the letters represented by the radio telegraphic signal (· · · – – – · · ·) used, especially by ships in distress, as an internationally recognized call for help.


any call for help: We sent out an SOS for more typists.

verb (used without object)

to send an SOS.

Origin of SOS

1905–10, from the Morse code alphabet, in which three dots (or short clicks) represents the letter S and three dashes (or long clicks) represents the letter O




noun Music.


(in prescriptions) if necessary.

Origin of s.o.s.

From the Latin word sī opus sit Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sos

Contemporary Examples of sos

Historical Examples of sos

  • Fix it sos he wouldnt have to work all the time like he does.

    Full-Back Foster

    Ralph Henry Barbour

  • No, sir, I lured this here bear in sos I could kill him handy to where I wanted him.

    Sudden Jim

    Clarence Budington Kelland

  • Since hed been in the army hed got sos he could eat anything.

  • An when I get a place, Ill come an bring the number, sos you can tell him.

    In Wild Rose Time

    Amanda M. Douglas

  • An Ill make the boys stan roun, sos to keep the housewelldecent!

    In Wild Rose Time

    Amanda M. Douglas

British Dictionary definitions for sos



an internationally recognized distress signal in which the letters SOS are repeatedly spelt out, as by radio-telegraphy: used esp by ships and aircraft
a message broadcast in an emergency for people otherwise unobtainable
informal a call for help

Word Origin for SOS

C20: letters chosen as the simplest to transmit and receive in Morse code; by folk etymology taken to be an abbreviation for save our souls


abbreviation for

Somalia (international car registration)




(foll by an adjective or adverb and a correlative clause often introduced by that) to such an extentthe river is so dirty that it smells
(used with a negative; it replaces the first as in an equative comparison) to the same extent asshe is not so old as you
(intensifier)it's so lovely; I love you so
in the state or manner expressed or impliedthey're happy and will remain so
(not used with a negative; foll by an auxiliary verb or do, have, or be used as main verbs) also; likewiseI can speak Spanish and so can you
informal indeed: used to contradict a negative statementYou didn't tell the truth. I did so!
archaic provided that
and so on or and so forth and continuing similarly
just so See just (def. 19)
or so approximatelyfifty or so people came to see me
quite so I agree; exactly
so be it used to express agreement or resignation
so much
  1. a certain degree or amount (of)
  2. a lot (of)it's just so much nonsense
so much for
  1. no more can or need be said about
  2. used to express contempt for something that has failedso much for your bright idea

conjunction (subordinating; often foll by that)

in order (that)to die so that you might live
with the consequence (that)he was late home, so that there was trouble
so as (takes an infinitive) in order (to)to slim so as to lose weight

sentence connector

in consequence; henceshe wasn't needed, so she left
used to introduce a sentence expressing resignation, amazement, or sarcasmso you're publishing a book!
thereupon; and thenand so we ended up in France
used to introduce a sentence or clause to add emphasishe's crazy, so he is
so what! informal what importance does that have?


used to substitute for a clause or sentence, which may be understoodyou'll stop because I said so


(used with is, was, etc) factual; trueit can't be so


an exclamation of agreement, surprise, etc

Word Origin for so

Old English swā; related to Old Norse svā, Old High German sō, Dutch zoo


In formal English, so is not used as a conjunction, to indicate either purpose (he left by a back door so he could avoid photographers) or result (the project was abandoned so his services were no longer needed). In the former case to or in order to should be used instead, and in the latter case and so or and therefore would be more acceptable. The expression so therefore should not be used




music a variant spelling of soh



the internet domain name for

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sos


1910, from International Morse code letters, chosen arbitrarily as being easy to transmit and difficult to mistake. Not an initialism for "save our ship" or anything else. Won out over alternative suggestion C.Q.D., which is said to mean "come quickly, distress," or "CQ," general call for alerting other ships that a message follows, and "D" for danger. SOS is the telegraphic distress signal only; the oral equivalent is mayday.



Old English swa, swæ (adv., conj., pron.) "in this way," also "to that extent; so as, consequently, therefore," and purely intensive; from Proto-Germanic *swa (cf. Old Saxon, Middle Dutch, Old High German so, Old Norse sva, Danish saa, Swedish , Old Frisian sa, Dutch zo, German so "so," Gothic swa "as"), from PIE reflexive pronomial stem *swo- "so" (cf. Greek hos "as," Old Latin suad "so," Latin se "himself"), derivative of *s(w)e-, pronoun of the third person and reflexive (see idiom).

Old English swa frequently was strengthened by eall, and so also is contained in compounds as, also, such. The -w- was eliminated by contraction from 12c.; cf. two, which underwent the same process but retained its spelling. As an "introductory particle" [OED] from 1590s. Used to add emphasis or contradict a negative from 1913. So in mid-20c. British slang could mean "homosexual" (adj.). So? as a term of dismissal is attested from 1886 (short for is that so?, etc.). So what as an exclamation of indifference dates from 1934. So-and-so is from 1596 meaning "something unspecified;" first recorded 1897 as a euphemistic term of abuse. Abbreviating phrase and so on is attested from 1724. So far so good is from 1721.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sos in Medicine



si opus sit (if needed)
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with sos


In addition to the idioms beginning with so

  • so as to
  • so be it
  • so far
  • so far as
  • so far, so good
  • so help me
  • soil one's hands
  • sold on, be
  • sold out
  • so long
  • so long as
  • so many
  • so much
  • so much as
  • so much for
  • so much the
  • song and dance
  • son of a bitch
  • so that
  • so to speak
  • so what

also see:

  • and so forth (and so on)
  • as (so) far as
  • as (so) far as possible
  • as (so) far as that goes
  • as (so) long as
  • as (so) much as
  • even so
  • every now and then (so often)
  • go so far as to
  • how come (so)
  • in so many words
  • is that a fact (so)
  • I told you so
  • just so
  • never had it so good
  • not (so) bad
  • on one's say-so
  • or so
  • take it (just so much)
  • without so much as
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.