bravo zulu meaning

Bravo Zulu Meaning: 3 Things You Never Knew

There are several military slang words and phrases, and you may have heard and wondered the Bravo Zulu meaning.

Bravo Zulu goes way back to the 1940s, and it shows up in casual conversation, as a way to communicate between two ships, and even over the radio waves.

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What is Bravo Zulu Meaning?

Bravo Zulu Meaning

Simply put, Bravo Zulu means ‘Good Job” or “Well Done.”

The Navy communicates with flags a lot of the time and over the airwaves.

When using nautical flags on ships, two flags with different meanings are raised to indicate Bravo Zulu meaning. One flag indicates Bravo, while the other represents Zulu.

While initially meant to communicate with flags and over the radio between navies, the term Bravo Zulu has made its way into everyday vernacular.

The saying is often used in the written word, emails, and even verbally to compliment the performance of another.

While it is easy enough to just say ‘Well Done,” the Navy is known to hold onto traditions, so the motivation to say Bravo Zulu instead is strong.

Bravo Zulu Meaning Origins

The origins of Bravo Zulu go back to the Allied Naval Signal Book, which was an international naval code that came into being after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) came together in 1949.

Prior to this Signal Book, every navy had its own way to communicate, and we learned during World War II that allies had a hard time talking to one another when everyone used a different ‘language.’

Therefore, NATO worked with one another to come up with a system of communication to make life easier. 

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Other Military Sayings

Bravo Zulu

The NATO signals lend themselves to other variations of Bravo Zulu, as well.

Since the system is made up of numbers and letters that all have flags to display that meaning, different combinations of flags have various meanings.

For instance, if just the Bravo flag is out, that means the cargo on the vessel is dangerous and sailors need to be careful.

If the Bravo flag is up along with the Alpha flag, that means that an action is in the process of being carried out.

If you see the Bravo Lima flag, that means ‘When Ready.’

Sometimes, flags go up to spell out words. If you see the Yankee, Echo, and Sierra flag out, that says ‘Yes.’

Furthermore, there are single flags that are almost always in use.

As mentioned, the Bravo flag means there are materials on board that everyone needs to be cautious of.

If the Oscar flag is up, someone went overboard. I am confident that is not a flag sailors are happy to see.

Lastly, when emergency flags go up, and there are a few, a signal whistle sounds.

This whistle is to alert sailors to pay attention to the emergency flag.


Bravo Zulu is a common Naval phrase.

The term Bravo Zulu goes back to the late 1940s after World War II ended and the world’s navies realized they needed a common language to communicate better.

NATO came up with a system of flags and meanings so ally ships could communicate with one another both visually and via radio.

The term Bravo Zulu means ‘Well Done.’

Also, the saying Bravo Zulu shows up in both verbal and written correspondence to convey the same meaning.


Rob V.
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Find out what the meaning of Bravo Zulu in the Navy, including why its used, its origins, and other common military terms used.

Originally posted on 11/28/21

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