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What Does Copy Mean in Radio? (Answered with Details)

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

what does copy mean in radio

Military radio terms can be confusing, especially for newbies. Among others, one word you’ll often encounter is copy. As such, you are probably wondering what does copy mean in radio?

In a nutshell, copy means understood. It is used to show receipt of a message, which often does not require an action.

Read on as we define copy that or copy and run down other radio jargons you need to know. Even if you are just a casual user, knowing such words can be handy.

Copy in Radio: What Does This Mean?

Copy is a popular radio communication codeword, especially in the military. Some would think that it means Yes. However, it is more than that.

“Copy” in military language means heard and understood. It’s not an affirmative response. Rather, it confirms receiving and understanding the message from the other user.

In layman’s terms, copy meaning radio is like noted. The person receiving the message utters “copy that” to show that the message has been well-received.

History of Copy in Radio Language


The use of copy in radio communications is believed to have started in the 19th-century. During such a time, Morse code was the main mode of communication. A sequence of dots, dashes, and spaces is used to convey a message.

When Morse code was used, there was no voice communication. The one who is sending the message will write it on a piece of paper before transmission. The person receiving the message would also write it down.

Therefore, during the process, the message was copied. The literal meaning is that the receiver has written down the message that was transmitted.

When voice became the main mode of transmission, people would say copy in radio language to indicate that they received and understood the message.

How to Respond to Copy

In some cases, copy can also be used as a question. For instance, one could ask do you copy or do you copy that. As such, you must know the appropriate “copy that” reply.

There are different ways to respond, but one of the most common is to say wilco. In military and radio communications, wilco means will comply.

You can also use Yes Sir as an acknowledgement. However, it often has a hierarchy. Meaning, you’ll use it only when responding to someone who is in a higher position.

Another way to respond would be to say Solid Copy. Now, you may wonder what does solid copy mean. Just like copy, it means the message has been received and understood.

Difference Between Copy and Roger


Two of the most popular languages in radio communication are copy and roger. Most people who aren’t aware would assume that the two are the same. However, there are differences you must note.

While there is a difference, it’s very little, which is exactly the reason why most people use them interchangeably. The table below shows how they are different.

  Copy That Roger
Meaning Heard and understood Received Order Given, Expect Results
Purpose For acknowledgements For demands
Action Needed None Agree and take action

To summarize the table above, a copy is to show that you heard and understood the message. You don’t need to do anything after. It’s merely a form of acknowledgement.

On the other hand, ‘roger that’ is often a response when you get a demand or order from the person on the other end. More than just copying the message, you will act upon the instruction.


Now that you reached the end of this post, we hope we answered the question what does copy mean in radio.

As noted above, copy military meaning is heard and understood. It shows that you have received the message of the other person without the need to act on it.

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