Here’s where the term ‘Bravo Zulu’ comes from

Everyone’s a critic. After you complete a job, someone is going to tell you how you did. If you messed up, you’re gonna hear about it.

In the military, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done,” — but…why?

Since the Navy has strong traditions, motivated sailors tend to uphold those traditions and use nautical terms in their everyday dialogue. But why not just say “well done,” right?

Bravo Zulu

According to the Navy, the popular term comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book created by NATO as a system of signals displayed by either a flag hoist or voice radio to communicate and relay messages back and forth between various naval vessels.

The system is comprised of letters and/or numbers that are represented by flags and pennants which have meaning either by themselves or in different combinations.

Related: Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

The Navy uses a system of 68 flags covering the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral, 10 numeral pennants, 4 substitutes, and 18 special flags and pennants.

When a ship wants to relay a message like “well done,” they will hold up the two flags like shown below.

Bravo Zulu

The “Bravo Zulu” flag.

If a vessel wants to communicate another message like “action is being carried out” they would hang up the “Bravo Alpha” flag or “action is not being carried out” the “Bravo India” flag will get hoisted.

A hoisted “Bravo” flag by itself means the vessel is “carrying dangerous cargo” which is far different than doing a job “well done.” For more nautical messages click here.

You’re welcome, America.

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