Slang dictionary

Charlie Foxtrot

[chahr-lee foks-trot]

What does Charlie Foxtrot mean?

Ten-hut, soldier! We drop boots at 0-800 and it is a Charlie Foxtrot down there.

Charlie Foxtrot is military slang for a chaotic situation—that is, clusterfuck.

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Related words

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, tactical shit, Roger that, brothers in arms, Kilroy was here, MAC-10, yut, 10-4, fugazi, BTFO

Where does Charlie Foxtrot come from?

Funny

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) created a phonetic alphabet in the 1950s that became adopted by military and civilian radio communication. The alphabet uses words in place of letters to minimize various forms of miscommunication.

In the NATO phonetic alphabet, Charlie is used for the letter C and Foxtrot, the letter F. That makes the compound clusterfuck Charlie FoxtrotCharlie Foxtrot begins as a euphemism in 196os US military slang for a poorly-managed operation during the Vietnam War.

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Charlie Foxtrot, along with other sweary military slang like SNAFU, crossed over into the civilian sector thanks to veterans returning home from duty and popular entertainment depictions of the military. Author Tom Clancy used Charlie Foxtrot as early as 1989 in his novel Clear and Present Danger, later adapted into a hit 1994 film.

Charlie Foxtrot became so associated with military slang that it has supplied titles of books on everything from the Cold War to the Gulf War to veteran affairs. Military-themed films and TV shows have also used the name.

In the 2010s, modern military video games such as Ghost Recon or the extremely popular Call of Duty series have included plenty of military slang like Charlie Foxtrot for authenticity and texture. ARMA 2 (2009) and Ghost Recon Wildlands (2017) have gone so far as to name levels Charlie Foxtrot.

Examples of Charlie Foxtrot

Charlie Foxtrot: Veteran suicide is a growing military crisis

Rolly Hoyt, KTHV, November, 2016
So, uh, just saying, but it looks like Tebow's book signing tomorrow in Gainesville is ALREADY a Charlie Foxtrot.
@AndyHutchins, June, 2011
Funny
It was bad, no idea who authorized the attack, but it was an utter Charlie Foxtrot. Intel had told us the area was clear and our target was two klicks ahead, so we moved out.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (video game), November 2015
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Who uses Charlie Foxtrot?

Charlie Foxtrot sees everyday use by military personnel, veterans, and their social groups.

Thanks to popular and social media, Charlie Foxtrot further spread in mainstream discussions of all things clusterfuck-y. Try Charlie Foxtrot if you want to describe chaos with a military flair but without being too vulgar.

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FYP, infodemic, contact tracing, murder hornet, slap

Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of Charlie Foxtrot like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Charlie Foxtrot that will help our users expand their word mastery.