Anker- A particularly sized keg of wine or spirits. Equal to 10 gallons.

Becket- A length of rope with an eye on one end and a knot on the other. Used to secure tackle

Belaying Pin - A bar of metal or wood set in rails for securing the running rigging.

Bibles And Prayer books - The larger holystones, blocks of sandstone used to whiten wooden decks are called are called bibles, the smaller, hand-sized stones are prayer books.

Bible Backs (f) - Fisherman who will not fish on Sunday

Bible Leaves (w). - Blubber cut in thin strips for drying out.

Bight - Literally any part of a rope except the ends, usually a loop of rope. Also a break in the shore that makes a smaller inlet.

Big Iron Dollar, The (w). - The five-dollar bill which was given as a matter of custom to a whale man with no money due him at the end of a voyage.

Blackstrap- Molasses, also the dark wines of the Mediterranean.

Boatswain's Chair - A seat suspended by a bridle and used to take a man aloft in working on the rigging, or over the side of the vessel. Used ashore by riggers and steeplejacks.

Bow-Chaser-Long-Barreled, small bore cannon set to fire forward from the bow of a vessel.

Bow grace - Old junk or chain hung over the bow at the waterline to defend the vessel against cutting, saw like action of drift ice.

Breeching- Stout rope and Tackle used to secure cannons to the 'bulkhead'.

Breaker- The small cask of drinking water carried in a whaleboat.

Bull - A small keg, one holding but a gallon or two.

Bumper- A glass filled to the brim.

Burgee - A small tapered or swallow-tail pennant

Burgoo - A porridge made from oatmeal or mush

Butt-A cask of wine or Ale- 108-140 gallons.


Camel - The buoyant device for assisting vessels over a shoal or a bar. Any heavy, bluff-bowed vessel.

Carrick Bend - The real sailor's knot, used to bend two ropes together. There are single, double and open carrick bends.

Case Bottle- A square bottle made to fit with others into a case or box.

Cat, The - The Cat-o'-nine-tails. Nine pieces of leather or cord eighteen inches in length, fastened to a handle; each tail had three knots near the end. Used to discipline and punish.

Cat, Thieves - The same as above with metal balls instead of knots. Affectionately called, "the gunner's daughter".

Cat's Paw - A light current of air that disturbs the surface of the water during a calm. Also kind of a hitch made in a rope by which two eyes are formed.

Chow Rag - The mess pennant.


Dandy Funk - A pudding made of crumbled ship's biscuits, fat and molasses and baked. ALSO: Danderfunk

Darbies- Handcuffs. In the Merchant Marines all such restrainers were called IRONS.

Dart- The Harpoon. It was darted, never thrown.

Docket- A warrant from a customs house which certifies payment of duty on imports.

Dunnage - A sailor's personal baggage.


Fairlead- A board with holes in it used to rigging through.

Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine- A lexicon of sailing terms and explanations.

Glass- Short term for a spyglass or hourglass.

Glim- A light source, candle or lantern

Grog- Rum and water. 1/2 pint water to 1 pint of rum.  Served twice daily. Serving sizes of one (before dilution) to men and 1/2 pint (before dilution) for boys. Rum replaced brandy in the English navy in 1687. Grog introduced circa 1740.

Handspike- A lever or crowbar. Round to square end to end.

Hardtack- Ships biscuit. The mainstay of the seaman's diet.

Head- The privies. Also called the 'jakes'.

Hogshead- A large cask for liquid. Capacity varied; wine = 63 gallons, beer = 54, ale = 48.

Holystones- A soft sandstone used to scrub the decks.

Jack- A ship's flag. Usually with the national colors in the canton (upper left corner). British Royal Navy Jacks were either red, white or blue depending on which fleet the ship was a part of.

Jakes- The privy

Kickshaw- A fancy food dish. Used derogatorily toward fancy, insubstantial (usually French) cooking.  Like Quiche. Real English Tars don't eat Quiche.

Kid- a small wooden tub used by sailors for their mess kit, a bowl to eat from.

Lashing Eye- Fittings formed from loops made in the ends of ropes.

Lead-line- Pronounced 'led'. A weighted rope 25 fathoms long. Used to determine depth. Called taking soundings.

Log-Glass- A miniature hourglass- 30 second timer, used to calculate speed in conjunction with the log-line.

Log-Line- A 100 fathom line with knots at set intervals. used with the log-glass to calculate speed.

Log-Chip- A triangular shaped wooden weight at the end of the log-line.

Long-Nine- A long barreled cannon that fires nine pound balls. Longer barrel gives greater range.

Marline Spike-Pointed iron tool used to part rope for splicing.

Match tub- A wooden tub, filled with sand, and having a perforated lid. Lit slow match is hung through the perforations for ready use in combat.

Musketoon- A short musket with a large bore.

Pendant- The long, tapered flag flown at the masthead of a commissioned vessel. Also called the Commissioning Pennant.

Pipes- Bosun's whistle. used to 'pipe' aboard dignitaries and fellow officers, as well as commands for the grew, much like a bugler in the army or cavalry.

Poke- A small sack, bag or pocket.

Marline- Small two strand twine. Usually tarred and used for 'seizing'.