For an example, let's consider the time specification "1539Z".

How do the people in the military spell that? "Fifteen thirty-nine Zulu"? "Fifteen thirty-nine zee"? "One fife tree niner zulu"? Are there differences between US, Canadian, British, Australian (and other English-speaking NATO members) spelling of this time specification - and if so, what are they?

The scenario here is how to put the time in writing as direct speech/quotation of someone. This is important in the following cases:

  • It's a direct quotation, and I want to write down what would be spoken exactly as it would be spoken (but don't have access to audio logs).
  • It's direct speech in a work of fiction, where how someone spells the time specification gives a hint to their background.
  • 2
    you mean "spell" or "pronounce"?
    – Charles
    Sep 14, 2012 at 19:34
  • 1
    possible duplicate of How should one say times aloud in 24-hour notation? While previous question refers to saying vs spelling, I think the former implies the latter. Also see 24 hour time. How to say it? and Date formats for Americans, Sep 14, 2012 at 19:36
  • 3
    We spell it like this: 1539Z. (Seriously, in what context would you want to spell it out longhand? Maybe you can think of reason that someone would want or need to do that, but, if so, perhaps you should add that scenario to your question.)
    – J.R.
    Sep 14, 2012 at 19:36
  • @J.R. Added the two cases I can think of ATM; the second one is the one I'm actually currently struggling with. Sep 14, 2012 at 19:44
  • 1
    I don't think this is a dup because the other doesn't address the zulu "time zone". But maybe these should be merged? Sep 23, 2012 at 3:33

1 Answer 1


NATO military pronounces individual letters as words to ensure clarity. They use the NATO Phonetic alphabet. Time is pronounced as two digit/two digit, unless it's precisely on the hour. 0430 is oh-four thirty, or zero-four thirty. 21:35 is twenty-one thirty-five. 19:00 is nineteen hundred.

Thus 1539Z "Fifteen thirty-nine Zulu"

As an aside, Zulu represents Greenwich Mean Time.

  • 1
    "Zulu time" actually represents UTC (which has a difference from GMT of up to 0.9 seconds). Just to clear this up, how would one say "0300", "oh-three hundred" or "three hundred"? Sep 14, 2012 at 21:04
  • 2
    @Martin: oh-three hundred.
    – J.R.
    Sep 15, 2012 at 4:24

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