emergency distress signal SOS really means? In this article, we will explore the history and significance of SOS.

Origin of SOS

SOS is a Morse code distress signal used internationally as a visual distress signal and also as an oral message to signify distress. It was first introduced by the German government in radio regulations effective April 1, 1905. The signal was selected because it is easily recognizable in Morse code as three dots, three dashes, and three dots.

Meaning of SOS

SOS does not actually stand for any specific words. Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean ‘save our souls’ or ‘save our ship.’ The letters were chosen simply because they are easy to recognize and transmit in Morse code without any ambiguity.

Usage of SOS

SOS is used universally in emergency situations to request help. It is often used by ships, aircraft, and individuals in distress. The signal can be transmitted via sound, light, or code, making it a versatile distress signal.

Examples of SOS

  • A ship in distress sends out an SOS signal using its radio transmitter to call for assistance from nearby vessels or coast guard.
  • An individual lost in the wilderness spells out SOS using rocks or sticks to signal for rescue.
  • An aircraft experiencing engine failure uses its communication system to transmit the SOS signal to air traffic control.

Case Studies

In 2018, a hiker lost in the mountains of Colorado used the SOS feature on his GPS device to alert authorities to his location. He was successfully rescued within hours.


According to the International Morse Code, the SOS signal is one of the most easily recognizable distress signals, with its pattern of three short, three long, three short signals.


So, the next time you hear or see the SOS signal, remember that it is a universal cry for help in times of distress. Its simplicity and effectiveness have made it a crucial tool in saving lives around the world.

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