Admiral of the Black

A title given to the leader of the Brethren of the Coast


bilge rat

  1. A rat living in the bilge of a ship. It is considered the lowliest creature by pirates, but many pirates take to eating the animals to survive.
  2. An insulting name given by a pirate.
 

boatswain (also bosn or bosun)

A warrant officer or petty officer on a merchant ship who is in charge of the ships rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crew.


Brethren of the Coast

A self-given title of the Caribbean buccaneers between 1640-1680 who made a pact to discontinue plundering amongst themselves. After 1680, a new generation of pirates appeared, who did not trust each other and the fraternity ended.


buccaneer

A pirate, especially one of the freebooters who preyed on Spanish shipping in the West Indies during the 17th century. The buccaneers were first hunters of pigs and cattle on the islands of Hispanola and Tortuga, but were driven off by the Spanish and turned to piracy. Buccaneers were said to be heavy drinking, cruel pirates.


bucko

A familiar term meaning friend.


carouser

One who drinks wassail and engages in festivity, especially riotous drinking.


chandler, or ship chandler

  1. A dealer offering supplies such as rope, lard, tools and galley supplies .
See also sutler.

corsair

  1. A pirate, especially along the Barbary Coast; a romantic term for pirate. This term was used for Christian and Muslim privateers in the Mediterranean between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Barbary corsairs centered on North African states and were often "hired" by Muslim nations to attack Christian ships. The Christian Corsairs were known as the Maltese corsairs and they took their orders from the Knights of St. John to attack the Turks.
  2. A pirate ship, often operating with official sanction.

coxswain

A person who usually steers a ship's boat and has charge of its crew.


hands

The crew of a ship; sailors.


hearties

A term of familiar address and fellowship among sailors.


interloper

One that trespasses on a trade monopoly, as by conducting unauthorized trade in an area designated to a chartered company; a ship used in unauthorized trade.


Jack Ketch

The hangman. To dance with Jack Ketch is to hang.


Jack Tar (or tar)

A sailor.


knave

A servant boy or a dishonorable man. Also a Jack in a deck of cards.


lad

A way to address a younger male.


landlubber (or lubber)

A person unfamiliar with the sea or seamanship. The term doesn't derive from "land lover," but rather from the root of lubber, meaning clumsy or uncoordinated. Thus, a landlubber is one who is awkward at sea for familiarity with the land. The term is used to insult the abilities of one at sea.


lass

A way to address a younger female.


lookout

A person posted to keep watch on the horizon for other ships or signs of land.


matey (or mate)

A piratical way to address someone in a cheerful, if not necessarily friendly, fashion.


picaroon

A scoundrel.


pirate

One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation; the opposite of a privateer.


pressgang

A company of men commissioned to force men into service such as on a vessel, specifically a pirate ship.


Privateer

A sailor with a letter of marque from a government. Technically a privateer was a self employed soldier paid only by what he plundered from an enemy. In this, a privateer was supposed to be above being tried for piracy. A privateer is theoretically a law-abiding combatant, and entitled to be treated as an honorable prisoner if captured. Most often, privateers were a higher class of criminal, though many became pirates.


provost

The person responsible for discipline on board a ship.


quartermaster

During the Golden Age of Piracy this was the highest ranking pirate on a ship under the captain, usually elected by the crew. The quartermaster was the only officer on a ship who could veto a captain’s decision, but only when the ship was not engaged in battle or on a mission.


rapscallion

A mischievous person; a scoundrel.


scallywag (also scalawag)

A villainous or mischievous person.


scourge of the seven seas

A pirate known for his extremely violent and brutal nature.


strumpet

A promiscuous woman; a female prostitute.


sutler

A merchant in port, selling the various things that a ship needs for supplies and repairs.


swab

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

swashbuckler (or swasher)

An adventurous, romantic swordsman who is also chivalrous, witty, and generally has a sense of humor. The term was coined in the 16th century when men used a buckle, or small shield, in one fist opposite their sword.


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.


wench

A young woman or peasant girl, sometimes a prostitute.