*** UPDATE: We are saddened to report that
Bob Nelson passed away in early 2019.

At this time, the site has been preserved for those of you who enjoy this research. However, additions/corrections are on hold for now, until we determine who, if anyone will be the "new curator" of the call letter Origins.

(If you are interested in volunteering, let us know.)    

Oldradio's Radio/TV Station Call Letter Origins
Release Number 346 - from 21 May 2018

The resource for Radio History on the Web is Barry Mishkind's Broadcast Archive at OLDRADIO, the primary site for this listing of broadcast call letter origins. Of course, there's much more information at OLDRADIO about pioneer radio stations, broadcast history and current industry issues as well.

Copyright 1988-2020 by Barry Mishkind -

This release of freely available Radio Call Letter Origins has grown to now include over 3645 radio and television station call letters and the significance of these call letters. In most cases, the call letters are still currently being used in the city of license shown in the list itself.

If you wish to contribute or make a correction, send e-mail in plain text form (no HTML accepted) to xxxx with the word ORIGINS included as part of the subject line.

Last Modified - $Date: 2018-05-21 14:20:58-05 $

Here's the latest Call Letter ORIGINS list.

That's the link directly to the ever-growing and frequently-updated compilation of the station call letters. After checking out the list, come back since the remainder of this document contains some interesting in-depth narratives about particular call letters and other historic as well as meta information.

The primary emphasis remains on radio -- but significant television call letters are also included. Chicago's WTTW(TV) has an interesting and historic slogan associated with it: W)indow T)o T)he W)orld. That slogan is prominently displayed on their web page.

Although I realize that many call letters were simply assigned by the government, it is fascinating to trace the story of a radio station by its use of the call letters. For example, the random WBBM call letters assigned to Ralph Atlass in Chicago presented an opportunity to promote his station as the W)orld's B)est B)roadcast M)edium, W)e B)roadcast B)etter M)usic or W)e B)roadcast B)roadmoor M)usic.

Slogans were often "forced" upon these assigned call letters by contests involving listeners. As a result, Pittsburgh listeners heard that WJAS was the W)orld's J)olliest A)erial S)tation. Across the state, there was Philly's WNAT: W)e N)ever A)re T)ired in Philadelphia. (I'm sure this slogan predated W.C. Fields). Well-known Unix hacker and Open Source Evangelist, Eric S. Raymond, refers to this practice as a using a backronym.


Much of what you see here is based upon the knowledge of associates currently in the broadcast industry (plus those who have moved on to the academic field) as well as special contributors.


  1. The list is arranged alphabetically in ASCII (using the ISO 646 invariant character set) collating order based upon call letters.
  2. Ownership information is not necessarily current, instead it is based upon ownership at the time of the grant of the call letters.
  3. The call letters may not necessarily be current. This is particularly true in light of format modifications and ownership changes.
  4. There is no warranty whatsoever for the accuracy (or possibly total lack thereof) of the information presented herein. Don't bet the ranch on the validity of anything contained in the list. Although a reasonable effort was made to be correct, some of the meanings attributed to the call letters may be nothing more than "urban myths".
  5. The names, employers and e-mail addresses of the cited contributors were current as of the date of the receipt of the information. Some of this is many years old and may be severely outdated.
  6. This is not a peer-reviewed journal and contents may settle during shipping.
  7. Void where prohibited.
Now that you've read this narrative, here's the current compilation, featuring a listing of the call letters.
Return to the OLDRADIO main page.