In Aviation, a "Squawk code" is a common term for a "Transponder Code".
"Squawk 2345 and Ident"

But it is also commonly a way to report problems with an airplane.
"After I landed, I Squawk'd the broken ADF, and marked it INOP"

Do these two terms share a common history? Is it purely coincidence that the same term is used for such different meanings?

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    $\begingroup$ Not 100% sure but I'm pretty sure they both origin back to how a bird "squawks". Birds squawk when they fly and they squawk when they are injured. That's the only commonality I can see... $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 22, 2016 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ It may also have origins related to the poem The Kicker - Josh Billings c.1870 that spawned the American idiom "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"... $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 22, 2016 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ To be honest I have never heard squawk being used as in the latter example. It's certainly not common around where I'm from $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2016 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ If no one here knows, english.SE would be a good place to ask; etymology is one of their things $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 22, 2016 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard It's common usage in most of the USA: The list of inoperative things on an aircraft is typically called the "squawk list", and the forms used to report inoperative equipment are "squawk forms" -- This may not be true outside the USA though. $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


According to Wikipedia (which has cited sources), the transponder usage comes from...

The use of the word "squawk" comes from the system's origin in the World War II identification, friend or foe (IFF) system, which was code-named "Parrot".

As for the maintenance reference, one of the accepted definitions is

To inform


To report an infraction

It may just be coincidence that they are used as they are.


I was in the USAF 77 - 81 and the term Squawk was used by maintenance troops to describe pilot complaints about the aircraft. Typically the A/C Crew Chief would write the pilot's "Squawks" in the left side of the form in the A/C log book Problem Statement section and then rate its significance with respect to safety of flight. Then they would troubleshoot the problem or coordinate with the other systems folks to work off the issues. This was clearly a very well established term then, so I'm sure it was around throughout the Viet-Nam era.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Scott, welcome to Aviation.SE. This looks like an interesting piece of first hand experience, but unfortunately I don't see it addressing directly the question. Could you please consider expanding your answer? $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Oct 10, 2017 at 11:46

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