As I understand it, in aviation and some armed forces, the term Zulu time (denoted by the letter Z) is used to refer to GMT. What is the origin of this? Why the use of "Z"/"Zulu"?

  • There is an expanation on Wikipedia, although I'm not sure if it is thorough enough to answer your question.
    – yoozer8
    Jan 9, 2012 at 17:35
  • @Jim: Erk! If that Wikipedia article doesn't go into enough detail for OP, I'm sure ELU has no business delving any deeper. Even though I've just picked out the central facts in an answer, I'm half minded to vote to close as "general reference". Jan 9, 2012 at 17:42
  • Why is this English?
    – simchona
    Jan 9, 2012 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


It's all explained in this Wikipedia article. Basically, nothing to do with Zulus in Africa - it's just that in the NATO phonetic alphabet (and amateur radio) contexts, the word for Z is "Zulu".

In the context of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Z stands for "zero hours", meaning the offset from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is zero. Effectively, Zulu Time is GMT.

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