Definition of pan-pan in US English:



  • An international radio distress signal, of less urgency than a mayday signal.

    • ‘Twelve hours before the military seized the ship, its captain issued a ‘pan-pan’ distress signal - second in priority to a Mayday call - over his concerns for the state of the refugees, some of whom were sick.’
    • ‘PAN-PAN is used when the safety of the ship or person is in jeopardy. Getting a prop wound in a bunker net or having an uncontrollable vessel is a good reason to call PAN-PAN.’
    • ‘Low-level distress calls to the Coast Guard, known as pan-pans, usually require a switch from channel 16 to 22a.’


1920s: pan from French panne ‘breakdown’.