In Captain America: Civil War, the Winter Soldier is 'activated' with the following phrase:

Longing. Rusted. Seventeen. Daybreak. Furnace. Nine. Benign. Homecoming. One. Freight car.

What does it mean? Why these special words?

  • 3
    Kinda party pooper on the title change... I found the original one much more entertaining. Commented May 27, 2016 at 14:42
  • 3
    Sorry. We hate fun
    – Valorum
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 15:21
  • 3
    acceptable cross-site dupe: What were the magic words used by Zemo and what's it referring to?
    – phantom42
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 15:25
  • 1
    There are some short fanfics out there with explanations. Don't know if there's any "official" significance to the words, though.
    – miltonaut
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 23:03
  • 1
    @DavidGrinberg We had to change the number, we don't want to inadvertently activate any Russian sleeper agents among us.
    – user20155
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 5:01

5 Answers 5


Some are probably meaningless

According to the writers:

They’re rhythmic and enigmatic. I can’t remember if we listened to them in Russian to hear if they sounded suitably intimidating, we must have. Because they were really melodic; I’m not sure we would have gone with them [if they weren’t]. But we wanted ones when you read them on the screen you’d have some reaction to it. Like ‘Duress,’ and ‘Freight Car.’ It’s really just us coming up with stuff. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to it.

On the other hand, as described in Rogue Jedi's answer, some seem not to be so random. The writers do say that that some of the words are meant to provoke a reaction.

  • I noticed that while translated as 'furnace' the word used was 'stove'.
    – Ihor Sypko
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 13:25

Some seem to have meaning. Some don't.

"One," "Nine" and "Seventeen" combine to form 1917, the year Bucky was born.

Bucky museum info

Bucky "died" by falling off a freight car.

Bucky freight car

Homecoming is the name of the upcoming Spider-Man movie, but that's probably a coincidence.

These are trigger words and they are meant to be near-impossible for a non-ally to guess or say unintentionally, so at least some of the others are likely meant to be random, in-universe.

  • 2
    the writers have said that the "homecoming" bit was "fairly accidental"
    – phantom42
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 15:24
  • 22
    Google "Correct Horse Battery Staple"
    – TecBrat
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 15:45
  • I bet "Benign" was just because it was the first thing that popped in the writers head after he wrote "Nine"
    – xdhmoore
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 21:16
  • I hope you get Populist.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 23:42

xkcd: Password Strength

enter image description here

This explains why it's in Russian, instead of it being alpha-numeric ST: TNG mumbo jumbo that no one could ever possibly remember, but would be easy for a computer to hack due to its short length.

This is why a string of words would be, "near-impossible for a non-ally to guess," and why it's a good "passphrase", and why they are seemingly "random" and yet they are not.

  • 7
    "This explains why it's in English" - well, Russian...
    – vynsane
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 17:23
  • 2
    "would be easy for a computer to hack due to its short length" - except Hydra isn't publicly advertising that the Winter Soldier has a password. No one knows he has an activation code, and the length and randomness of the words is just to ensure he never unintentionally hears the activation phrase. Commented May 27, 2016 at 19:14
  • 1
    I have to agrree with @QuestionMarks here, it's more like the Wake on LAN magic packet than a password.
    – Kroltan
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 3:38
  • @QuestionMarks: Hydra may not want to rely on security through obscurity, and may therefore prefer an activation code that remains usable even once people know of its existence.
    – ruakh
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 0:41

Not based on any official source, but it would seem that they selected a collection of words that wouldn't be used in a conversational way in order to avoid false activation.

How they came upon this particular series of words, I don't know. They may have had some sort of algorithm that would generate such a "passphrase".


The words are a random assortment to prevent them from coming up in a conversation, like with "Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?"

There's another aspect that I think most people missed. Bucky responds by saying, "Ready to comply" - that last word a recurring one in various episodes of Agents of SHIELD when HYDRA brainwashing comes into play.

  • Damn, I knew I should have double-checked that quote. Commented May 29, 2016 at 14:48

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