Definition of Mayday in English:


(also mayday)


  • An international radio distress signal used by ships and aircraft.

    • ‘The helicopter plunged so quickly that neither the crew nor the passengers had time to get into their lifejackets - nor did the pilot have time to send a Mayday signal.’
    • ‘It also cites the case of a container ship which ignored a Mayday call off the North Queensland coast.’
    • ‘It answered a midnight Mayday from a yacht in distress and altered course to make a mercy dash off the Dorset coast.’
    • ‘The first happened before she reached her station, when a 79-year-old yachtsman put out a Mayday as he had been badly cut and was losing a lot of blood.’
    • ‘The ship sent out the Mayday signal early yesterday morning when it was about 33 nautical miles away.’
    • ‘With their radio still working the men were able to send out a Mayday signal which was relayed to air traffic control at Blackpool airport.’
    • ‘I had no idea if anybody would hear my Mayday call.’
    • ‘The radio operator sent a Mayday distress call, which was logged by the local Coastguard station at 12.06 am.’
    • ‘He also suggested to higher authorities that downed aircrews use the term Mayday instead of just talking on the radio.’
    • ‘To send armed forces onboard a civil ship sending out Mayday signals is piracy.’
    • ‘The crew abandoned ship at 6.30 am after issuing a Mayday call saying their ship was sinking in the Bristol Channel, around 35 miles south west of the Pembrokeshire coast.’
    • ‘They sent a Mayday radio message and he said: ‘We saw a boat, decided it was our best chance to glide down as near as possible to it.’’
    • ‘I screamed a Mayday call and hoped I had made the right impression to whomever was listening.’
    • ‘The two-man crew of the cruiser sent out a Mayday call.’
    • ‘The ship had sent out a Mayday signal at 20: 45 on Saturday to say it had hit a sandbank about 150m off the shore.’
    • ‘The men sent a Mayday radio message at about 11 am and made a classic ditch landing south of St Martin's Island.’
    • ‘A modern factory fishing vessel vanished without sending a Mayday and no survivors were picked up.’
    • ‘The warship received a Mayday saying the ship had exploded following a fire and was sinking off the coast of Malta in severe weather conditions.’
    • ‘He sent out a Mayday signal when the vessel began to take water shortly before darkness fell.’
    • ‘‘I turned off my fuel, closed my throttle and made a Mayday call,’ she says.’


  • A distress signal using the word “Mayday”

    ‘we sent out a Mayday’
    [as modifier] ‘a Mayday call’


1920s: representing a pronunciation of French m'aider, from venez m'aider come and help me.