Quick Glossary

For the pirate needin' reference to a few key terms.

Admiral of the Black

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


aft (or abaft)

At, in, toward, or close to the rear of the ship.



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


American Main

The eastern coastal lands of North America.


amidship (or amidships)

The middle of a ship.



An exclamation.



A command meaning stop or desist, originating from the Italian, "basta" meaning stop.




Yes; an affirmation.

Alternate: ay


Heavy material that is placed in the hold of a ship to enhance stability.


Barbary Coast

The Mediterranean coastline of North Africa, from Egypt to the Atlantic coastline.



A small pier or jetty vessel.


barque (also bark)

A sailing ship with from three to five masts, all of them square-rigged except the after mast, which is fore-and-aft rigged; a small vessel that is propelled by oars or sails.


beam (also arm)

A piece of timber perpendicular to the sides of a ship which supports the deck. Also used to identify objects in relation to objects perpendicular to the ship that are visible from the port or starboard side.



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



  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.
Related: Avast!

belaying pin

A short wooden rod to which a ship's rigging is secured. A common improvised weapon aboard a sailing ship, because they're everywhere, they're easily picked up, and they are the right size and weight to be used as clubs.



  1. The lowest part inside the ship, within the hull itself which is the first place to show signs of leakage. The bilge is often dank and musty, and considered the most filthy, dead space of a ship.

  2. Nonsense, or foolish talk.


bilged on her anchor

A ship holed or pierced by its own anchor.


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.

bilge water

Water inside the bilge sometimes referred to as bilge itself.


bittacle (or bittacola and later "binnacle"

A box on the deck of a ship holding the ship’s compass.


black jack

A drink container made of leather.


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.




An exclamation of surprise.



blow the man down

To kill someone.


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.



A long spar extending from a mast to hold or extend the foot of a sail.






Reward or payment, usually from a government, for the capture of a criminal, specifically a pirate.



The front of a ship.



The slanted spar at a ship's prow which is the furthest front of the ship. It is usually used as a lead connection for a smaller, navigational sail. It was from the bowsprit that Blackbeard's head was hung as a trophy.


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.


brigantine (also brig)

A two-masted sailing ship, square-rigged on both masts.


bring a spring upon her cable

To come around in a different direction, oftentimes as a surprise maneuver.



A general term for the vantage on another ship of absolute perpendicular to the direction it is going. To get along broadside a ship was to take it at a very vulnerable angle. This is of course, the largest dimension of a ship and is easiest to attack with larger arms. A "broadside" has come to indicate a hit with a cannon or similar attack right in the main part of the ship.



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.



A small, often rounded shield held in one’s fist to protect against an opponent’s sword. The buckle could also be used to strike a blow to an opponent’s face.



A familiar term meaning friend.


bumboo (or bumbo)

A popular pirate drink made from rum, water, sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon.

 Bumboo Recipe 

bung hole

A dispensing hole in a wooden barrel typically sealed with a cork.



A heavy rope or chain for mooring or anchoring a ship.


cackle fruit

Hen’s eggs.



An apparatus used for hoisting weights, consisting of a vertical spool-shaped cylinder that is rotated manually or by machine and around which a cable is wound.



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.



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


case shot

A collection of small projectiles put in cases to fire from a cannon; a canister-shot.

See also grape shot.

cat o’ nine tails (or cat)

A whip with nine lashes used for flogging. "A taste of the cat" might refer to a full flogging.


chain shot

Two cannonballs chained together and aimed high in order to destroy masts and rigging.


chandler, or ship chandler

A dealer offering supplies such as rope, lard, tools and galley supplies .

See also sutler.

chantey (also chanty, shantey or shanty)

A song sung by sailors to the rhythm of their movements while working.

Lyrics to the sea shanty Don't Forget Your Old Shipmate, as performed by Jerry Bryant and Starboard Mess from the album Roast Beef of Old England. This song was used in the film Master and Commander.



A ship being pursued.


chase guns

Cannon situated at the bow of a ship, used during pursuit.


clap of thunder

A strong, alcoholic drink.



A very fast taught-like ship with three masts and a square rig.


code of conduct

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