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


An exclamation.


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

aye (or ay)

Yes; an affirmation.


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.

bilged on her anchor

A ship holed or pierced by its own anchor.

Related: Merriment & Misery


An exclamation of surprise, short for "God blind me!", which is very common to this day in Britain and sometimes shortened less to"Gor blimey" or "Cor blimey."

blow the man down

To kill someone.

boom about

When a ship turns in the wind the boom can swing violently enough to injure or kill a person on board. "Boom about" may be shouted to warn others the boom is about to move.

See also boom.
Related: Areas of the Ship

bring a spring upon her cable

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


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.

Related: Ships


A ship being pursued, or the act of pursuing a ship.

Related: Weaponry

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.

Related: Merriment & Misery


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

Related: Namecalling

dance the hempen jig

To hang.

Related: Places

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.

dead men tell no tales

Standard pirate excuse for leaving no survivors.


  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.

fire in the hole

A warning issued before a cannon is fired.


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

give no quarter

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

See also quarter.
Related: Flags


Quickly or carefully; in a shipshape style.

haul wind

To direct a ship into the wind.

heave down

To turn a vessel on its side for cleaning.


An interjection meaning to come to a halt.


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

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.

Related: Famous Pirates


To lean to one side.

See also: heel

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.


To be stranded, particularly on a desert isle.

See also maroon.



no prey, no pay

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

Related: Financials


  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, especially when attempting a truce, originating from the French, "parler," meaning "to speak." The term was used in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" as part of Pirate law.


Robbery committed at sea.


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.

See also give no quarter.

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.

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. In stormy weather and rough seas, the support timbers of a ship would "shiver" which might startle the crew. The phrase may have been less common during the Golden Age of Piracy than it had become later in fictional works.

Show a leg!

A phrase used to wake up a sleeping pirate.

Sink me!

An expression of surprise. Many pirate exclamations used exaggerated imagery to highten a point. Ye might say the sailors were punchy or a bit melodramatic after a lengthy stay at sea.  



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.

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.


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.



Avast! More phrases be on their way!

Navigate more categories at th' top.