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Glossary

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y
(arranged alphabetically by word/phrase)

A

A.B. n. Abbreviation for "able seaman" used in British muster books.
abaft adv. Toward the stern.
able-whackets n. A card game popular with seamen. The hands of the loser were beaten with a tightly twisted handkerchief.
Abraham Newland n. Slang for a bank note. Abraham Newland was the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England. Bank notes bore his signature.
Academite n. An officer who had attended the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth.
action n. Battle, engagement.
active list n. The list of officers who can be called to active duty.
admiralty midshipman n. A midshipman who was appointed to a ship by direct order from the Admiralty.
advice boat n. A small, fast vessel used to carry important orders or despatches.
Afrancesado [Spanish] n. A Spanish person who admired French thought and culture.
after-hold n. The part of the hold that is abaft (q.v.) the main mast.
afterguard n. The group of men stationed on the quarterdeck and poop.
afternoon watch n. Watch period running from noon to 16:00.
Algerine n. Pirate.
allowance n. Ration.
aloof adv. At at distance.
amiral [French] n. Admiral.
anchor v. To let go the anchor(s) to hold a vessel in place in the water.
anchor watch n. Name for the watch kept on board a vessel while at anchor.
apron n. Thin piece of lead (sheet) used to cover the vent of a loaded gun to prevent accidental firing.
armateur [French] n. Managing owner of a privateer.
armorer n. The man who looked after and repaired the small arms.
astern adv. Behind a vessel.
astronomical telescope n. A refracting telescope with two lenses used at night. The object viewed is seen in an inverted position.
athwart prep. Across.
auger n. A tool used by carpenters and shipwrights to bore holes.
avast interj. Stop, cease.
aviso [Spanish] n. Despatch vessel or advice boat (q.v.).
avviso [Italian] n. Despatch vessel or advice boat (q.v.).
awning n. Canvas covering rigged over the deck of a ship to provide shelter from sun or rain.

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B

bad relief n. A person who is late in taking over as officer of the watch.
Badgerbag n. Name for Neptune, who appears during the ceremony of crossing the line.
bail v. To remove water from a boat by emptying it over the side using a container.
baize n. Durable woollen cloth.
ballast n. Shingle, bars of iron, gravel, or other material placed in the hold of a ship to regulate her trim and stability.
band n. A strip of canvas sewed across a sail to strengthen it.
bandicoot n. Large, aggressive rat native to India and other parts of southeast Asia.
banker n. Name for a vessel used by cod fishermen fishing the banks of Newfoundland.
Banyan Days n. Days of the week when salt meat was not issued to the men on board ship. Cheese was usually provided as a substitute.
Barbary States n. Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis.
Barber n. A strong wind that occurs during cold weather. It carries a cutting mixture of spray and ice spicules.
bargee n. Crewman of a barge or canal boat.
bargeman n. 1. Crewman of a navy barge. 2. Weevil.
barilla n. 1. Soda ash. 2. The plant used to make soda ash.
barky n. Sailor's term for a favorite ship.
barracoon n. A structure in which convicts or slaves were temporarily confined.
bathing machine n. Nickname for British 10-gun brigs.
batta n. Extra allowance of pay that could be drawn by British officers serving in India.
battle lantern n. Fighting lantern (q.v.).
bavin n. A bundle of brushwood.
bay ice n. Newly formed sea ice on the surface of the sea.
Bay, The n. Bay of Biscay
bêche-de-mer n. Sea cucumber (Genus Holothuria) used as food.
bed n. A solid frame of wood that held and supported the mortar in a bomb vessel.
belay v. 1. To secure or make fast a rope. 2. To cease or disregard.
belfry n. The structure from which the ship's bell is suspended.
bend v. To apply and fasten to.
Bengal light n. A bright, colored flare or light used for signalling.
berth n. 1. A place to moor or anchor a ship. 2. Area used as sleeping or living quarters.
best bower n. The anchor located on the starboard (q.v.) bow of a ship.
between decks n. The space between any two decks of a vessel.
bibber n. A drinker.
bible n. Holystone (q.v.).
bight n. 1. A curve or bend in a rope. 2. A small bay.
bilboes n. A long iron bar with sliding shackles for the feet used to secure prisoners below deck.
bill n. The point of the fluke (q.v.) of an anchor.
birth n. Berth (q.v.).
black list n. A list of names kept by the commanding officer of a ship. The men on this list were guilty of minor offenses and, as a result, were punished by being assigned the most unpleasant tasks on the ship.
black strap n. Red wine issued to seamen.
black vomit n. Yellow fever.
blackbirder n. Ship engaged in the slave trade.
blade n. Flat part of an oar.
block n. Pulley. The basic form consists of a shell, sheave (q.v.), and pin.
blood and entrails n. American nickname for the British ensign.
bloody back n. British soldier or marine.
bloody flux n. Dysentery.
blow out n. A feast or large meal.
blowing the grampus n. The act of pouring a bucket of water on a person who is asleep on watch.
blubber n. Jellyfish.
blubber boiler n. Nickname for a whaler.
blue devils n. Bout of depression, low spirits.
Blue Jacket n. Naval seaman.
Blue Marine n. A member of the Royal Marine Artillery, who wore a blue jacket instead of a red one.
blue pigeon n. Lead.
blue pill n. Pill made from mercury used to treat syphilis or as a laxative.
board n. Timber sawed to a thickness of less than one inch.
bolt n. A cylindrical iron pin. The head of a bolt varied in shape according to purpose.
bolt rope n. Rope sewn around the edge of a sail to strengthen it and prevent it from fraying.
bomb vessel n. A small, sturdy vessel armed with mortars designed to bombard positions on shore.
bombarda [Spanish] n. Bomb vessel (q.v.).
bombarde [French] n. Bomb vessel (q.v.).
Bombay Buccaneers n. Nickname for the Honourable East India Company's navy, the Bombay Marine.
bottom n. All of the parts, collectively, of a vessel below the wales.
bowman n. The crewman of a boat who is assigned to the foremost oar.
box the compass v. To state the 32 points of the compass in order, clockwise or counter-clockwise.
brake n. The handle or lever used to work a ship's pump.
braza [Spanish] n. Unit of measurement (5.48 feet) comparable to a fathom.
bread n. Ship's biscuit.
bread nut n. Small piece of ship's biscuit used as a snack.
break ground v. To lift an anchor from the bottom.
break up v. To take apart an old ship that has been retired from service.
bream v. To clean the bottom of a ship by burning and scraping the accumulated matter off.
brick [French] n. Brig.
Bridport dagger n. Hangman's noose. Bridport (Dorset) is famous for the production of rope and nets from locally grown hemp and flax.
brinjal n. Aubergine or eggplant.
broad pennant n. Swallow-tailed flag flown by a commodore.
Bronze John n. Yellow fever.
brown study n. A state of deep thought or concentration.
brown Tommy n. Brown bread given to convicts held in the prison hulks.
brulot [French] n. Fireship (q.v.).
brulote [Portuguese] n. Fireship (q.v.).
brulote [Spanish] n. Fireship (q.v.).
bulge n. Bilge.
bulkhead n. A partition used to divide the space between decks into compartments.
bumboat n. A small boat used to carry provisions and other merchandise from shore to ships in port or anchored off shore.
Bungs n. Nickname for a ship's cooper.
bunt n. The middle area of a sail.
buntin n. Bunting (q.v.).
buntine n. Bunting (q.v.).
bunting n. Thin woolen material used to make flags or signals.
burgoo n. Mixture of coarse oatmeal and water; porridge.
burning glass n. A convex lens of glass which focuses sunlight into a smaller area. Used to ignite fires.
buss n. A small, sturdy, two-masted vessel used for fishing.
butcher's bill n. The list of killed and wounded.
butt n. Heel (q.v.).

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C

cable n. Rope made from nine strands with a circumference of nine inches or more.
cablet n. Cable-laid rope with a circumference of less than nine inches.
cabotage n. Navigation or trade in waters along a coast.
calf n. A large, floating piece of ice that has broken off from an iceberg or glacier.
call n. Silver pipe used by the boatswain and boatswain's mates to relay orders.
calomel n. Mercurous chloride. Used as a laxative in the treatment of yellow fever and typhus.
canister n. Musket ball sized iron shot encased in a cylidrical metal case. When fired from a gun, the case breaks apart releasing the enclosed shot. Also known as canister shot or case shot.
canon [French] n. Cannon.
canonnière [French] n. Gun boat.
cap-a-bar n. Capperbar (q.v.).
cape pigeon n. Cape or Pintado petrel (Daption capense).
cape sheep n. Albatross.
Cape, The n. Cape of Good Hope
capitana [Spanish] n. Flagship.
capperbar n. Illegal acquisition of government stores.
capstern n. Capstan.
captain sweeper n. Person in charge of the sweepers (q.v.).
captain's cloak n. The 36th Article of War (British).
cardinal points n. The north, south, east, and west points of a compass.
careen v. To heave a ship over on her side for repairs, cleaning, or other maintenance.
carriage n. A sturdy wooden structure with trucks (q.v.) upon which a gun was mounted.
carronade n. Short-barrelled gun developed in the 1770s by the Carron Iron Works in Scotland. Capable of firing comparatively heavy shot, it was very destructive at short and point blank range.
cartel n. An unarmed ship on its way to an enemy port carrying prisoners for exchange.
carved work n. Carved ornamentation of a vessel.
case shot n. Canister (q.v.).
cashier v. To dismiss a person from the service by court-martial.
cast up accounts v. To vomit.
cat n. Cat o' nine tails (q.v.).
cat o' nine tails n. A whip with nine lashes made of pieces of cord used to punish a person.
catheads n. Breasts.
caulk v. 1. To fill the seams of a ship with oakum. 2. To rest or sleep on deck with clothes on.
caulker n. A lie.
Celestial Empire n. China.
centry n. Sentry.
chain shot n. Two pieces of shot connected by a chain.
chase n. The vessel being pursued.
chasse-marée [French] n. A swift-sailing French coasting vessel often used for smuggling or privateering.
chebec [French] n. Xebec.
cheerly adv. Quickly, heartily, with spirit.
Chips n. Nickname for a ship's carpenter.
chirurgeon n. Surgeon.
Chouans, Les [French] n. Members of a movement (based in Brittany) against the French Revolutionary government.
clew n. Either one of the two lower corners of a square sail or the aft lower corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
clue n. Clew (q.v.).
coach n. A cabin located forward of the great cabin.
coach whip n. A long, narrow pennant indicating that a ship is in commission.
coalman n. A collier (q.v.).
coaming n. Raised border surrounding a hatchway.
coast v. To sail along or near a coast.
coatee n. A short coat.
cobble n. A flat-bottomed fishing boat.
coffin brig n. Nickname for British 10-gun brigs, due to their reputation for sinking.
coffle n. A group of slaves or prisoners chained together.
Cohong n. Group of Hong merchants (q.v.).
collier n. A sturdy, well-built ship used to transport coal.
colorable papers n. False or counterfeit papers (q.v.).
colors n. A flag indicating the nationality of a ship.
comazant n. St. Elmo's Fire (q.v.).
comb the cat v. To run one's fingers through the lengths of cord that make up a cat o' nine tails (q.v.) in order to separate them.
company n. The crew of a vessel, including the officers.
composant n. St. Elmo's Fire (q.v.).
compter n. A type of small prison in England.
congreve n. A match.
conn v. To direct the helmsman how to steer the ship.
Constantia n. Wine from Constantia (Cape Colony).
copper n. Large copper boiler used for cooking.
cork jacket n. A cork-lined canvas garment similar in shape to a waistcoat, used as a life preserver. Developed by a Mr. Dubourg.
cork waistcoat n. Cork jacket (q.v.).
corposant n. St. Elmo's Fire (q.v.).
corsair n. Barbary pirate.
cot n. A bed which was suspended from the ship's beams. Made from canvas stretched over a wooden frame. Used by officers.
cot boy n. Boy assigned to make the cot (q.v.) and straighten up/clean the cabin of an officer.
cotre [French] n. Cutter.
couch n. Coach (q.v.).
cowskin n. A stiff, tapered whip made from ox/cow hide.
coxswain n. The person in charge of steering a boat.
crank adj. Unstable, tending to heel over too much or threatening to capsize while under sail. May be caused by design flaw, imbalance of ballast (q.v.) or cargo, or insufficient amount of ballast.
creeper n. A type of grappling hook. Used by smugglers to retrieve smuggled goods that have been sunk in waters off shore.
cribbage-faced adj. Pockmarked.
crimp n. A person who earns money by procuring men for the navy or army, usually by force or deception.
cross-grained adj. Hard to deal with, troublesome.
crossing the line n. An initiation ceremony performed aboard ship involving crew members who are crossing the equator for the first time.
cruiser n. A navy vessel on a cruise.
cun v. Conn (q.v.).
cut and run v. To cut the anchor cable(s) of a ship and make sail in order to leave in a hurry.

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D

D. n. Abbreviation for "discharged" used in British muster books.
D.D. n. Abbreviation for "discharged dead" used in British muster books.
damn-my-eyes tar n. A seaman who claims or pretends to be more skilled than he actually is; a fraud.
Dannebrog [Danish] n. The Danish flag.
darbies n. Handcuffs.
Davy Jones n. The Devil.
day glass n. Terrestrial telescope (q.v.).
dead lights n. Sturdy wooden shutters for the stern and gallery lights used during storms to prevent large waves from breaking the windows and flooding the cabin.
dead man n. Empty bottle.
dead marine n. Empty bottle.
dead water n. The eddy in the wake under the stern of a ship.
deal n. Wood from pine or fir trees or planks made from that wood.
deckhead n. The underside of the deck above the one a person is located on.
Dey n. Title used by the governor of Algiers before the French takeover in 1830.
dhobi [Hindi] n. A person who washes laundry.
disrate v. To reduce in rating.
ditty bag n. A small bag used to carry small personal items.
dog vane n. 1. A small vane made of cork and feathers and placed on a ship's quarter in view of the men at the helm so that they could see the direction of the wind. 2. Cockade.
dog watch n. A 2-hour watch period. The first dog watch ran from 16:00 to 18:00 and the last dog watch ran from 18:00 to 20:00.
dog's body n. Pease pudding with fat pork.
dolphin striker n. A short spar that projects downward from the outer end of the bowsprit.
Don n. Nickname for a Spaniard.
donkey frigate n. Jackass frigate (q.v.).
doodeen n. Dudeen (q.v.).
double-headed shot n. Bar shot.
doughboy n. A dumpling made from flour and slush (q.v.).
douse v. To strike or lower quickly.
dragoman n. A person who acts as a guide or interpreter in Near Eastern countries where Turkish, Arabic, or Persian is spoken.
dreadnought n. 1. Heavy woollen cloth. 2. Clothing worn on board ship made from the cloth.
droit n. A legal right or claim.
droits of admiralty n. Rights of the British ruler in his or her capacity as Lord High Admiral to receive revenue from the sale of the following: 1. ships and goods in the possession of pirates; 2. ships detained in port or captured prior to declaration of war; 3. ships that arrive in port (due to need or ignorance of state of affairs) after war is declared; and 4. ships captured by non-commissioned captors.
dry gale n. Strong wind without clouds or rain.
dry guillotine n. (La) guillotine séche (q.v.).
dry harbor n. A harbor that is dry at low tide.
dry holystone v. To scour the deck of a ship with small, smooth pieces of freestone after a layer of dry sand has been sprinkled over the deck.
dudeen n. A short-stemmed clay tobacco pipe.
duff n. Stiff pudding boiled or steamed in a bag.
dunnage n. 1. Loose pieces of wood or other bulky material placed on top of the ballast (q.v.) at the bottom of a ship to keep stowed goods from being damaged. 2. Personal baggage.

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E

engine n. Pump used to fight fires.
entering port n. A port cut into the sides of ships with three decks, which led to the middle deck.
evolution n. Maneuver.
exhilarating gas n. Nitrous oxide.

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F

fancy man n. A crafty informer among the seamen who reported offenses to the officers.
fathom n. Unit of measurement equal to six feet.
fay v. To join or fit tightly so there is no space between the pieces being joined.
fearnought n. Thick, heavy woollen cloth. Used to line hatches and ports, as firescreens, and to make outer clothing for cold weather.
fighting lantern n. A lantern used to provide light for a gun crew while manning a gun at night.
filbert n. Hazelnut.
fin n. Arm.
finny tribe n. Fishes.
Fire and Lights n. Nickname for a master-at-arms.
fire boom n. A boom projected out from the side of a vessel to fend off fireships (q.v.).
fireship n. 1. A vessel loaded with combustible material and set on fire. It was sent against enemy ships (usually at anchor) with the purpose of setting them on fire. 2. A prostitute infected with venereal disease.
first watch n. Watch period running from 20:00 to midnight.
flagship n. A ship flying the flag of an admiral.
flasher n. A smuggler equipped with a flash pan and powder, which would be set off as an alarm.
flat boat n. A type of flat-bottomed boat developed specifically to transport and land troops; propelled by oars.
floating coffin n. An unseaworthy vessel.
floating light n. Light ship.
floor n. Bottom of a vessel.
flota [Spanish] n. Fleet.
fluke n. The triangular shaped end of an arm of an anchor.
fog dog n. Transient clear or bright area within a fog bank.
foot n. Lower edge of a sail.
foot rope n. 1. The rope which the foot (q.v.) of the sail is sewn to. 2. A rope extending from the middle of a yard out to a yardarm (q.v.). Hanging just below the yard, seamen stood on the foot rope when reefing or furling sails or performing any other task which required them to work out along the yard. This rope was also referred to as a horse.
fore-and-aft adj. Running along the length of the vessel.
fore-hold n. The part of the hold that is forward of the main mast.
forenoon watch n. Watch period running from 08:00 to noon.
founder v. To sink after being filled with water.
fox n. A type of cordage made by twisting together strands of tarred rope yarn.
free trader n. Smuggler.
freebooter n. Pirate or buccaneer.
frégate [French] n. Frigate.
French leave n. An abrupt departure without saying goodbye.
Frog n. Nickname for a Frenchman.

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G

gagging n. A form of punishment, especially for insolent speech, where a piece of wood or iron was used as a gag and fastened in place by a rope running around the back of the head.
galley n. The area on board a ship where the cooking is done.
galley packet n. Unauthenticaed rumor.
galley ranger n. An unpopular man who is forced to mess by himself having been turned away from all of the messes in a ship.
galoot n. 1. Soldier or marine. 2. An awkward, inexperienced hand.
gammon v. To secure the bowsprit to the stem of a ship.
gammoning n. The material used to fasten the bowsprit to the stem of a ship.
gaol fever n. Typhus.
geneva n. Gin.
gingerbread n. Carving and gilding work which decorated the stern and quarter galleries of ships.
glass n. 1. Telescope. 2. Sand glass.
glim n. 1. Candle, light. 2. Eye.
goëlette [French] n. Schooner.
good man n. A seaman who is willing to do his duty and works hard.
Gossey n. Nickname for Gosport.
goulet [French] n. A narrow channel or passageway.
grampus n. Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus).
grass comber n. A man who was a farmer or other agricultural worker before entering naval service.
great gun n. Cannon.
greenhorn n. An inexperienced hand.
grego n. A type of short, hooded jacket made from thick, coarse cloth.
greygo n. Grego (q.v.).
griffin n. Nickname for any European who was a newcomer to India.
gripe n. Sharp pain in the stomach or bowels.
ground tier n. Lowest or bottom level of casks in a ship's hold.
growl v. To grumble or complain.
growler n. A veteran seaman who believes that everyone, even officers, should heed his opinions.
grub n. Provisions.
grunter n. Pig.
guarda costa [Spanish] n. A small, armed, fast-sailing vessel used for coastal defence of Spanish possessions in the Caribbean.
guillotine séche, la [French] n. Dry guillotine. Refers to the deportation of French political prisoners to overseas penal colonies, most notably Guiana.
guinea pig n. A young midshipman on an Indiaman.
Guineaman n. Ship engaged in the African slave trade.
gun n. Cannon.
gundalow n. A large, flat-bottomed boat.
Gut, The n. Nickname for the Strait of Gibraltar.

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H

hail v. To call out.
half a fair wind n. Dead calm.
half-hour glass n. Sand glass used to measure time on board a ship.
halyard n. A rope used to hoist a sail, yard, or flag.
hammacoe n. Hammock.
hand v. To roll up and secure, furl.
hand n. Member of a vessel's crew.
handsomely adv. Slowly, gradually.
handy Billy n. Jigger purchase.
hanger n. A short sword with a curved blade.
hard tack n. Ship's biscuit.
hawser n. Rope made from three or four strands.
haystack n. A vessel that was a slow, poor sailer.
haze v. To punish by assigning hard or unnecessary work.
head money n. Bounty for each man physically present on board (at the beginning of engagement) a captured or destroyed enemy ship of war or privateer. Paid to the officers/men of the ship(s) involved in the capture/destruction.
head sea n. Waves running directly opposite the course of a vessel.
heave down v. To careen (q.v.) a ship.
heel n. The lower end of a mast.
HEIC n. Abbreviation for Honourable East India Company.
helm n. The assemblage of of parts (rudder, tiller, and wheel when present) used to steer a ship.
hempen cravat n. Noose used to hang a person.
hired transport n. A merchant ship hired for navy purposes, manned by her regular merchant crew.
hobbledehoy n. An awkward adolescent boy.
hog n. A flat broom made of wood and branches with a long handle. It was used to scrape the bottom of a ship while it was under water.
hogshead n. A large cask. The volume varied depending on what was stored in it.
holder n. A seaman who worked in the hold.
Holland n. Originally referred to linen produced in Holland, but later used as a generic name for other types of linen.
Hollands n. Gin.
holystone n. A block of sandstone used to scour the wooden decks of a ship.
Hong merchant n. One of a select group of Chinese merchants who conducted trade with all foreign merchants.
horse n. Foot rope [2] (q.v.).
horse marine n. A lubber (q.v.) or unskilled seaman.
hot press n. Implemented during an emergency or serious crisis, press gangs were allowed to take any men they could find, even those who had been issued protections.
hot shot n. Shot heated in a furnace.
hulk n. The hull of an old ship which was no longer fit for service.
hull v. To fire shot into the hull of a ship at close range.
hull down adj. When viewed from a distance, only the masts/sails of a ship can be seen. The hull is not visible above the horizon, due to the curvature of the earth.
hull up adj. When viewed from a distance, the hull of a ship is visible above the horizon.

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I

ice island n. A very large iceberg.
Indiaman n. An armed merchant ship involved in trade with India and other southeast Asian countries.
infra dig adj. Short for infra dignitatem. Beneath one's dignity or undignified.
interest n. Social connections that have an influence on an officer's advancement/promotion.
Irish Guineaman n. A ship carrying emigrants.
Irishman's hurricane n. Dead calm.
iron garters n. Bilboes (q.v.).
iron-bound adj. Rugged, rocky.

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J

jabeque [Spanish] n. Xebec.
jack n. A flag flown from a staff erected at the outer end of the bowsprit.
Jack in the Dust n. Nickname for steward's mate.
Jack Nastyface n. 1. Nickname for the cook's assistant. 2. Pseudonym of William Robinson, a British sailor who wrote about conditions and his experiences on the lower deck.
jack tar n. Seaman.
jackass frigate n. Nickname for a small frigate (6th rate armed with 22 to 28 guns).
jeer n. Tackle used to hoist or lower the lower yards of a ship into position.
Jemmy Ducks n. Nickname for the person responsible for looking after the poultry on board a ship.
Jemmy Legs n. Nickname for the master-at-arms.
jib and staysail Jack n. An inexperienced or overly fussy officer who would frequently order the men to make or shorten sail to keep station when the ship was attached to a fleet.
jobation n. A scolding or reprimand.
Joey n. Nickname for a British marine.
John Bull n. A character personifying Britain.
John Company n. Nickname for the Honourable East India Company.
Johnny Crapaud n. Nickname for Frenchman.
Johnny Haultaut n. Merchant seaman's nickname for navy seaman.
Jolly n. Nickname for a British soldier or marine.
Jonah n. Nickname for someone who was thought to bring bad luck.
Jonathan n. British nickname for an American.
joss house n. Chinese shrine or temple housing idols for worship.
joss stick n. A stick of incense used in Chinese shrines or temples.
junk n. Pieces of old or worn rope or cable used for making oakum, wads, fenders, and other items.

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K

kajack n. Kayak.
keckling n. Old rope wound around a cable to prevent chafing.
keelek n. Killick (q.v.).
kentledge n. Pig iron (q.v.) used as ballast (q.v.).
Kerguelen's Land cabbage n. Low lying plant (Pringlea antiscorbutica) belonging to the family Brassicaceae found on Kerguelen; used as an antiscorbutic.
kid n. A small wooden tub.
killick n. A small anchor.
King's hard bargain n. A skulker (q.v.) or troublemaker who made life harder for the men who did their work.
King's Letter Boy n. Volunteer per order (q.v.).
kit n. The particular set of clothing used by seamen.
knob n. A person of high rank or social status.

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L

L.M. n. Abbreviation for "landsman" used in British muster books.
labor v. To roll or pitch heavily in rough water.
Ladrone n. Pirate.
lady of the gunroom n. A seaman who stood at the entrance to the gunroom and assisted the gunroom steward.
land breeze n. A gentle wind that blows seaward from the land, generally during the evening.
land shark n. Any lawyer, merchant, businessman, etc., who preyed upon or took advantage of seamen.
Landguard n. The body of riding officers (q.v.) and revenue men employed by the British Customs Board to prevent smuggling activities on land along the coast.
lane n. A navigable passage in sea ice.
lanthorn n. Lantern.
larboard n. The left-hand side of a ship, when facing forward from the stern toward the bows. Eventually superseded by the word "port".
larbowlines n. The men who form the larboard (q.v.) watch on a ship.
Lascar n. A native East Indian sailor.
lash v. To secure with a line.
laudanum n. Opium tincture; an addictive mixture of opium derivatives and alcohol taken orally to relieve pain, diarrhea, and sleeplessness.
lay v. To go or to come (e.g. lay aloft).
lazaretto n. A ship used for quarantine purposes.
lead n. A navigable passage in sea ice.
league n. Unit of measurement equal to three nautical miles.
leaguer n. A large cask used to stow water. These casks were used to form the ground tier (q.v.) of water casks in a ship's hold.
leatherneck n. Nickname for an United States marine.
Levant n. The countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean from Greece to Egypt.
life spencer n. A type of cork jacket (q.v.). Developed by Henry Trengrouse of Cornwall.
light room n. A compartment adjacent to the magazine (q.v.) of a ship. Since lanterns were not allowed in the magazine, they were placed in this room to light the magazine via a glass window.
lighter n. A large, flat-bottomed boat used to ferry goods and supplies to and from ships or within a harbor.
lightsman n. A crewman of a light ship.
line n. Equator.
live lumber n. Troops, convicts, passengers, or livestock being transported by ship.
loblolly n. A type of thick oatmeal porridge or gruel often given to sick or injured seamen.
loblolly boy n. Assistant to a ship's surgeon and surgeon's mates. Helped tend to the sick and injured.
lobscouse n. A stew made from ship's biscuit, meat, and vegetables.
lobster n. British soldier or marine.
locker n. Small wood compartments built in cabins and storerooms.
London nightingale n. Watchman.
loom n. Loon.
lubber n. An awkward, inexperienced seaman.
lucifer n. A match.
lues n. Syphilis.
luff n. 1. Lieutenant. 2. The weather side of a fore-and-aft sail.
lufftackle n. 1. Lieutenant.
lumper n. A laborer hired to load and unload ships in port.

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M

mad marine n. Mandarin.
made mast n. A mast made from several trees, which are joined together.
magazine n. A special room located below deck where gunpowder was stored.
making-yarn n. A white, untarred thread laid in the strands of cable and large cordage which identifies it as British government (twisted the contrary way) or East-India Company property.
mal de mer [French] n. Seasickness.
mallet n. A wooden hammer.
man of war n. Naval vessel.
mania a potu [Latin] n. Insanity brought on by heavy drinking.
mare's tail n. Cirrus cloud with a feathery, wispy appearance.
marine officer n. Empty bottle.
martello towers n. A series of fortified gun towers built by the British government along the south coast of England in response to the threat of invasion by Napoleon's forces. The design of the towers was inspired by a fortified tower at Mortella Point, on Corsica.
master-man n. A principal leader of a group of smugglers.
materiel n. Military or naval supplies and equipment.
maw n. Common seagull (Larus canus).
medico n. Physician or ship's surgeon.
mew n. Common seagull (Larus canus).
mid n. Midshipman.
middle watch n. Watch period running from midnight to 04:00.
middy n. Midshipman.
midshipman's cream n. Beaten egg whites.
midshipman's nut n. Bread nut (q.v.).
Miss Taylor n. White wine (Spanish Mistela) issued to seamen.
morning gun n. Gun fired at daybreak.
morning watch n. Watch period running from 04:00 to 08:00.
mosquito squadron n. A squadron consisting of an assortment of small, unrated vessels.
Mother Carey's chicken n. Storm petrel.
mufti n. Civilian clothes worn by someone who usually wears a uniform.
Murphy n. A potato.
Mussulman n. A Muslim.

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N

nankeen n. Yellow cotton cloth.
navío [Spanish] n. Ship of the line.
Navy Office n. Nickname for the Fleet Prison in London.
NB n. Abbreviation for "North Britain", which referred to Scotland.
necessary house n. Privy.
negus n. A drink made with wine, hot water, sugar, lemon juice, and nutmeg.
night glass n. Astronomical telescope (q.v.).
Nip Cheese n. A miser; nickname for a ship's purser.
niter n. Mineral form of potassium nitrate.
nob n. 1. Head. 2. Knob (q.v.).
north-wester n. A serving of grog, made of one half part rum and one half part water.
nurse n. The first lieutenant of a ship commanded by a captain who has been given command based on interest but has little practical experience.

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O

O.S. n. Abbreviation for "ordinary seaman" used in British muster books.
oakum n. Untwisted and shredded pieces of old rope used in caulking the seams of a ship.
old horse n. Tough salted meat.
on the beach adj. Phrase referring to seamen or naval officers who are unemployed, unable to go to sea, or retired.
overplus n. Surplus.
owler n. Wool smuggler.
owling n. Illegal export or smuggling of wool to France.

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P

packet n. A fast ship appointed to carry mail, official documents, and passengers (occasionally) between ports.
Paddy n. Nickname for an Irishman.
painter n. A rope attached to the bow of a boat used to fasten or tie up the boat.
pannikin n. A small tin cup or pan.
papers n. Official documents.
parole n. A prisoner-of-war's word of honor that he will abide by a captor's terms and will not try to escape. Given in return for liberties allowed by the captor.
passed midshipman n. A midshipman who has passed the exam for promotion to lieutenant but has not been given an appointment as a lieutenant.
pea jacket n. A short, double-breasted overcoat made out of heavy wool.
peach v. To inform on someone.
pease porridge n. A mixture of resin, tallow, and sulphur used during the process of boot topping a ship.
pendant n. Pennant.
pennant-ship n. A ship flying the pennant of a commodore.
people, the n. Ship's company.
per diem [Latin] adj. For each day.
per mensem [Latin] adv. For each month.
Peruvian bark n. Bark from the tree Cinchona succirubra used to treat malaria and other types of fevers. A source of quinine.
picaroon n. Pirate.
pig iron n. Iron in the form of ingots used as ballast (q.v.).
Pig Trade n. The transportation of impoverished Chinese who were kidnapped for or tricked into indentured servitude overseas.
pigtail n. A twist or small roll of tobacco.
pin n. Leg.
pintado n. Guinea fowl.
Pipes n. Nickname for a ship's boatswain.
piping n. The act of using a call (q.v.).
plank n. Timber ranging from one to four inches thick.
plunging boat n. Submarine.
plush n. Surplus grog that was a perquisite of the cook of the mess.
pole mast n. A mast made from a single tree.
pompion n. Pumpkin.
porpus n. Porpoise.
port n. The left-hand side of a ship, when facing forward from the stern toward the bow.
port-lid n. A wooden lid hinged to the top edge of a gun port. When it is lowered, it shuts the port and prevents water from entering the ship.
portable soup n. Meat and vegetable broth that has been boiled and concentrated into solid form in order to help preserve it and make it easier to transport.
Porte n. Sublime Porte (q.v.).
porter n. A type of dark beer.
pounce n. Fine powder or sand sprinkled on ink to help it dry.
pouncet box n. A small box or container with a perforated lid used to hold and sprinkle pounce (q.v.).
pound and pint idler n. Nickname for a ship's purser.
powder monkey n. Young boy (usually) who carried cartridges of gunpowder from the filling room up to the guns during battle.
prame n. A flat-bottomed boat; lighter (q.v.).
pratic n. Pratique (q.v.).
pratique n. Permission granted to a ship to enter and use a port after the local authorities determined that the ship met their quarantine requirements.
prayer book n. Holystone (q.v.).
premier n. First lieutenant.
pressed man n. A person taken by a press gang.
preventer n. A rope used to temporarily strengthen another rope that is under strain.
Priming n. Nickname for a ship's gunner.
private ship n. Any ship of war not carrying a flag officer.
prize n. An enemy vessel that has been captured.
prize master n. The officer who is put in command of a prize (q.v.).
prize money n. Money from the sale of a prize distributed among the men entitled to it.
protection n. A document issued to seamen that protected them from being pressed.
pulse n. Pod-bearing plants such as peas, beans, and lentils. Legumes.
pump n. A device fitted in the wells of vessels to remove water from the hold.
puncheon n. A large cask, also known as a firkin. The volume varied depending on what was stored in it.
purser's lice n. Weevil.

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Q

Quaker n. A dummy gun made out of wood used to give the impression that a ship is more heavily armed than it actually is.
quarter-bill n. A list of the stations and the names of the officers and crew appointed to them during battle.
quicksilver n. Mercury.
quid n. A piece of chewing tobacco.
Quill Driver n. Nickname for a ship's purser.

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R

R. n. Abbreviation for "run" (desert) used in British muster books.
rake v. To fire at the bows or stern of an enemy ship so that the shot sweeps through the entire length of the deck of the ship.
rat's tail n. 1. The tapered end of a rope. 2. A tapered file.
ratline n. Lightweight, tarred rope affixed horizontally to the shrouds. Ratlines formed a ladder which allowed the men to climb up the rigging.
ratling n. Ratline (q.v.).
rattan n. Cane or switch used to beat or punish a person.
rattle-pated adj. Noisy, giddy.
razee n. A ship which has had its upper deck(s) removed in order to reduce its rate/number of guns.
Red Marine n. A member of the Royal Marines light infantry as opposed to the artillery (Blue Marine) (q.v.).
reefer n. Midshipman.
reefing bed clothes n. A prank. It involved tying bedding (blankets, sheets) into tight balls while the owner was on duty. When the person returned, he was forced to undo the balls.
riding officer n. A mounted Customs officer whose duty was to patrol, day and night, a given stretch of coast (about 10 miles).
river hog n. Capybara.
road n. An unsheltered anchorage near land.
roadstead n. Road (q.v.).
roll your soul out n. Rosolio.
rope-yarn n. Thread of material used to make rope.
ropewalk n. A long covered area or building where rope is manufactured.
rotge n. Little auk.
rotten-stone n. Limestone that has decomposed into a powdery form, used to polish metal.
rough tree n. Any unfinished spar.
round dozen n. Thirteen lashes.
round robin n. A petition which bears signatures arranged in a circular shape, as opposed to a list, so that no name stands out.
round shot n. A solid iron ball.
roundabout n. A coat with no tails.
rounding n. Strands of rope wound tightly around a larger rope or cable to to prevent it from chafing.
roundly adv. Quickly.
rover n. Pirate.
royal n. A light sail set above a topgallant sail.
Royal Bounty n. Lump sum equal to a year's wages paid to the widow, dependent children or mother (over 50 years) of a Royal Navy officer killed in action.
Royal Jolly n. Nickname for a British marine.
royal reefer n. Midshipman.
rummage v. To go through items on board vessels when searching for smuggled or illegal goods. Performed by Customs officers.
running rigging n. Untarred ropes used to hoist and control the movement of yards and sails.

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S

saffron scourge n. Yellow fever.
sailing ice n. Floating ice loose enough to allow a ship to sail trough.
Sails n. Nickname for a sailmaker.
salee rover n. Corsair, Barbary pirate. "Salee" comes from Salé, a city in Morocco, which was a famous base for pirate activities.
sally rover n. Salee rover (q.v.).
sallying n. A method used to break ship free from newly formed ice. The men ran in a group from side to side of the ship, causing her to roll.
salt n. Sailor.
salt box n. A portable box with a lid to store cartridges. During action, a powder monkey would sit on the box and distribute cartridges when needed.
salt junk n. Salted meat.
salt niter n. Mineral form of sodium nitrate.
salt tack n. Salted beef or pork.
saltpeter n. Potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate.
Saunders n. Nickname for a Scotsman.
Sawny n. Nickname for a Scotsman.
Scotch coffee n. Drink made from burnt bread boiled in water and sweetened with sugar.
Scotch prize n. A ship captured by mistake.
scraper n. 1. A triangular tool with sharp edges used to scrape and clean the surface of planks making up the decks or side of a ship. 2. A cocked hat.
scud v. To run before a gale.
scupper n. A channel cut into the waterway (q.v.) and side of a ship at specific intervals. Lined with lead, it allowed water to run off the decks into the ocean.
scupper leather n. A flap of leather covering the outside of a scupper that kept water from coming in while still allowing it to flow out.
scurvy grass n. Low lying plant (Cochlearia officinalis) belonging to the mustard family Brassicaceae found in salt marshes and along coastal areas; used as an antiscorbutic.
scuttle v. 1. To cut large holes in the bottom or sides of a ship. 2. To sink a ship by cutting holes in the bottom.
scuttle-butt n. A cask of water placed on deck for the seamen to drink from.
sea bear n. Fur seal.
sea breeze n. A gentle wind that blows towards land from the sea, generally during the day.
sea canary n. Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas).
sea coal n. Coal excavated from the ground and transported via ships (as opposed to charcoal which was transported by land).
sea dog n. 1. Seaman. 2. Fog dog (q.v.).
sea egg n. Sea urchin.
sea elephant n. Elephant seal.
sea flower n. Sea anemone.
sea grocer n. Purser.
sea hedgehog n. Sea urchin.
sea horse n. Walrus.
sea lemon n. A type of nudibranch (Family Dorididae) with an oval shape, yellowish color, and rough skin texture, which call to mind a lemon.
sea parrot n. Puffin.
sea shark n. Pirate.
sea tiger n. Shark.
sea unicorn n. Narwhal (Monodon monoceros).
serve out slops v. To administer punishment.
seven bell man n. A midshipman who had passed the seamanship exam but had never taken or had failed to pass the navigation exam at the Naval College.
shakings n. Small fragments or odds and ends of rope-yarn, oakum (q.v.), old lanyards, and other types of cordage.
shank n. The shaft portion of an anchor.
sheave n. A wheel with a groove.
Sheer Nasty n. Nickname for Sheerness.
shell n. The outside part of a block (q.v.).
shiner n. Lighthouse.
shingle n. Beach gravel consisting of smooth stones; used as ballast (q.v.).
ship fever n. Typhus.
ship husband n. An officer who rarely goes ashore.
shipworm n. Mollusk with a wormlike body, belonging to the family Teredinidae, which damages ships and other wooden marine structures exposed to water by boring into the wood. Teredo navalis is known as the Common Shipworm.
shoal adj. Shallow.
shot locker n. Area in a ship's hold used to store shot for the ship's guns.
shot rolling n. The act of rolling round shot along the deck at night. This was a sign that the seamen were very unhappy with the conditions on the ship.
sick berth n. A place in a ship where the sick or injured were cared for.
sick book n. A book that contained a list of all persons sent from the ship to sick quarters outside of the ship, such as a hospital or hospital ship. Details included the date and time of the person's departure and return to the ship, or fate (discharge, death) if he was not able to return.
sick list n. A list of the names of patients under the surgeon's care, which was presented by the surgeon to the commanding officer on a daily basis.
six water grog n. Daily rum ration mixed with six parts water, issued as punishment.
skipper n. The captain of a ship.
skulker n. A person who shirks his duty.
skylark v. To frolic or play, especially up in the rigging.
skysail n. A light sail set above the royal (q.v.).
slave room n. The area on board a slaver (q.v.) where the slaves were held.
slaver n. A vessel engaged in the slave trade.
slip the cable v. To allow the anchor cable run out of the ship when there is not enough time to weigh the anchor.
slops n. Clothing and bedding issued to seaman by the purser of a ship.
slush n. Fat skimmed off the top of the water while boiling meat.
Slushy n. Nickname for the cook.
smack n. A small vessel used for coastal fishing or trading activities.
small arms n. Muskets, pistols, cutlasses, boarding pikes, tomahawks.
small bower n. The anchor located on the larboard (q.v.) bow of a ship.
smallclothes n. Knee breeches.
smasher n. Carronade (q.v.).
smoke-jack n. A seaman on a steam powered ship.
smuggler n. A vessel involved in illegal trade.
snotty n. Midshipman.
snuff v. To cut off the burnt portion of the wick of a candle.
soft tack n. Soft bread.
soft Tommy n. Soft bread.
soger v. To loaf or skulk.
Soldier's Joy n. Dog's body (q.v.).
Son of Heaven n. Emperor of China.
son-in-law n. Stepson.
Soundings n. Nickname for a ship's sailing master.
speck n. Whale blubber.
spike v. To hammer a metal spike into the touch-hole of a gun, to prevent it from being used.
spirit of vitriol n. Sulfuric acid.
Spithead nightingale n. Boatswain or boatswain's mate.
splice v. To join two ropes together by interweaving the strands that make up the ropes.
spruce beer n. Drink made from sugar or treacle and the green tops of spruce trees; thought to prevent scurvy.
spy glass n. Terrestrial telescope (q.v.).
squall n. A sudden, strong gust of wind.
squeaker n. Youngster.
squilgee n. A small swab (q.v.) used to remove excess water from the deck of a ship.
St. Elmo's fire n. Luminous electrical discharge seen on masts and yards usually before, during, or after thunderstorms. It can also occur during other types of atmospheric disturbances.
St. Elmo's light n. St. Elmo's fire (q.v.).
staff n. A pole upon which flags were hoisted.
stand on v. To continue to advance.
standing rigging n. Tarred ropes supporting and bracing the masts of a ship. The main types of standing rigging include: stays, backstays, and shrouds.
starboard n. The right-hand side of a ship, when facing forward from the stern toward the bows.
starbowlines n. The men who form the starboard (q.v.) watch on a ship.
starting n. A form of punishment that involved a beating with a rope's end or a rattan.
steep hole n. A hole made in ice which allowed salt meat to be soaked in the water below.
steep tub n. A large tub filled with water in which salt meat was soaked before cooking.
steerage n. Area between decks used as the midshipmen's berth on a frigate.
sternfast n. A rope that attaches a ship's stern to a pier, wharf, another ship, etc.
stick n. Mast.
stiff adj. Stable, able to carry a fair amount of sail without the danger of capsizing.
strait waistcoat n. Strait jacket.
Sublime Porte n. The government of the Ottoman Empire based at Constantinople.
sucking Nelson n. A young, inexperienced, naive naval officer.
swab n. 1. A mop made of rope used to clean the decks. 2. Sailor. 3. An officer's epaulette.
swabber n. A seaman appointed to swab the deck.
swaddy n. Soldier.
sweep n. A large oar.
sweeper n. A seaman appointed to sweep the deck with a broom.
swizzle n. A type of mixed drink with rum as one of the ingredients.
sycee n. Fine silver in the form of ingots varying in size. Formerly used as currency in China.

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T

tack v. To change a ship's course from one tack to another by bringing the ship's head into the wind.
tar n. Seaman.
tar-pawling n. A piece of canvas that has been covered with tar that is used to cover a hatch to stop water from entering the ship through it.
tarpaulin n. 1. Tar-pawling (q.v.). 2. An officer who has risen to command from the lower deck.
Tartar n. An officer who is a tyrant or martinet.
taunt adj. Tall, lofty.
tea chest n. East India Company ship.
tea waggon n. East India Company ship.
tenny n. Nickname for British 10-gun brig.
teredo n. Shipworm (q.v.).
terrestrial telescope n. A refracting telescope with four lenses. The object viewed is seen in its natural position.
thick squall n. A squall (q.v.) accompanied by rain, sleet, or other types of precipitation.
throat n. The inner end of a gaff or a boom.
thwart n. A seat, placed athwart (q.v.) the width of a boat, upon which the rowers sat.
tide waiter n. Customs official who went aboard vessels returning to port in order to make an account of and supervise the landing of goods to ensure the proper payment of duties.
toddy n. Palm tree sap which is fermented and used to make alcohol.
tompion n. Wooden stopper placed securely into the mouth of a gun to prevent water and debris from entering the bore.
top-light n. A large lantern placed at the aft part of a top, used for signalling.
top-lights n. Eyes.
tormentor n. A large fork used by the ship's cook.
torpedo n. Electric ray (order Torpediniformes).
torrid zone n. The area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
transport n. Troop ship (q.v.).
traps n. Personal baggage.
troop ship n. A vessel used to carry troops.
truck n. 1. A general term for a small, shaped piece of wood. The shape depended on the intended purpose of the piece. 2. Wheel of gun carriage.
trump n. A fine fellow.
trunnel n. Tree nail.
tub n. A ship that is a poor, slow sailer.
tunny n. Tuna.
turnip n. A large pocket watch.
tyfoong n. Typhoon.

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U

unballast v. To remove the ballast from a ship.
unboiled lobster n. Blue Marine (q.v.).
Uncle Sam's Mahogany n. Salt beef.
unicorn fish n. Narwhal (Monodon monoceros).
unrig n. To remove the standing and running rigging of a vessel.
urca [Spanish] n. A fairly large vessel used as a store or supply ship.

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V

ventilator n. Wind sail (q.v.).
viands n. Victuals.
VOC n. Abbreviation for Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company).
volunteer per order n. A boy or young man who had a warrant from the British Admiralty which assigned him to a ship for training as a Royal Navy officer. This system was phased out by the mid-1700s.

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W

waist n. The central part of the upper deck between the quarterdeck and the forecastle.
waister n. Landsman or unskilled seaman who worked in the waist (q.v.) of a ship.
wake n. The track a vessel leaves in the water.
watch glass n. Half-hour glass (q.v.).
water bewitched n. Tea.
water lemon n. Passion fruit.
waterway n. A piece of heavy timber running the length of a ship at the junction of the ship's sides and decks which formed a channel to carry water from the deck to the scuppers (q.v.).
weather v. To sail to windward of something, such as a ship or land.
weather glass n. Barometer.
weather shore n. Land lying to windward.
weigh v. To raise or lift.
Welsh wig n. Worsted wool hat.
wet nurse n. Nurse (q.v.).
white ant n. Termite.
white mouse n. An informer among the seamen who reported offenses to the officers.
white tape n. Smuggler's slang for gin.
white Tommy n. Bread.
widows' men n. Fictitious men entered in a ship's muster book who drew the pay of an able seaman. This pay was designated for a fund to aid needy widows of commissioned and warrant officers in the Royal Navy.
wind gun n. Air gun.
wind sail n. A funnel or tube of canvas used to ventilate the lower parts of a ship.
wind's eye n. The point from which the wind is blowing.
windage n. The space between the surface of a projectile and the bore of the weapon it is being fired from due to the difference in diameters.
windbound adj. When a vessel is prevented from sailing due to adverse wind conditions.
woolding n. Rope wound around a mast or yard to provide support, especially in areas where the mast or yard has been fished or is comprised of more than one piece.
wrecker n. A person involved in looting ships wrecked on or close to shore. Some wreckers lured ships aground using lanterns or beacons.

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Y

Yankee n. American.
yardarm n. Either end of a yard.
yaw v. To deviate to the left or right of the ship's course.
yellow admiral n. Superannuated rear-admiral, Royal Navy (established in 1747).
yellow boy n. A gold coin, such as a guinea.
yellow George n. Guinea.
Yellow Jack n. 1. Yellow fever. A viral infection transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, muscle aches, bleeding, and jaundice. 2. Quarantine flag.
young gentleman n. Midshipman.
young ice n. Newly formed ice.
younker n. Youngster.

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