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Yacht Charters: May Day…where does the term originate?

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It’s May 1st.  Happy May Day!

Where did the nautical term, “Mayday” originate?

Mayday May Day M'aider SOS radio distress call used by police ship captains firemen

Mayday is an emergency distress signal used in radio communications.  The term derived from the French word, “m’aider” (pronounced “mayDAY”).  As a distress call, it is always repeated 3 times, and it is universally recognized.  When only used once (as in, “Mayday,” versus “Mayday Mayday Mayday”), it is used to discuss an actual distress call that is under investigation.

M’aider in French means “help me,” but in France, it is not considered a distress call.  It is a commonplace “help me,” as in, “can you help me do this?”

Although it’s a rare occurrence to hear this call on a luxury yacht charter vacation, this surely would have been used during the sinking of superyacht Yogi.


If you’d like to learn more nautical terminology or book your own private yacht vacation, contact 1-800 Yacht Charters at

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