Before-The-Mast - To ship before the mast is to ship as a sailor as distinguished from an officer - from the fact that sailors are quartered in the forecastle.

Belaying Pin Hash (Soup)  Brutal treatment of sailors by officers.

Berth - The place where a vessel lies; also the bunk in which a person sleeps aboard a vessel. To give a person or a ship

Between Wind And Water - At a level the side of a vessel just above the waterline. Sometimes said of a sick seaman hovering between life and death or of "seasick supercargo".

Bilge, To - To beef, complain, or grouse. Also to talk boastfully.

Bilged - A vessel stove in at the bilge or keel. Drunk.  Flunked out in an examination.

Binge- To rinse or clean out a container.

Boatswain's Locker - A cuddy given over to the boatswain's stores but often a catch-all for anything that might come in handy in an emergency

Bone In Her Teeth (Mouth) - The white foam of the bow waves.

Boot Topping - Originally the act of scraping grass, slime, and barnacles from a vessel's bottom and paying it over with a coating of tallow and sulphur, or lime and resin, designed to discourage the elements that had been scrapped off. Now a composition used to paint above and below the waterline.

Bowse - To haul upon a tackle. To put back into a task. Also to drink heavily.

Bream - To clean ships bottom by burning.

Bright Lookout - An alert and wakeful lookout.

Bristow - Bristol, England

Broadside-The full side of a vessel. Also the firing of all guns on one side of a vessel in succession.

Broken-Backed - Also, 'hogged'. Said of a ship when, from age or mistreatment, her frame is so loosened as to allow her to droop at either or both ends.

Brought Up To The Mast, or 'Masted - Brought before the captain on charges of misbehavior.

Bugger- Derogatory term for a homosexual.

Bung- The large hole (and cork stopper) in the side of a keg.

Bung Up And Bilge Free - Slang for "I'm all right!"  When casks are properly stowed, bungs are up and the casks rest on racks to keep them clear of the water in the bilge.

By The Wind - Short of cash


Cable's Length - Variously from 100 to 120 fathoms

Cable, To Slip One's - To die.

Cape Horn Current - Easterly current in the vicinity of the Cape.

Cape Horn Fever - A feigned illness.

Cape Horn Snorter - A heavy gale

Cape Stiff - Sailor's name for Cape Horn.

Careen - To lie over when sailing into the wind. Also, to heave a vessel down on her side for the purpose of cleaning her bottom.

Carry Away - To break, or to be lost or washed away.

Carry On or Carry Under. The creed of the packet captains - crowd on all sail and to hell with the risk.

Cashiered- To be dismissed in disgrace, Dishonorable discharge.

Catch a Turn - To make a rope temporarily fast around a bitt.

Charlies - Officers of the law seeking smugglers among sailors.

Chewing Her Oakum (f). Said of a vessel that is losing the oakum in her seams.

Chinse - To caulk with oakum with a small iron.

Churchyard Watch - The watch between midnight and four in the morning, sometimes called the graveyard watch.

Clap a Stopper On Your Tongue - Mind what you are saying, there are officers present.

Crank - Said of a vessel that is inclined to lean over and that cannot bear much sail, due to faulty construction, strains or bad stowage.

Crimp - The agent or runner for a sailor's boardinghouse keeper.

Cut and Come Again - Food, usually hard bread or a dish of beans left on the mess table for the convenience of the crew

Cut and Run- To cut the cable and run off before the wind to escape and enemy or danger.

Cut One's Painter- To die or desert. Also to get going, be on one's way.


Disrate- To lower a person's rank as punshment.

Dog-Watch- The first of the shorter late afternoon wathes. The second being called simply the '2nd Dog'.


Fore-And-Aft- A manner of rigging a ship, where sails and rigging go between the masts rather than perpindicular to them.


Hawser Laid- A rope made up of 3-4 ropes made up into one.

Hulldown- Said of a vessel on the horizon that only the sails can be seen.

Hull-up- of a vessel on the horizon with it's hull visible.


Impress-Forced service in the British Royal Navy. Members of the Impress Service were called 'Press Gangs'

In Ordinary-A ship or crew not fully manned or fitted out for duty at sea. Also in direpair or being repaired.

In Soundings-Close to shore, in water less than 100 fathoms.


Jolly- 'A Jolly' is a nickname for a Royal Marine.

Jumped-up- Arrogant or conceited.


Keelhaul- The act of hauling a person under the Keel of a ship from one side to the other with ropes and tackle.

King's Bench- The "Kings Bench Prison". A prison for Debtors and other criminals.

Kip- A common Lodging House, a bed in the same house or bed in general.

Kipper- A curing process for fish, using salt and spices.

Knocking-Shop- A brothel.


Larboard-The left hand side of a ship or direction when facing the bow of a ship.

Larder- A room or closet where food and provisions are stored. A 'pantry'.

Large- The wind is 'Large' when it crosses a ship's line in favorable direction like the stern or beam.

Laskar- An East Indian Sailor

Lash- To secure or bind something with rope or cord.

Lay By the Heels- to be put into irons or the stocks.

Lee- The side of the ship, land, rock, etc that is sheltered from, or away from the wind.

Lobcock- A fool or buffoon.

Main, The- The Spanish Main in the Caribbean.

Make-a-leg - To bow with one leg outstretched forward.

Make and Mend- Leisure time, usually on Sundays.

Mess- Refers to a location for dining and a particular group of crew who dine there. Ex; Officers Mess.

Monkey's Blood- The 'wardroom' term for red wine.

Muster, A- The entire crew gathered all together.

Muster-Up- To gather or assemble crewmen for a task  or to be addressed by the ship's officers.

Muzzle Astragal- The Decorative moldings around the muzzle of a cannon.

Ordinary Seaman- A rating for a semi-skilled sailor.

Ordnance- Military supplies of cannons, black powder, etc.

Parley- A conference, usually for arranging terms for surrender, a truce, or prisoner exchange.

Parole- Word of Honor.

Pluck- Courage, daring, and/or boldness.