MerrimentMerriment.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0
NamecallingNamecalling.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
Ships and Sailing LingoShips_and_Sailing_Lingo.htmlShips_and_Sailing_Lingo.htmlShips_and_Sailing_Lingo.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1
OrientationOrientation.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0
MeasurementMeasurement.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0
Phrasesshapeimage_6_link_0
History and PlacesHistory_and_Places.htmlHistory_and_Places.htmlshapeimage_7_link_0shapeimage_7_link_1
FinancialsFinancials.htmlshapeimage_8_link_0
WeaponryWeaponry.htmlshapeimage_9_link_0
 
Phrases
MainA_Pirates_Glossary_of_Terms.htmlshapeimage_11_link_0

ahoy

      An interjection used to hail a ship or a person, or to attract attention.


Arr!

    An exclamation.


Avast!

    A command meaning stop or desist.


aye (or ay)

    Yes; an affirmation.


becalmed

    The state of a sailing vessel which cannot move due to a lack of wind.


belay

    (1) To secure or make fast (a rope, for example) by winding on a cleat or pin. (2) To stop, most often used as a command.


bilged on her anchor

    A ship holed or pierced by its own anchor.


black spot

    A black smudge on a piece of paper used by pirates as a threat. A black spot is often accompanied by a written message specifying the threat. Most often a black spot represents a death threat.


Blimey!

    An exclamation of surprise.


blow the man down

    To kill someone.


bring a spring upon her cable

    To come around in a different direction.


careen

    To take a ship into shallower waters or out of the water altogether and remove barnacles and pests such as mollusks, shells and plant growth from the bottom. Often a pirate needs to careen his ship to restore it to proper speed. Careening can be dangerous to pirates as it leaves the ship inoperable while the work is being done.


chase

    A ship being pursued.


code of conduct

    A set of rules which govern pirates behavior on a vessel.


come about

    To bring the ship full way around in the wind. Used in general while sailing into the wind, but also used to indicate a swing back into the enemy in combat.


crack Jenny’s tea cup

    To spend the night in a house of ill repute.


crimp

    To procure (sailors or soldiers) by trickery or coercion, or one who crimps.


dance the hempen jig

    To hang.


Davy Jones’ Locker

    A fictional place at the bottom of the ocean. In short, a term meaning death. Davy Jones was said to sink every ship he ever over took, and thus, the watery grave that awaited all who were sunk by him was given his name. To die at sea is to go to Davy Jones' Locker.


deadlights

    (1) Strong shutters or plates fastened over a ship's porthole or cabin window in stormy weather. (2) Thick windows set in a ship's side or deck. (3) Eyes.

dead men tell no talesStandard pirate excuse for leaving no survivors.


fire in the hole

    A warning issued before a cannon is fired.


furl

    To roll up and secure, especially a ship’s sail.


give no quarter (see also quarter)

    The refusal to spare lives of an opponent. Pirates raise a red flag to threaten no quarter will be given.


to go on account

    A pleasant term used by pirates to describe the act of turning pirate. The basic idea was that a pirate was more "free lance" and thus was, more or less, going into business for himself.


grog blossom

    A redness on the nose or face of persons who drink ardent spirits to excess.


handsomely

    Quickly or carefully; in a shipshape style.


hang the jib

    To pout or frown.


haul wind

    To direct a ship into the wind.


heave down

    To turn a vessel on its side for cleaning.


heave to

    An interjection meaning to come to a halt.


hempen halter

    The hangman’s noose.


ho

    Used to express surprise or joy, to attract attention to something sighted, or to urge onward.


hornswaggle

    To cheat.


keelhaul

    To punish someone by dragging them under a ship, across the keel, until near-death or death. Both pirates and the Royal Navy were fond of this practice.


letter of marque

    A document given to a sailor (privateer) giving him amnesty from piracy laws as long as the ships plunders are of an enemy nation. A large portion of the pirates begin as privateers with this symbol of legitimacy. The earnings of a privateer are significantly better than any of a soldier at sea. Letters of marque aren't always honored, however, even by the government that issues them. Captain Kidd had letters of marque and his own country hanged him anyway.


loaded to the gunwalls

    To be drunk.


long clothes

    A style of clothing best suited to land. A pirate, or any sailor, doesn't have the luxury of wearing anything loose that might get in the way while climbing up riggings. Landsmen, by contrast, could adorn themselves with baggy pants, coats, and stockings.

maroonTo abandon a person on a deserted coast or island with little in the way of supplies. It is a fairly common punishment for violation of a pirate ship's articles, or offending her crew because the victims death cannot be directly connected to his former brethren.


marooned

    To be stranded, particularly on a desert isle.


me

    My.


measured fer yer chains

    To be outfitted for a gibbet cage.


motherload

    The largest amount of booty discovered.


no prey, no pay

   A common pirate law meaning a crew received no wages, but rather shared whatever loot was taken.


overhaul

    (1) To slacken a line. (2) To gain upon in a chase; to overtake.


parley (sometimes incorrectly “parlay”)

    A conference or discussion between opposing sides during a dispute. The term was used in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" as part of Pirate law.


pillage

    To rob of goods by force, especially in time of war; plunder.


piracy

    Robbery committed at sea.


plunder

    To take booty; rob.


quarter (see also give no quarter)

    Derived from the idea of "shelter", quarter is given when mercy is offered by pirates. Quarter is often the prize given to an honorable loser in a pirate fight.


reef sails

    To shorten the sails by partially tying them up, either to slow the ship or to keep a strong wind from putting too much strain on the masts.


rope’s end

    Another term for being flogged.


run a rig

    To play a trick.


run a shot across the bow

    A command to fire a warning shot.


Sail ho!

    An exclamation meaning another ship is in view. The sail, of course, is the first part of a ship visible over the horizon.


Scupper that!

    An expression of anger or derision meaning "Throw that overboard!"


sea legs

    The ability to adjust one's balance to the motion of a ship, especially in rough seas. After walking on a ship for long periods of time, sailors became accustomed to the rocking of the ship in the water. Early in a voyage a sailor was said to be lacking his "sea legs" when the ship motion was still foreign to him. After a cruise, a sailor would often have trouble regaining his "land legs" and would swagger on land.


Shiver me timbers!

    An expression of surprise or strong emotion.


Show a leg!

    A phrase used to wake up a sleeping pirate.


Sink me!

    An expression of surprise.


smartly

    Quickly.


spike

    To render (a muzzleloading gun) useless by driving a spike into the vent.


splice the main brace

    To have a drink or perhaps several drinks.


square-rigged

    Fitted with square sails as the principal sails.


squiffy

    Somewhat intoxicated; tipsy.


strike colors

    To lower, specifically a ship’s flag as a signal of surrender.


swab

    (1) To clean, specifically the deck of a ship. (2) A disrespectful term for a seaman. ie: "Man that gun, ye cowardly swabs!"


swing the lead

    The lead was a weight at the bottom of a line that gave sailors a way to measure depth when near land. To Swing the Lead was considered a simple job, and thus came to represent one who is avoiding work or taking the easy work over the hard. In today's terms, one who swings the lead is a slacker.


take a caulk

    To take a nap. On the deck of a ship, between planks, was a thick caulk of black tar and rope to keep water from between decks. This term came about either because sailors who slept on deck ended up with black lines across their backs or simply because sailors laying down on deck were as horizontal as the caulk of the deck itself.


topgallant

    Of, relating to, or being the mast above the topmast, its sails, or its rigging.


walk the plank

    Perhaps more famous than historically practiced, walking the plank is the act of being forced off a ship by pirates as punishment or torture. The victim, usually blindfolded or with bound hands or both, is forced to walk along a plank laid over the ship's side and fall into the water below. The concept first appeared in nineteenth century fiction, long after the great days of piracy. History suggests that this might have happened once that can be vaguely documented, but it is etched in the image of the pirates for its dastardly content.


warp

    To move (a vessel) by hauling on a line that is fastened to or around a piling, anchor, or pier.


weigh anchor

    To haul the anchor up; more generally, to leave port.


ye

    You.


mutiny

    To rise against authority, especially the captain of a ship.


no quarter

    See give no quarter.