What Does the Word “Mayday” Mean in French and Where Did the International Distress Signal Come From?

The distress call “mayday” comes from the French, who were leading pioneers in flight.

In 1911 there were 433 licensed aviators in France, compared to just 171 in Britain and even fewer in the United States.

Flying was a risky business, and it wasn’t until parachutes and radios were introduced that the French call “M’aidez,” or “help me,” became Anglicized to the modern international distress call, “Mayday!”

A mayday situation is where a person, vessel, aircraft, or vehicle is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.

The mayday callsign was invented and thought up in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford who was senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London.