The Sailor's Word-Book
by William Henry Smyth
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ADMIRAL W. H. SMYTH, K.S.F., D.C.L., &c.







Transcriber's Note:

Dialect, variant and obsolete spellings remain as printed. Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note, whilst significant changes have been listed at the end of the text. Superscript characters are preceded by the ^ character. Greek text has been transliterated and is shown between {braces}. The oe ligature is shown as [oe], and [sq] represents the square-root symbol.


The recent loss of Admiral William Henry Smyth, noticed as it was by the leading periodicals, will have recalled to many, not only the social character and amiable qualities of the compiler of this Work, but also his distinguished professional career and high reputation as an officer, a navigator, and a seaman, which will be a guarantee for the details of this posthumous publication.

When, in 1858, the Admiral reached the allotted term of three-score years and ten, yet in perfect health, he executed his resolution of resigning to younger men the posts he held in the active scientific world, and concentrated his attention, at his quiet and literary retreat of St. John's Lodge, near Aylesbury, on reducing for the press the vast amount of professional as well as general information which he had amassed during a long, active, and earnest life: the material for this "Digest" outstanding as the last, largest, and most important part of it. Had he survived but a few months more, a preface in his own terse and peculiar style, containing his last ideas, would have rendered these remarks unnecessary; but he was cut off on the 8th of September, 1865, leaving this favourite manuscript to the affectionate care of his family and friends. By them it has been most carefully revised; and is now presented to the public, especially to his honoured profession, for the benefit of which he thought and worked during the long period which elapsed between his leaving the quarter-deck and his death; as his Charts (constructed from his numerous surveys), his twenty years' Essays in the United Service Journal, his efforts to render his astronomical researches accessible to seamen,—all testify.

Admiral Smyth was what has been called a commonplacer. He had the habit of methodically storing up, through a long series of years, all that could profit the seaman, whether scientific or practical. A collector of coins, and in various ways an antiquary, he knew well, not merely that "many mickles make a muckle," but that it will sometimes chance that the turning up of one little thing makes another little thing into a great one. And he culled from the intelligent friends with whom he associated many points of critical definition which cannot be found elsewhere. Thus, in addition to naval terms, he has introduced others relating to fortification; to ancient and modern arms and armour; to objects of natural history occurring at sea, in travel, &c.: the whole forming such an assemblage of interesting and instructive matter as will prove valuable to both seaman and landsman.

This "Digest" may engage the attention of the naval officer, not merely for the information it conveys, but for the doubts it may raise in matters deserving further research. Independently of the variety of subjects treated, the author's characteristic manner of handling them will make it to his former brother officers a reminiscence of one of the true tars of the old school—the rising generation will find here old terms (often misunderstood by younger writers) interpreted by one who was never content with a definition until he had confirmed it satisfactorily by the aid of the most accomplished of his cotemporaries; the landsman will discover the meaning or derivation of words either obsolete or which are not elsewhere to be traced, though occurring in general literature. To all it is the legacy of an officer highly appreciated by men of science, who on shore as well as afloat fought his way to eminence in every department, and always deemed it his pride that no aim was dearer to him than the advancement of his noble profession.

LONDON, May, 1867.


What's in a word? is a question which it is held clever to quote and wise to think unanswerable: and yet there is a very good answer, and it is—a meaning, if you know it. But there is another question, and it is, What's a word in? There is never a poor fellow in this world but must ask it now and then with a blank face, when aground for want of a meaning. And the answer is—a dictionary, if you have it. Unfortunately, there may be a dictionary, and one may have it, and yet the word may not be there. It may be an old dictionary, and the word a new one; or a new dictionary, and the word an old one; a grave dictionary, and the word a slang one; a slang dictionary, and the word a grave one; and so on through a double line of battle of antitheses. Such is assuredly matter for serious cogitation: and voluntarily to encounter those anomalous perplexities requires no small amount of endurance, for the task is equally crabbed and onerous, without a ray of hope to the pioneer beyond that of making himself humbly useful. This brings me to my story.

Many years ago, I harboured thoughts of compiling a kind of detailed nautical vade mecum; but a lot of other irons already in the fire marred the project. Still the scheme was backing and filling, when the late Major Shadwell Clerke—opening the year 1836 in the United Service Journal—fired off the following, to me, unexpected announcement:—

"A Nautical Dictionary, or Cyclopaedia of Naval Science and Nomenclature, is still a desideratum. That of Falconer is imperfect and out of date. We have heard that the design of such a work has been entertained, and materials for its execution collected, by Captain W. H. Smyth, whom, we earnestly recommend to prosecute an undertaking of such promise to the service of which he is so experienced and distinguished a member—it could not be in more competent hands."

This broad hint must have been signalled by the gallant Major in the way of a stimulating fillip, and accordingly it aroused considerable attention. Among those who were excited by the notification was my friend Captain Basil Hall, who wrote to me from Paris a few days afterwards—13th of January, 1836—in these words:

"I read a day or two ago, in the United Service Journal, that you had some thoughts of preparing a Nautical Dictionary for publication; and from your connection with that journal, or at least your acquaintance with our friend the editor, I am led to fear that the report may be true. You will understand the use of the word fear when I tell you that, for nearly three years, my own thoughts have turned in the same direction, and I have been busily preparing for a task to which I meant to buckle to with a will, and to which I meant to devote some four or five years of exclusive diligence. What I am anxious to know, as soon as may be, is the fact of your having undertaken a similar work, or not. For I assure you I am not so foolish, nor so insensible either to my own peace of mind or my own reputation; nor am I so careless of your good opinion and regard, as to enter the lists with you. I repeat, neither my feelings nor my judgment would permit me in any way to cross your hawse, if indeed, as I too much fear, you have got before me. There is one other man in the service besides yourself, and only one, with whom no consideration would induce me to enter into competition—and that is Beaufort—but his hands, I presume, are full enough, and I had somehow imagined yours were too. So much so, that you were one of the first men I meant to consult on my return to England, and to beg assistance from. I should not have minded the competition of any one else, but I am not so vain as to suppose that I could do the thing as well as either of you—and therefore, even if I were not restrained by motives of personal friendship, I should never dream of risking my reputation for professional, scientific, or literary attainments by a struggle in which I should certainly be worsted."

To this hearty and laudatory interpellation, an immediate reply was returned, stating that I had long held the subject in view, but that other weighty avocations occasioned its hanging fire, and had compelled me to suspend it sine die. Still I considered such a work necessary to the current wants, as well those of seafarers as of the landsmen who evince a taste for nautical matters; and that, from his profession and literary prowess, I knew of no one better fitted for the task than himself—adding that, under the emergency, my papers were at his service, and I would occasionally give him such personal aid as might lie in my power. This was acknowledged in a long explicatory letter, of which the following are extracts:—

"I trust I know the value of a compliment as well as any man, and I can say, with perfect truth, that in the whole of my career (such as it has been), professional, scientific, or literary, no compliment—I may say no circumstance—has occurred which has given me so much honest gratification as your letter of the 3d. I know you are a man not to say what you do not truly think, nor to express yourself strongly where you have not observed carefully. I shall therefore not disclaim your compliment, but rather seek, in a kindred spirit, to work up to the mark which you assign me—and which I know but too well how far I am short of.

"I do hope, indeed, that as you say, 'we may row in the same boat without catching crabs;' but of this I am quite resolved, not to cross your hawse, nor to interfere with your project, which you have alluded to as having already commenced. That is to say, I shall not interfere unless I can be of use to it and to you, and with your full concurrence, and, as I hope, your companionship. * * * *

"What I should propose would be, that you should furnish the professional technicalities in all the different branches, and that I should endeavour to popularize them. Here and there—as in the matter of Navigation—I also might intrude with some few technicalities. But generally speaking it would be you who should provide the real solid stuff, and I who should attempt to dress it up so as to be intelligible beyond the limits of the sea-service; and also to be intelligible to those young persons whom it is very important to instruct in general and even popular views, but for whom it would be needless to write a new elementary treatise. * * * *

"This is a sketch of my plan. What think you of it? I must add one thing, however, that you must be the senior officer on the occasion. I shall act in all this matter, and in the most perfect good faith, as your subordinate."

In responding to this full and frank overture, I entered into a few more particulars respecting my progress and purpose in the projected work; and invited him—on his return from France—to come at once to Bedford and ransack my papers.

Accordingly, in the autumn of 1836, Captain Basil Hall and his family—the whole of the Schloss Handfeldt party—arrived at my house, where he was located in a quiet library, with all my materials for the Naval Dictionary before him. Here he remained in close examination of them during two days, when he promised to send me his ultimatum in writing after due deliberation. He required time for this, seeing I had fairly warned him that my onerous undertakings would necessarily throw the heavier share of our performance upon his shoulders. On the 27th of November I received a letter from Edinburgh, in which he made this statement:—

"With respect to the Marine Dictionary I think we have come to a clear understanding—namely, that for the present it is standing fast. I certainly had a notion that I was an interloper, and as soon as I saw the vast deal you had done in the way of preparation, that it became me as a man of fair dealing, to back out. This does not, however, appear to have been your wish, but on the contrary that we may still make a joint work of it by-and-by, when we have leisure, both of us, to engage in it heartily—tooth and nail. I shall therefore keep it in my thoughts, and endeavour to shape my future plans so as to meet this view, and, should I see occasion, I can write to you about it. My present notion is, that if ever we do set about it, I must come to Bedford for a season, and give myself entirely up to the work, under your direction. The work, to be worth a straw, or at all what would be expected from you and me, would require no small labour on our parts, for a considerable length of time."

We consequently lay upon our oars for some time, but occasionally pulling a stroke or two to keep to the station, and be ready for head-way when required. While thus prepared, in 1842 my excellent and highly accomplished friend was most unexpectedly assailed by an afflicting malady, which at once reduced a brilliant mind to a distressing fatuity, which—after two lingering years—closed his valuable life, and clued up our arrangements.

Meantime our plan had oozed out, and too great an expectation was evoked in certain quarters, the inquiries from whence were frequent reminders. At length in 1865, most of my undertakings having been completed, and out of the way, I made an overhaul of the bulky ribs and trucks of the scheme in question. Both my judgment and feelings united in showing that it is now too late in the day for me to think of setting about such a work as was contemplated thirty years ago; yet finding myself still capable of application, and fully knowing all the bearings of the case, I feel assured that a comprehensive and useful "word-book" may be made from the shakings. On the whole, therefore, the foregoing particulars seem to be a necessary prelude to this introduction.

Doubtless a well-digested marine dictionary would be equally beneficial to the country and to the service, for the utility of such a work in assisting those who are engaged in carrying on practical sea duties is so generally admitted, that it is allowable here to dilate upon its importance, especially when it is considered how much information a youth has to acquire, on his first going afloat, in order to qualify him for a position so totally different from what he had hitherto been familiar with. In this case such a volume might justly be deemed one of the most useful of his companions, as it would at all times answer his questions, and aid that ardour of inquiry which some of his shipmates might not find it easy to satisfy. It would quicken the slow progress of experience, and aid those who take a pleasure in the knowledge and discharge of their duties. But a work of this description must necessarily require constant additions, and revised explanations, to enable it to keep pace with the wondrous alterations and innovations which are now taking place in every department of the naval service. The future of all this is utterly inscrutable!

Nor has this province been neglected, as the efforts of Captain John Smith (of mine own clan), Maynwaring, Boteler, Blanckley, Falconer, Young, and many others, testify; and however they may fall short of what naval science demands, they are full of initiative training. Indeed they may all be advantageously consulted, for honey is not the less sweet because it is gathered from many flowers; and I have freely availed myself of their various works, as far as they go, though I have adopted no term without holding myself responsible for its actuality. Such a vaunt may be considered to savour of the parturiunt montes apothegm, but the reader may confidently rest assured that whatever shortcomings he may detect they are not the result of negligence.

It has been pronounced that such lexicography may be too diffuse; that to describe the track of every particular rope through its different channels, however requisite for seamen, would be useless and unintelligible to a landsman. But surely nothing can be considered useless which tends directly to information, nor can that be unintelligible which is clearly defined. Moreover, such a work may be so carried out as not only to be instructive in professional minutiae, but also to be a vehicle for making us acquainted with the rules which guided the seamen of former times, thereby affording an insight into those which are likely to direct them in their own.

From the causes already stated, my project of a full sailor's dictionary fell to the ground; yet in course of time, and at the age of seventy-seven, finding leisure at last on hand, I thought it feasible to work my materials into a sort of maritime glossary. The objects of such a digest are to afford a ready reference to young or old, professional or non-professional, persons, who by consulting it may obtain an instant answer to a given question. Now although many of the explanations may be superfluous to some seamen, still they may lead others to a right understanding of various brackish expressions and phrases, without having to put crude queries, many of which those inquired of might be unable to solve. Nor is it only those afloat who are to be thus considered; all the empire is more or less connected with its navy and its commerce, and nautical phraseology is thereby daily becoming more habitual with all classes of the lieges than of erst. Even our parliamentary orators, with a proper national bias, talk of swamping a measure, danger ahead, taking the wind out of an antagonist's sails, drifting into war, steering a bill through the shoals of opposition or throwing it overboard, following in the wake of a leader, trimming to the breeze, tiding a question over the session, opinions above or below the gangway, and the like, so rife of late in St. Stephen's; even when a member "rats" on seeing that the pumps cannot keep his party from falling to leeward, he is but imitating the vermin that quit a sinking-ship.

This predilection for sea idiom is assuredly proper in a maritime people, especially as many of the phrases are at once graphic, terse, and perspicuous. How could the whereabouts of an aching tooth be better pointed out to an operative dentist than Jack's "'Tis the aftermost grinder aloft, on the starboard quarter." The ship expressions preserve many British and Anglo-Saxon words, with their quaint old preterites and telling colloquialisms; and such may require explanation, as well for the youthful aspirant as for the cocoa-nut-headed prelector in nautic lore. It is indeed remarkable how largely that foundation of the English language has been preserved by means of our sailors.

This phraseology has necessarily been added to from time to time, and consequently bears the stamp of our successive ages of sea-life. In the "ancient and fishlike" terms that brave Raleigh derived from his predecessors, many epithets must have resulted from ardent recollections of home and those at home, for in a ship we find—

Apeak, Cat's-paw, Driver, Hound, Rabbit, Stays, Apron, Cot, Earings, Jewel, Ribband, Stirrup, A-stay, Cradle, Eyes, Lacings, Saddle, Tiller, Bonnet, Crib, Fox, Martingale, Sheaves, Truck, Braces, Crow-foot, Garnet, Mouse, Sheets, Truss, Bridle, Crow's nest, Goose-neck, Nettle, Sheepshank, Watch, Cap, Crown, Goose-wing, Pins, Shoe, Whip, Catharpins, Diamond, Horse, Puddings, Sister, Yard. Cat-heads, Dog, Hose,

Most of the real sea-terms are pregnant with meaning; but those who undertake to expound them ought to be tolerably versed in the topic. Thus perhaps there was no great harm in Dr. Johnson's being utterly ignorant of maritime language, but it was temerariously vain in that sturdy lexicographer to assert that belay is a sea-phrase for splicing a rope; main sheet, for the largest sail in a ship; and bight, for the circumference of a coil of rope; and we long had him on the hip respecting the purser, a personage whom he—misled by Burser—at once pronounced to be the paymaster of a ship; as the then purser was, in fact, more familiar with slops, tobacco, pork, dips, biscuit, and the like, than with cash payments—for, excepting short-allowance dues, he had very little meddling with money matters. But the Admiralty have recently swamped the well-known and distinctive nautical title—despite of its time-honoured claims to repute—and introduced the army appellative, PAYMASTER, in its stead.

The pithy conciseness of the brackish tongue renders it eminently useful on duty. In some of their sea-phrases the French, our great rivals, use a heap of words more than we are wont to do. An instance is given—supposing a ship of the former met with one of ours, and they should desire to salute each other, the English commander would sing out, "Man ship!" but the French captain would have to exclaim, "Rangez du monde sur les vergues pour donner des cris de salut!" By the way, there is a ben trovato respecting the difficulty of doing our naval tidings into French: a translator of note made quite a mull of a ship being brought up by her anchors, and of another which was stranded from borrowing too much; while "a man-of-war riding easily in the road at Spithead" was rendered "Un homme de guerre se promenait a cheval a son aise sur le chemin de Spithead." Some of the French terms, however, are recommended by their Parisian stamp, as in calling iron bilboes "bas de soie"—the waist-netting "Saint Aubinet"—the quarter-gallery a "jardin d'amour:" but similar elegance was not manifested in dubbing the open-hearted thorough-bred tar "un loup de mer."

In the work before us, the nautical import of the terms is duly considered, and the orthography, as far as feasible, is ruled by authority and custom, with an occasional slight glance at the probable etymology of the words—slight, because derivation is a seductive and frequently illusory pilot. Our language is said to have been arraigned by foreigners for its hissing enunciation; but, regardless of the rebuke, our pundits have, of late, unnecessarily increased the whistling by substituting the sibilant s for the vocal z, in all sorts of cases. Happily this same s not being yet acclimatized to the galley, Jack will continue to give tongue to an enterprizing cruize after Portugueze merchandize, and there anent.

The plan of our work may be said to comprise the treating de omnibus rebus nauticis, for many branches of knowledge are demanded of the intelligent seaman. Thus in Naval Architecture, the terms used in the construction of ships, the plans and sections, and the mechanical means of the builders, are undoubted requirements of a sea word-book. So also in Astronomy, or that portion of nautical science constituting observations which are necessary to the determinations of the navigator. In Mathematics, especially the branch distinguished as practical, the doctrine which teaches whatever is capable of being numbered or measured, requires verbal elucidation, not so much for the educated youth, as for him who labours under difficulties—who is

"In canvass'd berth, profoundly deep in thought, His busy mind with sines and tangents fraught."

Many of the words in our columns are not de facto sea-terms, but as they are in rife and familiar use on ship-board, they obtained a lodgment; whence it becomes rather a difficult matter to mark a boundary for nautic language. Various expressions are also retained which, though unused or all but obsolete, occur so frequently in professional treatises and antiquated journals, that their exposition may often be welcomed by a general reader: they are here introduced, not as worthy of revival, yet as necessary to be understood when fallen in with. And it should be remembered, that—especially during our last conflict with France—so many combined enterprises occurred, that the most general naval and military phrases pertained, in a manner, to both arms of the service.

What may be termed mere galley-slang also demands explanation, since even officers are sometimes ashore—I was going to say at sea—respecting its purport; and I recollect at a court-martial holden on a seaman for insolence to his superior, the lingo used by the shrewd culprit was liable to be thought respectful or otherwise according to the manner of utterance, and he was admitted to the benefit of the doubtful meaning. Still it must be admitted that all vulgarisms, as far as practicable, should be indignantly spurned from our noble English language—a language unequalled for excellence in fluency, capacity, and strength. A stern critic may also, and in truth, aver that terms are included on our roll the which are not altogether of maritime usage. This we have admitted, but the allegation will be greatly weakened on scrutiny, for they are here given in the sense entertained of them in nautic parlance. Such are generally illustrative of some of the lingual or local peculiarities of sea-life, or borne on its literature, and therefore are necessarily admitted as having a footing in maritime philology. Some of our misused words and archaic phrases are, by influence of the newspaper magnates, brought across the Atlantic, and re-appear among us under the style and title of Americanisms: after which fashion, in the lapse of time and the mutation of dialect, vocables once differing in origin and meaning may become identical in sense and sound.[A]

[A] As for example the word alarm, alarum, a bell, from the German laerm; but the military alarm on a drum is the Italian all'arme.

Finally, Natural History, a taste for which is a substantial blessing to the sailor, is too vast a department for our professional pages. However, a few requisite definitions of the familiar products of the air, earth, and water are introduced. Numbers of marine birds and many fishes—so often misnamed—are entered upon the muster; and especially those which the blue-jackets vote to be very good eating; yet, as a reverend author has well observed, we should, in such cases, recur to the probable state of their appetites at the time of experiment. The most general nautic dishes and refections are likewise cited, to the making of which most of our sea-cooks are competent—there being no puree, entremet, or fricandeau to trouble them. But though they are at times libelled as being sent from the infernal regions, they are pretty fair in their way; and though no great shakes in domestic chemistry, they can enter the lists against any white-aproned artiste at pea-soup, beef-steak, lobscouse, pillau, curried shark, twice-laid, or savoury sea-pie. Still, a more luxurious tendency in this department is casting its shadow before; and there are Sybarites invading the ocean to whom the taste of junk is all but unknown.





A. The highest class of the excellence of merchant ships on Lloyd's books, subdivided into A 1 and A 2, after which they descend by the vowels: A 1 being the very best of the first class. Formerly a river-built (Thames) ship took the first rate for 12 years, a Bristol one for 11, and those of the northern ports 10. Some of the out-port built ships keep their rating 6 to 8 years, and inferior ones only 4. But improvements in ship-building, and the large introduction of iron, are now claiming longer life.

A is an Anglo-Saxonism for in or on; as a'board, a'going, &c.

A.B. The rating of Able Seamen on the ship's books: these two letters are often used as an epithet for the person so rated. He must be equal to all the duties required of a seaman in a ship—not only as regards the saying to "hand, reef, and steer," but also to strop a block, splice, knot, turn in rigging, raise a mouse on the main-stay, and be an example to the ordinary seamen and landsmen.

ABAB. A Turkish sailor who plies in coasting craft.

ABACK. The situation of a ship's sails when the wind bears against their front surfaces. They are laid aback, when this is purposely effected to deaden her way by rounding in the weather-braces; and taken aback, when brought to by an unexpected change of wind, or by inattention in the helmsman.—All aback forward, the notice given from the forecastle, when the head-sails are pressed aback by a sudden change in the wind. (See WORK ABACK.)—Taken aback, a colloquialism for being suddenly surprised or found out.

ABACUS. A board with balls sliding on small rods, used in China, Russia, &c., for calculating bills, &c.

ABAFT. This word, generally speaking, means behind, inferred relatively, beginning from the stem and continuing towards the stern, that is, the hinder part of the ship.—Abaft the beam implies any direction between a supposed transverse line amidships and the stern, whether in or out of the ship. It is the relative situation of an object with the ship, when that object is placed in the arc of the horizon contained between a line at right angles with the keel and the point of the compass which is directly opposite the ship's course. An object—as a man overboard—is described by the look-out man at the mast-head as abeam, before, or abaft the beam, by so many points of the compass. As a vessel seen may be "three points before the beam," &c.

ABAKA. A fine vegetable fibre, with which the white Manila rope, so much used on the India station, is made. This rope floats in water, and is not subject to rot, nor does it require tarring. A frigate on the China station in 1805 had nearly the whole of her running rigging of this cordage.

ABANDONMENT OF A VESSEL. Deserting and abandoning her by reason of unseaworthiness or danger of remaining in her, also when grounded and cannot be saved. This never occurs but in imminent cases; therefore, before the insured can demand recompense from the underwriter, they must cede or abandon to him the right of all property which may be recovered from shipwreck, capture, or any other peril stated in the policy. Other parties entering and bringing the vessel into port obtain salvage. (Vide DERELICT.)

ABASE, TO. An old word signifying to lower a flag or sail. Abaisser is in use in the French marine, and both may be derived from the still older abeigh. Abase literally means to cast down, to humble.

ABATE, TO. An old Anglo-Norman word from abattre, to beat down or destroy; as, to abate a castle or fort, is to beat it down; and a gale is said to abate when it decreases. The term is still used in law.

ABATEMENT. A plea by which a reduction of freight is demanded, when unforeseen causes have delayed or hindered the performance of a stipulated charter-party.

ABATIS. An obstruction used in temporary fortification, composed of felled trees deprived of their smaller branches, and secured to the ground side by side with their tops towards the enemy; applicable to the front of posts, works, or positions, and occasionally to the bars of rivers.

ABBEY-LUBBER. This is an old term of reproach for idleness, and is here quoted only as bearing upon the nautical lubber. In the "Burnynge of Paule's Church, 1563," it is thus explained—"An Abbey-lubber, that was idle, well-fed, a long lewd lither loiterer, that might worke, and would not."

ABBLAST. Cross-bow; hence,

ABBLASTER. Cross-bow man.

ABBROCHYN. The old term for beginning or broaching a barrel, cask, or any "vesselle of drynke."

ABEAM. In a line at right angles to the vessel's length; opposite the centre of a ship's side.

ABEAM-ARM. For this curved timber, see FORK-BEAMS.

ABER. An ancient British word for the mouth of a river—as Aber-brothick, Aber-avon, Aber-ystwith, and Aber-conway, &c. It also means the confluence of two or more streams.

ABERRATION. An apparent change of place, or alteration of their mean position, in the fixed stars, caused by the earth's orbital movement.—Aberration of a planet signifies its progressive geocentric motion, or the space through which it appears to move, as seen from the earth, during the time which light occupies in passing from the planet to us.—Crown of aberration is a spurious circle surrounding the proper disc of the sun.—Constant of aberration, or amount of displacement in the sun's longitude, arising from the progressive motion of light, is established at 20".45.

ABET, TO. To excite or encourage—a common word, greatly in use at boat-racings, and other competitive acts.

ABITED. A provincial term for mildewed.

ABJURATION. The oath taken till lately by all officers on receiving their commission, by which they abjured any claim of the Stuarts to the throne, the power of the Pope, and the Romish religion.

ABLE. A term not simply expressive of strong faculties, but as acquainted with and equal to perform the expected duty.—Able seaman, a thorough or regular bred sailor. (See A.B.)—Able-bodied, sound, healthy, and fit for the Royal service.

ABLE-WHACKETS. A popular sea-game with cards, wherein the loser is beaten over the palms of the hands with a handkerchief tightly twisted like a rope. Very popular with horny-fisted salts.

ABOARD. Inside or upon a ship; the act of residing afloat; to hug the land in approaching the shore.—To fall aboard of, is for one vessel to run foul of another.—To haul the tacks aboard, is to bring their weather clues down to the chess-tree, or literally, to set the courses.—To lay an enemy aboard, to run into or alongside.

ABODE. Waited for; as, ship ran to the appointed place of rendezvous and abode there for her consort.

ABORD. An Anglo-Saxon term, meaning across, from shore to shore, of a port or river.

ABOUT. Circularly; the situation of a ship after she has gone round, and trimmed sails on the opposite tack.—Ready about! and About-ship! are orders to the ship's company to prepare for tacking by being at their stations.

ABOVE-BOARD. Over the deck; a term used for open fair dealing, without artifice or trick.

ABOX. A word used in veering for aback, alluding to the situation of the head-yards in paying off. (See BRACE ABACK.)—Lay the head-yards abox—in former times, and even at present, many good seamen prefer to lay the head-yards square, or abox, to heave-to. It brings the vessel more under command for sudden evolution, wearing, or staying.

ABRAHAM-MEN. A cant term for vagabonds, who formerly begged about under pretence of having been discharged destitute from ships and hospitals; whence an idle malingerer wanting to enter the doctor's list is said to "sham Abraham." From a ward in Bedlam which was appropriated for the reception of idiots, which was named Abraham: it is a very old term, and was cited by Burton in the Anatomy of Melancholy so far back as 1621.

ABRASE, TO. To dubb or smooth planks.

ABRASION. The rubbing off or wearing away of the parts of a rock, or of the soil, by the impinging and friction of other bodies.

ABREAST. Side by side, parallel, or opposite to; generally used in opposition to abaft or afore.—Line abreast means a fleet advancing or retreating uniformly on a line parallel with the beam.—Abreast of a place, is directly off it; a direction at right angles with the keel or ship's length. In the army the term was formerly used for any number of men in front; but at present they are determined by files.—Abreast. Within-board, signifies on a parallel with the beam.

ABRID. A pintle-plate.

ABROACH. On tap, in use; spoken of barrels of beer or other liquors.

ABROAD. Synonymous with foreign, or being on a foreign station. Also an old word for spread; as, all sail abroad.

ABRUPT. A word applied to steep, broken, or craggy cliffs and headlands, especially such as are bold-to and precipitous.

ABSCISS. A part either of the diameter or the transverse axis of a conic section, intercepted between the vertex or any other fixed point and a semi-ordinate.—Abscission of a planet, its being outstripped by another, which joins a third one before it.

ABSENCE. A permission occasionally obtained, on urgent affairs, by officers to quit their duties.

ABSOLUTE. Anything free from conditions.—Absolute equations, the sum of the optic and eccentric equation, or the anomalies arising from a planet's not being equally distant from the earth at all times, and its motion not being uniform.—Absolute gravity is the whole force with which a body tends downwards.

ABSORPTION. A term formerly used for the sinking of islands and tracts of land, instead of subsidence.


ABSTRACT. A brief register of the warrant officer's stores, by which the supplies, expenses, and remains are duly balanced. An abstract log contains the most important subjects of a ship's log.

ABSTRACT MATHEMATICS, OR PURE. The branch which investigates and demonstrates the properties of magnitude, figure, or quantity, absolutely and generally considered, without restriction to any species in particular; such as arithmetic and geometry.

A-BURTON. The situation of casks when they are stowed in the hold athwart ship, or in a line with the beam.

ABUT. When two timbers or planks are united endways, they are said to butt or abut against each other. (See BUTT.)

ABYME. Places supposed to be the site of constant whirlpools, such as Charybdis, the Maelstrom, and others. It means generally an abyss.

ABYSS. A deep mass of waters; in hydrography it was synonymous with gulf.

ACADEMITE. An old term for an officer brought up at the Royal Navy Academy at Portsmouth, afterwards named the Royal Naval College.

ACAIR-PHUILL. Compounded of the British acair or anchor, and phuill, a pill, or harbour, and means a safe anchorage.

ACALEPHAE. A class of marine animals of low organization, having a translucent jelly-like structure, and frequently possessing the property of stinging, whence their name ({akalephe}, a nettle). The common jelly-fish (Medusa) and the Portuguese man-of-war (Physalia) are the best-known examples.

ACAST. The old word for lost or cast-away. In weighing anchor the head-yards are generally braced acast, to cause the vessel to cast in the direction. "Does she take acast?" is frequently the question of the officer abaft.

ACATER. An old word for purveyor of victuals, whence caterer, or superintendent and provider of a mess. Thus in Ben Jonson's "The Devil is an Ass"—

"He is my wardrobe-man, my acater, Cook, butler, and steward."

ACATES. Victuals; provisions purchased; delicious food; dainties.

ACATIUM. A word used in Roman naval affairs for a small boat, and also the main-mast of a ship.

ACCELERATION. The increase of velocity in a moving body by the force of gravity. A planet is said to be accelerated when its actual diurnal motion exceeds its mean. In fixed stars the acceleration is the mean time by which they anticipate the sun's diurnal revolution, which is 3' 56" nearly.—Acceleration of the moon is the increase of her mean motion, caused by a slow change in the excentricity of the terrestrial orbit, and which has sensibly diminished the length of the moon's revolution since the time of the earliest observations.

ACCESS. Means of entry on board.

ACCESSIBLE. A place which can be approached by land or sea.

ACCLIVITY. The upward slope of an inclined cliff.

ACCOIL, TO. To coil together, by folding round. (See COIL.)

ACCOLADE [ad and collum, Lat.] The ceremony of dubbing a knight, and the consequent embrace formerly customary on the occasion.

ACCOMMODATIONS. Cabins fitted for passengers.—Accommodation ladder, a convenient flight of steps fixed at the gangway, by which officers and visitors enter the ship.—Accommodation, the physical application of one thing to another by analogy.

ACCOMPANY, TO. To sail together; to sail in convoy.

ACCOST, TO. To pass within hail of a ship; to sail coastwise; to approach, to draw near, or come side by side.

ACCOUNT, GOING UPON. A phrase for buccaneering.

ACCOUNTANT-GENERAL OF THE NAVY. Superintendent of pay and general accounts of the navy.

ACCOUNTS. The several books and registers of stores, provisions, slops, and contingents of a ship or fleet; and they are strictly enjoined to be correct, real, and precise, both in receipt and expenditure.—Account sales, a form of book-keeping in commerce.

ACCOUTREMENT. An old term for an habiliment, or part of the trappings and furniture of a soldier or knight; now generally used for the belts, pouches, and equipments of soldiers or marines.

ACCUL. A word used by old voyagers for the end of a deep bay; it is corrupted from cul de sac.

ACHATOUR. The old word for caterer of a mess.

ACHERNAR. A star of the first magnitude in the constellation Eridanus, called by navigators the "Spring of the River." It is invisible in our latitude. ({a} Eridani.) Properly should be acher nahr.

ACHIEVEMENT. A signal exploit; escutcheon; armorial bearings granted for achievement.

ACHROMATIC. An optical term applied to those telescopes in which aberration of the rays of light, and the colours dependent thereon, are partially corrected. (See APLANATIC.)

ACHRONICAL. An ancient term, signifying the rising of the heavenly bodies at sunset, or setting at sunrise.

ACKER. See EAGRE or AIGRE. Also, an eddying ripple on the surface of flooded waters. A tide swelling above another tide, as in the Severn. (See BORE.)

ACK-MEN, OR ACK-PIRATES. Fresh-water thieves; those who steal on navigable rivers.

A-COCKBILL (see COCK-BILL). The anchor hangs by its ring at the cat-head, in a position for dropping.

ACOLYTE. A term sometimes used to distinguish the smaller component of a double star. A subordinate officer in the ancient church.

ACON. A flat-bottomed Mediterranean boat or lump, for carrying cargoes over shoals.

ACQUITTANCE. A commercial term, more generally called quittance (which see).

ACRE, OR ACRE-FIGHT. An old duel fought by warriors between the frontiers of England and Scotland, with sword and lance. This duelling was also called camp-fight.

ACROSS THE TIDE. A ship riding across tide, with the wind in the direction of the tide, would tend to leeward of her anchor; but with a weather tide, or that running against the wind, if the tide be strong, would tend to windward. A ship under sail should prefer the tack that stems the tide, with the wind across the stream, when the anchor is let go.

ACROSTOLIUM. A buckler, helmet, or other symbolical ornament on the prow of ancient ships; the origin of the modern figure-head.

ACT AND INTENTION. Must be united in admiralty law.

ACTE. A peninsula; the term was particularly applied by the ancients to the sea-coast around Mount Athos.

ACT OF COURT. The decision of the court or judge on the verdict, or the overruling of the court on a point of law.

ACT OF GOD. This comprehends all sudden accidents arising from physical causes, as distinguished from human agency, such as from lightning, earthquakes, hurricanes, plagues, and epidemic contagion amongst the crew. For none of these are ship-owners responsible.

ACT OF GRACE. An act of parliament for a general and free pardon to deserters from the service and others.

ACTING COMMISSION. When a commissioned officer is invalided, his vacancy is filled up pending the pleasure of the admiralty by an acting order. But when an officer dies on a station, where the admiralty delegates the power to the admiral commanding in chief, the vacancy is filled by an acting commission. Thus also rear-admirals now act on acting commissions as vice-admirals during command on their station, but return to their proper position on the navy list when it ceases.

ACTION. Synonymous with battle. Also a term in mechanics for the effort which one body exerts against another, or the effects resulting therefrom.—Action and reaction, the mutual, successive, contrary impulses of two bodies.

ACTIVE SERVICE. Duty against an enemy; operations in his presence. Or in the present day it denotes serving on full-pay, on the active list, in contradistinction to those who are virtually retired, and placed on separate lists.

ACTIVITY. The virtue of acting. The sphere of activity is the surrounding space to which the efficacy of a body extends, as the attraction of the magnet.

ACTO, OR ACTON. A kind of defensive tunic, made of quilted leather, or other strong material, formerly worn under the outer dress, and even under a coat of mail.

ACTUARIAE. Long light vessels of the ancients, especially contrived for swiftness; propelled both by sails and oars; of the latter never less than twenty.

ACUMBA. Oakum. The Anglo-Saxon term for the hards, or the coarse part, of flax or unplucked wool.

ACUTE. Terminating in a point, and opposed to obtuse. An acute angle is less than a right one, or within 90 deg.

ACUTE-ANGLED TRIANGLE. That which has all its angles acute.

ADAMANT. The loadstone; the magnet—the sense in which it was held by early voyagers; but others considered it a "precyowse stone," or gem.

ADAMAS. The moon in nautic horoscopes.

ADAPTER. A brass tube to fit the eye-end of a telescope, into which all the eye-pieces will screw.

ADARRIS. A word which Howell explains as the flower of sea-water.

ADDEL, OR ADDLE. An old term for the putrid water in casks.

ADDICE, an adze. Also the addled eggs of gulls and other sea-fowl.

ADDLINGS. Accumulated pay or wages.

ADELANTADO. A lieutenant of the king of Spain, but used by old English writers for "admiral."

ADHESION. Consent to a proposal. Union or temporary cohesion; as, two vessels forced into adhesion by the pressure of the tide on their beam.

ADIT. A space in ancient ships, in the upper and broadest part, at which people entered. The adit of a military mine, is the aperture by which it is dug and charged: the name is also applied to an air-hole or drift.

ADJACENT. Lying close to another object; a word applied to the relative situations of capes or bays from the ship.—Adjacent angle is one immediately contiguous to another, so that they have one common side.

ADJOURN, TO. To put off till another day. Adjournments can be made in courts-martial from day to day, Sundays excepted, until sentence is passed.

ADJUDICATION. The act of adjudging prizes by legal decree. Captors are compelled to submit the adjudication of their captures to a competent tribunal.

ADJUST, TO. To arrange an instrument for use and observation; as, to adjust a sextant, or the escapement of a chronometer. To set the frame of a ship.

ADJUSTMENT. In marine insurance, the ascertaining and finally settling the amount of indemnity—whether of average or of salvage—which the insured (after all proper deductions have been made) is entitled to receive under the policy, when the ship is lost.

ADJUSTMENT OF THE COMPASS. Swinging a ship to every point of bearing, to note the variation or error of the needle upon each rhumb, due to the local attraction of the iron, or the mass, on each separate compass bearing. Thus, in lat. 76 deg. N. it was found to be +22 deg. 30' with the head W.S.W., and -56 deg. 30' on the opposite bearing, or E.N.E.

ADJUTANT. [From Lat. adjuvo, to help.] A military assistant to field-officers. The term has been applied to an assistant captain of a fleet. It is indeed the duty performed by first lieutenants.

ADMEASUREMENT. The calculation of proportions according to assumed rules, often ignorantly practised in estimating the tonnage of a ship.

ADMIRAL. The derivation of this noble title from the Greek almyros, from the Latin admirabilis, from the Saxon aenmereeal, and from the French aumer, appear all fanciful. It is extensively received that the Sicilians first adopted it from emir, the sea, of their Saracen masters; but it presents a kind of unusual etymological inversion. The term is most frequent in old Romance; but the style and title was not used by us until 1286; and in 1294, William de Leybourne was designated "Amiral de la Mer du Roy d'Angleterre;" six years afterwards Viscount Narbonne was constituted Admiral of France; which dates nearly fix the commencement of the two states as maritime powers.

The admiral is the chief commander of a fleet, but of this rank there are three degrees, distinguished by a flag at the fore, main, or mizen mast, according to the title of admiral, vice-admiral, or rear-admiral. These were again subdivided according to their colour of red, white, or blue, which had to be likewise borne by the squadrons they respectively commanded. (See FLAG.) In 1865 the colours were omitted, and the only flag now hoisted by ships of war is the white St. George's ensign, and for admirals the white St. George's cross at the main, fore, or mizen.

The admiral of the fleet is the highest officer under the admiralty of Great Britain; it is rather an honorary distinction, and usually attained by seniority and service: when this officer serves afloat, he hoists the proud distinction of the Union flag at the main.

The lord high-admiral was one of the principal officers of the state, who formerly decided all cases relating to the sea: he wore a gold call and chain, similar in form to that which has descended to the boatswain and his mate. This dignity has been extinct for many years, and the duty merged into that of the lords-commissioners and admiralty court; in 1827, it was revived for a short time in the person of His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence.

The epithet of admiral was also formerly applied to any large or leading ship, without reference to flag; and is still used for the principal vessel in the cod and whale fisheries. That which arrives first in any port of Newfoundland retains this title during the season, with certain rights of beach in flakes. The master of the second ship becomes the vice-admiral, and the master of the third the rear-admiral.

ADMIRAL. A beautiful and rare shell of the genus Conus; the varieties are designated the grand-admiral, the vice-admiral, the orange-admiral, and the extra-admiral.

ADMIRALTY. An office for the administration of naval affairs, presided over by a lord high-admiral, whether the duty be discharged by one person, or by commissioners under the royal patent, who are styled lords, and during our former wars generally consisted of seven. The present constitution of the Board of Admiralty comprises—the first lord, a minister and civilian as to office; four naval lords; one civil lord attending to accounts, &c.; one chief secretary; one second secretary. Two lords and one secretary form a legal Board of Admiralty wherever they may be assembled, under the authority of the board or its chief.


ADMIRALTY COURT. The constitution of this court relatively to the legislative power of the king in council, is analogous to that of the courts of common law relatively to the parliament of the kingdom.—High Court of Admiralty, a supreme court of law, in which the authority of the lord high-admiral is ostensibly exercised in his judicial capacity for the trial of maritime causes of a civil nature. Although termed the High Court of Admiralty, more properly this is the Court of Vice-Admiralty, and relates solely to civil and military matters of the sea, and sea boundaries, prizes, collisions, vessels or goods cast on the shore where the vice-admirals have civil jurisdiction, but no naval power, as the lord-lieutenants of counties are named in their patents "vice-admirals of the same;" in like manner all governors of colonies. All cases in connection are tried by the Admiralty Court in London, or by our "courts of vice-admiralty and prize jurisdictions abroad." Admirable as some of the decisions of this expensive tribunal have been, it has all the powers of the Inquisition in its practice, and has thereby been an instrument of persecution to some innocent navigators, while it has befriended notorious villains. Besides this we have the Admiralty Court of Oyer and Terminer, for the trial of all murders, piracies, or criminal acts which occur within the limits of the country, on the coast-lines, at sea, or wherever the admiralty jurisdiction extends—the deck of a British ship included.

ADMIRALTY MIDSHIPMAN. Formerly one who, having served the appointed time, and passed his examination for lieutenant, was appointed to a ship by the admiralty, and thus named in contradistinction to those who used to be rated by the captain; he generally had precedence for promotion to "acting orders."

ADONIS. An anguilliform fish, about six inches long: it is of a golden colour, with a greenish tint, and has a white line from its very small gills to the tail.

ADORNINGS. The carved work on the quarter and stern-galleries of men-of-war.

ADOWN. The bawl of privateersmen for the crew of a captured vessel to go below. Saxon, adoun.

ADREAMT. Dozing; the sensation so often combatted with towards the end of a first or a middle watch, it being the state, as an old author has it, "between sleeping and waking."

ADRENT, OR ADREYNTE. An old term for drowned.

ADRIFT. Floating at random; the state of a boat or vessel broken from her moorings, and driven to and fro without control by the winds and waves. Cast loose; cut adrift.

ADSCRIPTS. Sometimes used for the tangents of arcs.

AD VALOREM. Duties levied on commercial goods, according to their value.

ADVANCE, TO. An old word, meaning to raise to honour.

ADVANCED POST. A spot of ground seized by a party to secure their front. A piquet or outpost.

ADVANCED SQUADRON. One on the look-out.—Advance, or vanguard, that division of a force which is next the enemy, or which marches before a body.—Advance fosse, a ditch of water round the esplanade or glacis of a fortification.—Advance! the order to marines and small-arm men to move forward.

ADVANCE-LIST. The register by which two months' wages to the crew are paid, on first commission, and a quarter's to officers.

ADVANCEMENT. Promotion to higher rank.

ADVANCE MONEY. In men-of-war and most merchant ships the advance of two months' wages is given to the crew, previous to going to sea; the clearing off of which is called working up the dead horse.

ADVANCE NOTE. A document issued by owners of a ship or their agents, promising to pay a seaman, or to his order, a sum of money in part of his wages, within a certain number of days after he has sailed in the ship. Advance notes are quite negotiable before a seaman has taken his departure.

ADVANTAGE, OR VANTAGE-GROUND. That which gives superiority of attack on, or defence against, an enemy; affording means of annoyance or resistance.

ADVENTURE. An enterprise in which something is left to hazard.—A bill of adventure is one signed by the merchant, by which he takes the chances of the voyage.

ADVERSARY. Generally applied to an enemy, but strictly an opponent in single combat.

ADVERSE. The opposite of favourable; as, an adverse wind.

ADVICE-BOAT. A small fast-sailing vessel in advance of a fleet, employed to carry intelligence with all possible despatch. They were first used in 1692, to gain tidings of what was transacting in Brest, previous to the battle of La Hogue.

ADVOCATE GENERAL. An officer of the High Court of Admiralty, whose duty it is to appear for the lord high-admiral in that court, the court of delegates, or any other wherein his rights are concerned.—Judge-advocate of the navy, a law officer appointed to watch over and direct proceedings connected with courts-martial.—Deputy judge-advocate, an appointment made by the sudden selection of some secretary, or captain's clerk, to perform the duty at a court-martial (where no legal person is empowered), utterly ignorant of the law or the customs of the naval service.

ADZE, OR ADDICE. A cutting tool of the axe kind, for dubbing flat and circular work, much used by shipwrights, especially by the Parsee builders in India, with whom it serves for axe, plane, and chisel. It is a curious fact that from the polar regions to the equator, and southerly throughout Polynesia, this instrument and its peculiar adaptations, whether made of iron, basalt, nephrite, &c., all preserve the same idea or identity of conception.

AEINAUTAE. Senators of Miletus, who held their deliberations on board ship.

AERATAE. Ancient ships fitted with brazen prows.

AEROLITES. One of the many names given to those solid masses or stones which occasionally fall from the atmosphere to the surface of the earth. The assumption of their periodicity cannot, as yet, be considered as confirmed.

AEROLOGY. The rational doctrine or science of the air and its phenomena.

AEROMANCY. Formerly the art of divining by the air, but now used for foretelling the changes in the weather, either by experience or by instruments.

AEROMETRY. The science of measuring the air, its powers, pressure, and properties.

AESTIVAL. Belonging to summer; the solstitial point whereby the sun's ascent above the equator is determined.


AEWUL. An Anglo-Saxon term for a twig basket for catching fish.

AFEARD. This is a very common expression for afraid, and though thought low, is a true archaism of our language, as seen in Chaucer, Shakspeare, and Ben Jonson. Major Moor terms it an old and good word.

AFER. The south-west wind of the Latins, and used by some of the early voyagers.

AFFAIR. An indecisive engagement; a duel.

AFFECTED. An algebraic term for an equation in which the unknown quantity rises to two or more several powers.

AFFECTIONATE FRIENDS. An official inconsistent subscription, even to letters of reproof and imprest, used by the former Board of Commissioners of the Navy to such officers as were not of noble families or bore titles; the only British board that ever made so mean a distinction, equally kind with the regrets of the clergy on burning a heretic, or those of Walton in cutting a live fish tenderly. It was probably adopted from James, Duke of York, who, when lord high-admiral, always so subscribed his official letters. It is said that this practice was discontinued in consequence of a distinguished naval captain—a knight—adding, "your affectionate friend." He was thereupon desired to "discontinue such an expression," when he replied, "I am, gentlemen, no longer your affectionate friend, J. Phillimore."

AFFIDAVIT. A declaration upon oath, weakened in importance by its too frequent administration at custom-houses, lazarettos, &c. Declarations are now substituted in the case of naval officers.

AFFIRMATIVE. The positive sign or quantity in algebra; also signal flag or pendant by which a request or order is answered.

AFFLUENT. A stream flowing directly into another stream; a more specific term than tributary.

AFFORCIAMENT. An old term for a fortress or stronghold.

AFFREIGHTMENT. A contract for the letting the vessel, or a part of her for freight. (See CONTRACT OF AFFREIGHTMENT.)

AFLOAT. Borne up and supported by the water; buoyed clear of the ground; also used for being on board ship.

AFORE. A Saxon word opposed to abaft, and signifying that part of the ship which lies forward or near the stem. It also means farther forward; as, the galley is afore the bitts.—Afore, the same as before the mast.—Afore the beam, all the field of view from amidship in a right angle to the ship's keel to the horizon forward.


AFOUNDRIT. An archaism of sunk or foundered.

AFRAID. One of the most reproachful sea-epithets, as not only conveying the meaning being struck with fear, but also implies rank cowardice. (See AFEARD.)

AFT—a Saxon word contradistinctive of fore, and an abbreviation of abaft—the hinder part of the ship, or that nearest the stern.—Right aft is in a direct line with the keel from the stern.—To haul aft a sheet is to pull on the rope which brings the clue or corner of the sails more in the direction of the stern.—The mast rakes aft when it inclines towards the stern.

AFT-CASTLE. An elevation on the after-part of our ships of war, opposed to forecastle, for the purpose of fighting.

AFTER. A comparative adjective, applied to any object in the hind part of a ship or boat; as, the after-cabin, the after-hatchway, &c.—After sails, yards, and braces—those attached to the main and mizen masts. Opposed to fore.

AFTER-BODY. That part of the ship's hull which is abaft the midships or dead-flat, as seen from astern. The term is, however, more particularly used in expressing the figure or shape of that part of the ship. (See DEAD-FLAT.)

AFTER-CLAP. Whatever disagreeable occurrence takes place after the consequences of the cause were thought at an end; a principal application being when a ship, supposed to have struck, opens her fire again. This is a very old English word, alluding to unexpected events happening after the seeming end of an affair; thus Spenser, in "Mother Hubbard's Tale"—

"And bad next day that all should readie be, But they more subtill meaning had than he: For the next morrowes mede they closely ment, For feare of after-claps, for to prevent."

AFTER-END. The stern of a ship, or anything in her which has that end towards the stern.


AFTER-GUARD. The men who are stationed on the quarter-deck and poop, to work the after-sails. It was generally composed of ordinary seamen and landsmen, constituting with waisters the largest part of the crew, on whom the principal drudgery of the ship devolved. At present the crews of ships-of-war are composed chiefly of able and ordinary seamen—landsmen are omitted.

AFTER-LADDER leads to captain's and officers' quarters, and only used by officers.

AFTERMOST. The last objects in a ship, reckoned from forwards; as, the aftermost mast, aftermost guns, &c.

AFTERNOON-WATCH. The men on deck-duty from noon till 4 P.M.

AFTER-ORDERS. Those which are given out after the regular issue of the daily orders.

AFTER-PART. The locality towards the stern, from dead-flat; as, in the after-part of the fore-hold.

AFTER-PEAK. The contracted part of a vessel's hold, which lies in the run, or aftermost portion of the hold, in contradistinction to fore-peak. Both are the sharp ends of the ship.

AFTER-RAKE. That part of the hull which overhangs the after-end of keel.

AFTER-SAILS. All those on the after-masts, as well as on the stays between the main and mizen masts. Their effect is to balance the head-sails, in the manner that a weather-cock or vane is moved, of which the main-mast must be considered the pivot or centre. The reverse of head-sails. "Square the after-yards," refers to the yards on the main and mizen masts.

AFTER-TIMBERS. All those timbers abaft the midship section or bearing part of a vessel.

AFTMOST. The same as aftermost.

AFTWARD. In the direction of the stern.

AGA. A superior Turkish officer.

AGAINST THE SUN. Coiling a rope in the direction from the right hand towards the left—the contrary of with the sun. This term applies to a position north of the sun; south of the sun it would be reversed.

AGAL-AGAL. One of the sea fuci, forming a commercial article from the Malay Isles to China, where it is made into a strong cement. The best is the Gracilaria spinosa. Agal-agal derives its name from Tanjong Agal on the north coast of Borneo; where it was originally collected. It is now found in great abundance throughout the Polynesian Islands, Mauritius, &c. It is soluble, and forms a clear jelly—used by consumptive patients. It fetches a high price in China. It is supposed that the sea-swallow derives his materials for the edible bird's nests at Borneo from this fucus.

AGATE. The cap for the pivots of the compass-cards, formed of hard siliceous stone, a chalcedony or carnelian, &c.

AGAVE. The American aloe, from which cordage is made; similar to the pina of Manila. The fruit also, when expressed, affords the refreshing drink "pulque."

AGE. In chronology, a period of a hundred years.—Ship's age, one of the stipulations of contracts at Lloyd's.—Age of the moon, is the interval of time or number of days elapsed since the previous conjunction or new moon.

AGENCY. Payment pro opera et labore, fixed by the prize act at five per cent. as a fair average, but it gives nothing where the property is restored; in such cases it is usual for the agent to charge a gross sum.

AGENCY, NAVAL. A useful class of persons, who transact the monetary affairs of officers, and frequently help them to the top branches of the profession. They are paid for their services by a percentage of 2-1/2.

AGENT. In physics, expresses that by which a thing is done or effected.—Navy agent is a deputy employed to pass accounts, transact business, and receive pay or other monies, in behoof of the officers and crew, and to apply the proceeds as directed by them.—Agent victuallers, officers appointed to the charge of provisions at our foreign ports and stations, to contract for, buy, and regulate, under the authority of the commissioners of the navy. (See NEGLIGENCE.)—Prize agent, one appointed for the sale of prizes, and nominated in equal numbers by the commander, the officers, and the ship's company.


AGGRESSION. The first act of injury in provoking warfare.

AGIO. An Italian word, applied to denote the profit arising from discounting bills; also the difference between the value of bank-stock and currency.

AGISTMENT. An embankment against the sea or rivers, or one thrown up to fence out a stream.

AGON. A Chinese kind of metal cymbal. (See GONG.) It is singular that Gower, circa 1395, using this old word for gone, thus metallicizes—

"Of brasse, of silver, and of golde, The world is passed, and agon."

AGONIST. A champion; prize-fighter.

AGREEMENT. Except vessels of less than eighty tons register, the master of a ship must enter into an agreement with every seaman whom he carries from any port in Great Britain as one of his crew; and that agreement must be in the form sanctioned by the Board of Trade. (See RUNNING AGREEMENT.)

AGROUND. The situation of a ship or other vessel whose bottom touches or rests upon the ground. It also signifies stranded, and is used figuratively for being disabled or hindered.

AGUA-ARDIENTE [Sp.] Corrupted into aguardiente,—the adulterated brandy of Spain supplied to ships.

AGUADA. The Spanish and Portuguese term for a watering-place.

AGUGLIA. A common name for sharp-pointed rocks. From the Italian for needle; written agulha in Spanish and Portuguese charts.

AHEAD. A term especially referable to any object farther onward, or immediately before the ship, or in the course steered, and therefore opposed to astern.—Ahead of the reckoning, is sailing beyond the estimated position of the ship.—Ahead is also used for progress; as, cannot get ahead, and is generally applied to forward, in advance.

AHOLD. A term of our early navigators, for bringing a ship close to the wind, so as to hold or keep to it.

AHOO, OR ALL AHOO, as our Saxon forefathers had it; awry, aslant, lop-sided. (See ASKEW.)


A-HULL. A ship under bare poles and her helm a-lee, driving from wind and sea, stern foremost. Also a ship deserted, and exposed to the tempestuous winds.

AID, TO. To succour; to supply with provisions or stores.

AID-DE-CAMP. A military staff officer, who carries and circulates the general's orders; and another class selected as expert at carving and dancing. In a ship, flag-lieutenant to an admiral, or, in action, the quarter-deck midshipmen to a captain.

AIGRE. The sudden flowing of the sea, called in the fens of Lincolnshire, acker. (See BORE.)

AIGUADE [Fr.] AGUADA [Sp.] Water as provision for ships.

AIGUADES. Watering-places on French coasts.

AIGUILLE aimantee, magnetic needle. —— de carene, out-rigger. —— d'inclinaison, dipping needle. —— de tre, or a ralingue, a bolt-rope needle.

AIGUILLES. The peculiar small fishing-boats in the Garonne and other rivers of Guienne.

AIGULETS [Fr. aiguillettes]. Tagged points or cords worn across the breast in some uniforms of generals, staff-officers, and special mounted corps.

AILETTES. Small plates of steel placed on the shoulders in mediaeval armour.

AIM. The direction of a musket, cannon, or any other fire-arm or missile weapon towards its object.—To take aim, directing the piece to the object.

AIR. The elastic, compressible, and dilatable fluid encompassing the terraqueous globe. It penetrates and pervades other bodies, and thus animates and excites all nature.—Air means also a gentle breath of wind gliding over the surface of the water.—To air, to dry or ventilate.

AIR-BLADDER. A vesicle containing gas, situated immediately beneath the spinal column in most fish, and often communicating by a tube with the gullet. It is the homologue of the lungs of air-breathing vertebrates.

AIR-BRAVING. Defying the winds.

AIR-CONE, in the marine engine, is to receive the gases which enter the hot-well from the air-pump, where, after ascending, they escape through a pipe at the top.

AIRE. A name in our northern islands for a bank of sand.

AIR-FUNNEL. A cavity formed by omission of a timber in the upper works of a vessel, to admit fresh air into the hold of a ship and convey the foul out of it.

AIR-GUN. A silent weapon, which propels bullets by the expansive force of air only.

AIRING-STAGE. A wooden platform, on which gunpowder is aired and dried.

AIR-JACKET. A leathern garment furnished with inflated bladders, to buoy the wearer up in the water. (See AYR.)

AIR-PIPES. Funnels for clearing ships' holds of foul air, on the principle of the rarefying power of heat.

AIR-PORTS. Large scuttles in ships' bows for the admission of air, when the other ports are down. The Americans also call their side-ports by that name.

AIR-PUMP. An apparatus to remove the water and gases accumulating in the condenser while the engine is at work.

AIR-SCUTTLES. The same as air-ports.

AIR-SHAFTS. Vertical holes made in mining, to supply the adits with fresh air. Wooden shafts are sometimes adopted on board ship for a similar purpose.

AIRT, OR ART. A north-country word for a bearing point of the compass or quarter of the heavens. Thus the song—

"Of a' the airts the wind can blaw, I dearly love the west."

AIRY. Breezy.

AKEDOWN. A form of the term acton, as a defensive dress.

ALABLASTER. An arbalist or cross-bow man; also the corruption of alabaster.

ALAMAK. The name given in nautical astronomy to that beautiful double star Anak al ard of the Arabians, or {g} Andromedae.

ALAMOTTIE. The Procellaria pelagica, or Storm-finch; Mother Cary's chicken, or stormy petrel.

ALAND. A term formerly used for to the shore, on shore, or to land.

ALARM, ALARUM [from the Italian all'armi!] An apprehension from sudden noise or report. The drum or signal by which men are summoned to stand on their guard in time of danger.—False alarm is sometimes occasioned by a timid or negligent sentry, and at others designedly by an officer, to ascertain the promptness of his men. Sometimes false alarms are given by the enemy to harass the adversary. Old Rider defines alarm as a "watch-word shewing the neernesse of the enemies."

ALARM-POST. A place appointed for troops to assemble, in case of a sudden alarm.

ALBACORE. A fish of the family Scombridae, found in shoals in the ocean; it is about 5 or 6 feet long, with an average weight of nearly 100 lbs. when fine.

ALBANY BEEF. A name for the sturgeon of the Hudson River, where it is taken in quantity for commerce.

ALBATROSS. A large, voracious, long-winged sea-bird, belonging to the genus Diomedea; very abundant in the Southern Ocean and the Northern Pacific, though said to be rarely met with within the tropics.

ALBION. An early name of England, from the whiteness of the eastern coast cliffs.

ALBURNUM. The sap-wood of timber, commonly termed the slab-cuts.

ALCAID. A governor, or officer of justice, amongst the Moors, Spaniards, and Portuguese.

ALCATRAZ. The pelican. Alcatraz Island is situated in the mouth of the river San Francisco, in California, so named from its being covered with these birds. Also Alcatraz on the coast of Africa, from Pelecanus sula—booby. Columbus mentions the alcatraz when nearing America, and Drayton says—

"Most like to that sharp-sighted alcatras, That beats the air above the liquid glass."

ALDEBARAN. The lucida of Taurus, the well-known nautical star, popularly called Bull's-eye.

A-LEE. The contrary of a-weather: the position of the helm when its tiller is borne over to the lee-side of the ship, in order to go about or put her head to windward.—Hard a-lee! or luff a-lee! is said to the steersman to put the helm down.—Helm's a-lee! the word of command given on putting the helm down, and causing the head-sails to shake in the wind.

ALEMAYNE. The early name for Germany.

ALERT. On the look-out, and ready for any sudden duty. Nearly synonymous with alarm. Alerto—called frequently by Spanish sentinels.

ALEWIFE. The Clupea alosa, a fish of the herring kind, which appears in the Philosophical Transactions for 1678, as the aloofe; the corruption therefore was a ready one.

ALEXIACUS. The appellation under which Neptune was implored to protect the nets of the tunny fisheries from the sword-fish.

ALFERE, OR ALFEREZ [alfier, Fr.; alferez, Span.] Standard-bearer; ensign; cornet. The old English term for ensign; it was in use in our forces till the civil wars of Charles I.

ALFONDIZA. The custom-house at Lisbon.

ALGA. A species of millepora.

ALGAE. Sea-weeds, and the floating scum-like substances on fresh water; they deserve to be more studied, for some, as dulse, laver, badderlocks, &c., are eatable, and others are useful for manure.

ALGEBRA. A general method of resolving mathematical problems, by means of equations, or rather computing abstract quantities by symbols or signs; a literal arithmetic.

ALGENIB. A principal star ({g}) in Pegasus.

ALGERE. A spear used by fishermen in olden times.

ALGIER DUTY. An imposition laid on merchants' goods by the Long Parliament, for the redemption of captives in the Mediterranean.

ALGOL. A wonderful variable star in Perseus, which goes through its changes in about two days and twenty-one hours.

ALGOLOGY. Scientific researches into the nature of sea-plants.

ALGORAB. A star taking rank as the {a} of Corvus, but its brightness of late is rivalled by {b} Corvi.

ALHIDADE. An Arabic name for the index or fiducial of an astronomical or geometrical instrument, carrying sight or telescope; used by early navigators. A rule on the back of a common astrolabe, to measure heights, &c.

ALIEN. Generally speaking, one born in a foreign country, out of the king's allegiance; but if the parents be of the king's obedience, the child is no alien. An alien enemy, or person under the allegiance of the state at war with us, is not generally disabled from being a witness in admiralty courts; nor are debts due to him forfeited, but only suspended.—Alien's duty, the impost laid on all goods imported into England in foreign bottoms, over and above the regular customs.

ALIGNMENT. An imaginary line, drawn to regulate the order of a squadron.

ALIQUOT PART. That which will exactly divide a number, leaving no remainder.

ALL. The total quantity; quite; wholly.—All aback, when all the sails are taken aback by the winds.—All ahoo, or all-a-ugh, confused; hanging over; crooked.—All-a-taunt-o, a ship fully rigged, with masts in and yards crossed.—All hands, the whole ship's company.—All hands ahoy, the boatswain's summons for the whole crew to repair on deck, in distinction from the watch.—All hands make sail! the cheering order when about to chase a strange vessel.—All hands to quarters! the call in armed merchantmen, answering to the Beat to quarters in a man-of-war.—All in the wind, when a vessel's head is too close to the wind, so that all her sails are shivering.—All over, resemblance to a particular object, as a ship in bad kelter: "she's a privateer all over."—All overish, the state of feeling when a man is neither ill nor well, restless in bed and indifferent to meals. In the tropics this is considered as the premonitory symptom of disease, and a warning which should be looked to.—All ready, the answer from the tops when the sails are cast loose, and ready to be dropped.—All standing, fully equipped, or with clothes on. To be brought up all standing, is to be suddenly checked or stopped, without any preparation.—Paid off all standing, without unrigging or waiting to return stores; perhaps recommissioned the next day or hour.—All's well, the sentry's call at each bell struck (or half hour) between the periods of broad daylight, or from 8 P.M. to 4 A.M.—All to pieces, a phrase used for out-and-out, extremely, or excessively; as, "we beat her in sailing all to pieces."—All weathers, any time or season; continually.

ALLAN. A word from the Saxon, still used in the north to denote a piece of land nearly surrounded by a stream.

ALLEGE. A French ballast-boat.

ALLEGIANCE. The legal obedience of a subject to his sovereign in return for the protection afforded; a debt which, in a natural-born subject, cannot be cancelled by any change of time, or place, or circumstance, without the united consent of the legislature.

ALLER-FLOAT, OR ALLER-TROUT. A species of fine trout frequenting the shady holes under the roots of the aller or alder tree, on the banks of rivers and brooks.

ALLIANCE. A league or confederacy between sovereigns or states, for mutual safety and defence. Subjects of allies cannot trade with the common enemy, on pain of the property being confiscated as prize to the captors.

ALLICIENCY. The attractive power of the magnet.

ALLIGATOR [from the Spanish lagarto]. The crocodile of America. The head of this voracious animal is flat and imbricate; several of the under teeth enter into and pass through the upper jaw; the nape is naked; on the tail are two rough lateral lines.

ALLIGATOR WATER. The brackish water inside the mouths of tropical rivers, with white and muddy surface running into the sea.

ALLISION. Synonymous in marine law with collision, though the jurists of Holland introduce it to mark a distinction between one vessel running against another and two vessels striking each other.

ALLOCUTION. The harangue anciently made by the Roman generals to exhort their forces.

ALLOTMENT. A part of the pay apportioned monthly to the wives, children, mothers, or destitute fathers of the warrant and petty officers, seamen, and marines of ships of war on foreign stations. In the merchant service all such stipulations for allotting any portion of a seaman's wages during his absence must be inserted in the agreement.

ALLOTMENT-LIST. A document containing the requisite details, attested by the four signing officers, to be transmitted to the Navy Office.

ALLOTTING. Persons agreeing to buy a ship's cargo appoint a disinterested person to allot a share to each by affixing their respective names.

ALLOW, TO. To concede a destined portion of stores, &c.

ALLOWANCE. The ration or allotted quantum of provisions which each individual receives; and it is either double, full, two-thirds, half, or short, according to incidents.

ALLUVION. An accretion formed along sea-shores and the banks of rivers by the deposition of the various substances held in solution or washed by the waters. Sea alluvions differ from those of rivers, in that they form a slope towards the land.

ALLY. A friendly or confederated state.

ALMACANTARS. Circles parallel to the horizon, and supposed to pass through every degree of the meridian. An Arabic term, synonymous with parallels of latitude.

ALMACANTARS STAFF. An instrument formerly used at sea for observing the sun's amplitude, formed of an arc of about 15 degrees.

ALMADIA. A small African canoe, made of the bark of trees. Some of the larger square-sterned negro-boats are also thus designated.

ALMAFADAS. Large dunnage cut on the coast of Portugal.

ALMAGEST. The celebrated work of Ptolemy on geometry and astronomy. Ricciolus adopted the term in 1651 for his Body of Mathematical Science. It became general, whence Chaucer—

"His Almagiste and bookes, grete and small."

ALMANAC. A record of the days, feasts, and celestial phenomena of the year. Though confounded with calendar, it is essentially different—the latter relating to time in general, and the almanac to that of a year; but the term calendar can be properly used for a particular year. (See EPHEMERIS.)

ALMATH [Hamal]. The star in Aries whence the first mansion of the moon takes its name. The Frankeleine in Chaucer says:—

"And by his eighte speres in his werking, He knew ful wel how far Alnath was shove Fro the hed of thilke fix Aries above, That in the ninthe spere considered is."

ALMIRANTE. A great sea-officer or high-admiral in Spain.

ALMIRANTESA. The wife of an admiral.

ALMURY. The upright part of an astrolabe.

ALNUS CAVER. Transport-ships of the early English, so called from the wood of which they were constructed.

ALOFT [Anglo-Saxon, alofte, on high]. Above; overhead; on high. Synonymous with up above the tops, at the mast-head, or anywhere about the higher yards, masts, and rigging of ships.—Aloft there! the hailing of people in the tops.—Away aloft! the command to the people in the rigging to climb to their stations. Also, heaven: "Poor Tom is gone aloft."

ALONDE. An old English word for ashore, on land.

ALONG [Saxon]. Lengthwise.—Alongside, by the side of a ship; side by side.—Lying along, when the wind, being on the beam, presses the ship over to leeward with the press of sail; or, lying along the land.

ALONGSHORE. A common nautical phrase signifying along the coast, or a course which is in sight of the shore, and nearly parallel to it. (See 'LONGSHORE.)

ALONGST. In the middle of a stream; moored head and stern.

ALOOF. The old word for "keep your luff," in the act of sailing to the wind. (See LUFF.)—Keep aloof, at a distance.


ALOW. Synonymous with below; as alow and aloft, though more properly low and aloft. Carrying all sail alow and aloft is when the reefs are shaken out, and all the studding-sails set.

ALPHABETICAL LIST. This is a list which accompanies the ship's books; it contains the names and number of every person in the pay-book.

ALTAIR. The bright nautical star {a} Aquilae, binary.

ALTAR. A platform in the upper part of a dock.

ALTEMETRIE. The old term for trigonometry among navigators.

ALTERNATE. Reciprocal.—Alternate angles are the internal angles formed by a line cutting two parallels, and lying on the opposite side of the cutting line; the one below the first parallel, and the other above.—Alternate ratio is that of which the antecedents and consequents bear respectively to each other in any proportion which has the quantities of the same kind.

ALTERNATING WINDS. Peculiar winds blowing at stated times one way, and then, from a sudden alteration in the temperature of the elements, setting in the contrary direction. A remarkable instance is that of the Gulf of Arta in the Ionian Sea, where the effect is promoted by local causes. All land and sea breezes are strictly alternating winds. These however are mostly intertropical; the solar heat causing the sea-breeze to blow on the land by day, and condensation and greater heat of the sea causing a reaction when the land has cooled to a lower temperature.

ALTERNATION OR PERMUTATION OF QUANTITIES, is the varying or changing their order, and is easily found by a continual multiplication of all numbers.

ALTIMETRY. Trigonometry; the art of measuring heights or depressions of land, whether accessible or not.

ALTITUDE. The elevation of any of the heavenly bodies above the plane of the horizon, or its angular distance from the horizon, measured in the direction of a great circle passing through the zenith. Also the third dimension of a body, considered with regard to its elevation above the ground.—Apparent altitude is that which appears by sensible observations made on the surface of the globe.—Altitude of the pole. The arc of the meridian between the pole of the heavens and the horizon of any place, and therefore equal to its geographical latitude.—Altitude of the cone of the earth's and moon's shadow, is the height of the one or the other during an eclipse, and is measured from the centre of the body.—Altitude of a shot or shell. The perpendicular height of the vertex of the curve in which it moves above the horizon.—Meridian altitude. The arc of the meridian,—or greater or less altitude, measured from the horizon, of a celestial object in its passage over the meridian, above or below the pole, of the place of the observer. In Polar regions two such transits of the sun, and in England similarly, circumpolar stars afford double observations for the determination of time or latitude. The general term is understood by seamen to denote mid-day, when the passage and meridian altitude of the sun affords the latitude.—True altitude is that produced by correcting the apparent one for parallax and refraction.

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