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Talk Like A Pirate

Your avatar may look like a pirate and you may steal, plunder and pillage like one - but can you talk like pirate?

The terms below will help you understand a little more about the world your pirate lives in, and give you some more historically accurate things to say in Chat with fellow pirates.

This list can always be added to...

Terms by Topic[]

All Terms[]

Term Definition
addled mad or insane
Admiral of the Black A title given to the leader of the Brethren of the Coast.
aft At, in, toward, or close to the stern of a ship.
ahoy An interjection used to hail a ship or a person or to attract attention.
American Main The eastern coastal lands of North America.
Arr! An exclamation.
avast A command meaning stop or desist.
aye (or ay) Yes; an affirmation.
ballast 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.
Barbary pirate a pirate operating on the Barbary coast - the Islamic states along the north coast of Africa (modern day Morocco, Tunisia, etc). Named for two of the earliest and most famous pirates to operate in that region, the Barbarossa brothers.
barkadeer 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.
batten down the hatches Cover the hatches to the lower decks with canvas covers during a storm to prevent water from getting belowdecks.
beam an imaginary line extending port and starboard of a ship from directly amidships. If another ship is directly beside yours it is on your beam. Beam is also used to describe the width of a ship, as in a ship's specs its stated width is always the width at midships, at the beam.
before the mast Meaning to take an oath as a loyal crewman, usually done while standing on deck before the commanding officer.
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.
belaying pin A large wooden pin, slotted through a hole in a rail, to which rigging lines are tied. 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.
bilge 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.
black jack large drinking cup made of leather and stiffened with tar
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.Short for "God, blind me!"
blow the man down to strike someone hard enough to bring him to the deck or to kill a man.
blunderbuss a muzzle-loading firearm with a flared, trumpet-like barrel which discharges lead shot upon firing (similar to a modern shotgun). It was designed to defend against numerous attackers.
blunt Slang for money or coins.
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.
bomb cannon ammunition a hollow cannonball filled with gunpower and armed with a primitive fuse causing it to explode after hitting an enemy ship (similar to a grenade).
boom A long spar extending from a mast to hold or extend the foot of a sail.
boom about A shouted warning when a mast boom is swinging violently.
booty Treasure.
bounty Reward or payment, usually from a government, for the capture of a criminal, specifically a pirate.
bow chaser cannon mounted in the bow of a ship, pointing forward, for use in a chase at sea
bowsprit 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.
brass monkey a brass tray for holding cannon balls. The expression "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" came from the fact that, in extreme cold conditions, the brass monkeys would contract, expelling the cannon balls they were holding
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.
brig / brigantine a smaller, two-masted class of ship often favoured by pirates beacuse of their speed and maneuverability. The term 'brig' also refers to a cage or room on a ship used to hold prisoners
bring a spring upon her cable To come around in a different direction. Sometimes meant to surprise an enemy ship.
broadside 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.
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.
buckle A hand small off-hand shield used to deflect swords or for a quick striking blows. Swashbuckler came from the combination of using a sword and buckle shield, though most pirates never used them.
Bucko A familiar term meaning friend.
Bumboo/Bumbo A drink made from rum, water, sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon.
Bunny Grub Vegetables.
Cable A heavy rope or chain for mooring or anchoring a ship.
Cackle Fruit Chicken eggs
Capstan 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.
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.
Carouser One who drinks wassail and engages in festivity, especially riotous drinking.
Carronade a type of heavy ship armament mounted on a non-moving sliderail rather than a wheeled carriage. Carronades are usually more powerful, but less accurate and with less range, than a cannon.
Case shot A collection of small projectiles put in cases to fire from a cannon; a canister-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, or just a single blow to "smarten up" a recalcitrant hand.
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 sutler.
chantey (also chanty, shantey or shanty) A song that is sung while working helping the sailors keep a steady rhythym for tasks that require coordinated effort.
chase A ship being pursued. ie: "The chase is making full sail, sir" translates to "The ship we're after is going as fast as she can."
chase guns cannon situated at the bow of a ship, used during pursuit.
clap of thunder A strong, alcoholic drink.
clear the decks Prepare for battle.
clipper A fast moving ship.
Code of conduct A set of rules which govern pirates behavior on a vessel.
coffer A chest in which treasure is usually kept.
cob Gold doubloons.
Cog A small warship.
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.
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.
(3) In POTCO, an EITC War Sloop.
coxswain A person who usually steers a ship's boat and has charge of its crew.
crack Jenny's teacup To spend the night in a house of ill-repute or visit Scarlet and Cassandra.
crimp To procure (sailors or soldiers) by trickery or coercion, or one who crimps.
crow's nest the name often inaccurately given to the platforms up on the masts above the yards. These are properly called 'tops' or 'fighting tops'. The term 'crow's nest' was only applied to those platforms on whaling ships where the crew would line the platforms with blankets, straw, etc., in order to stay warm during long cold watches in the cold climates where the whales were found
cutlass A short, heavy sword with a curved blade. A common weapon for pirates and sailors because, being curved and usually shorter in length, they were easier to wield in crowded melées on a ship's deck.
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. ie: "Use yer deadlights, matey!"
dead men tell no tales Standard pirate excuse for leaving no survivors.
dead reckoning a method of navigation that uses a chart or peg board and calculates course, speed and time to determine current location
dogsbody biscuit soaked in sugar water
doldrums when the wind dies for a long period of time - sometimes weeks - leaving the ship adrift and unable to sail. Doldrums are often encountered to either side of the equator before you reach the tropics (ie Tropic of Capricorn, Tropic of Cancer)
down to the depths! Expression, similar to Go the Hell - "Down to the depths whatever man thought up parley!"
Dubloon A gold coin minted by Spain. Worth about seven week's pay to an average sailor.
draft The depth of a vessel's keel below the water line, especially when loaded; the minimum water depth necessary to float a ship.
draught (also draft) (1) The amount taken in by a single act of drinking.
(2) The drawing of a liquid, as from a cask or keg.
dredgie ghost or ghosts of pirates dead by betrayal
driver A large sail suspended from the mizzen gaff; a jib-headed spanker.
Execution dock The usual place for pirate hangings, specifically on the Thames in London, near the Tower.
fathom A unit of length equal to six feet, used principally in the measurement and specification of marine depths.
fire in the hole A warning issued before a cannon is fired.
fire ship A ship loaded with powder and tar then set afire and set adrift against enemy ships to destroy them.
Flank The maximum speed of a ship. Faster than "full speed", usually only used for emergencies for a short period of time.
Filibustier French word for pirate.
flogging The act of beating a person severely with a rod or whip, especially the cat or the punishment of being beaten.
fluke The broad part of an anchor.
Fo'c's'le (or Forecastle) (1) The section of the upper deck of a ship located at the bow forward of the foremast.
(2) A superstructure at the bow of a merchant ship where the crew is housed. Despite caste being the name, they were anything but luxurious.
fore (also forward) At, to, or toward the front end or bow of the ship.
foremast mast located towards the bow of a ship, fore of the main mast
furl To roll up and secure a sail.
gabion A cylindrical wicker basket filled with earth and stones, used in building fortifications.
gaff A spar attached to the mast and used to extend the upper edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
galleon A large three-masted sailing ship with a square rig and usually two or more decks, used from the 15th to the 17th century especially by Spain as a merchant ship or warship.
galley (1) A low, flat vessel propelled partly, or wholly by oars.
(2) a ship's kitchen
gangplank A board or ramp used as a removable footway between a ship and a pier.
gangway (1) A passage along either side of a ships upper deck. (2) A gangplank. (3) An interjection used to clear a passage through a crowded area.
gibbet (cage) 1) Chains in which the corpses of pirates are hung and displayed in order to discourage piracy.
2) Public gallows for displaying criminals.
Give no quarter Show no mercy and take no prisoners.
Gold Road A road across the Isthmus of Panama used to transport gold by train of pack mules.
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.
Grape Shot or grape cannon ammunition Small balls of lead or iron fired in quantity from a cannon. Anti-personnel ammunition for clearing an enemy ship's decks prior to boarding
grapple (also Grappling Hook, grappling iron, or grapnel) An iron shaft with claws at one end, usually thrown by a rope and used for grasping and holding, especially one for drawing and holding an enemy ship alongside.
grog (see also spirits) An alcoholic liquor, made from watered down rum and latterly sour fruit juice. It was to ward off scurvy, and minimize the amount of alchol a man would imbibe. Admiral Vernon is said to have been the first to dilute the rum of sailors.
grog blossom A redness on the nose or face of persons who drink ardent spirits to excess.
gun A cannon.
gunwalls The sides of the top deck which act as a railing around the deck, and have openings where -

heavy arms or guns are positioned.

hail-shot A shot that scatters like hail when fired from a cannon.
halyard line used to hoist a sail, spar, or flag
hands a term for crew members, as in "all hands on deck"
handsomely Quickly or carefully; in a shipshape style.
hang the jib To pout or frown.
hardtack (also sea biscuit) A hard biscuit or bread made from flour and water baked into a moisture-free rock to prevent spoilage; a pirate ships staple. Hardtack has to be broken into small pieces or soaked in water before eaten.
haul wind To direct a ship into the wind.
head the proper term for a ship's toilet
hearties term to refer to fellowship among sailors
heave down To turn a vessel on its side for cleaning.
heave to braking maneuver that slows the ship's pace and fixes its course, allowing the crew to perform other duties. Often called out as an order from one ship to another, demanding the other ship strike sails and stop moving in order to be boarded.
heel To lean to one side, especially a ship. "She was heeling to starboard."
"helm's a-lee!" (also "all hands about ship!") a shouted warning to the crew that the ship is about to make a turn, most often used when tacking. When turning sharply, sails and mast spars might shift position suddenly.
hempen halter The hangmans noose.
ho Used to express surprise or joy, to attract attention to something sighted, or to urge onward as in Land ho! or Westward ho!
hogshead (1) A large cask used mainly for the shipment of wines and spirits.
(2) A unit of measurement equal to approximately one hundred gallons.
holystone Coarse stones used to sand down decks and keep them smooth, preventing splinters. Larger ones were called Bibles. Likely named since you had to kneel to use them.
hornswaggle to cheat
hot shot cannonball heated red hot prior to firing in order to cause fires on the enemy ship - very dangerous to use, often caused premature firing of the cannon or even caused the cannon to explode
hulk British prison ships that captured pirates and privateers.
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 A flag, especially one flown at the bow of a ship to indicate her nationality.
Jack Ketch famed English executioner - became shorthand for death at the hands of the law
Jack Tar Common name for sailors of the Royal Navy.
jib A triangular sail stretching from the foretopmast head to the jib boom and in small craft to the bowsprit or the bow.
Jib sheet The sheet or line that controls the jib sail
Jibing Different from Tacking, more dangerous, means to turn the back of the vessel so that it moves through the wind
jolly boat A light boat carried at the stern of a larger sailing ship.
Jolly Roger A pirate flag depicting a skull-and-crossbones. It was an invitation to surrender, with the implication that those who surrendered would be treated well. A red flag indicated "no quarter."
jury mast A temporary or makeshift mast erected on a sea vessel after the mainmast has been destroyed. Often, in combat, the mast was the most damaged (providing the ship didn't sink). Without the mast, a ship was powerless, so a term grew out of the need to make masts to power damaged ships.
keel The backbone of a ship, a heavy wood beam running down from the bow along the bottom of the hull to the stern post
keelhaul A horrific punishment involving being dragged under the ship, resulting in massive lacerations at best, drowning at worst.
killick A small anchor, especially one made of a stone in a wooden frame.
King's Shilling Coins given to recruits of the Royal Navy. To "take a King’s Shilling” was to enter service. The legend goes recruiters would slip a coin into a victim’s drink to con them into joining. Glass-bottomed tankards were designed so you could see if there was a coin in it.
kiss the gunner's daughter A punishment consisting of being hoisted over one of the ship's guns and flogged.
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.
lanyard (or laniard) A short rope or gasket used for fastening something or securing rigging.
larboard older term for the Port or left side of a ship.
lass A way to address a younger female.
lateen sail A triangular sail set on a long sloping yard.
league A unit of distance equal to three miles.
lee The side away from the direction from which the wind blows.
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.
line A rope in use as part of the ship's rigging, or as a towing line. When a rope is just coiled up on deck, not yet being used for anything, it's all right to call it a rope.
list To lean or cause to lean to the side.
loaded to the gunwall To be drunk.
loblolly porridge or gruel.
log (1) A record of a ship's speed, its progress, and any shipboard events of navigational importance, or the book in which the record is kept.
(2) A knotted length of line with a piece of wood at the end which is thrown into the water to determine how many "knots" run out in a set period of time.
long boat The largest boat carried by a ship which is used to move large loads such as anchors, chains, or ropes. pirates use the boats to transport the bulk of heavier treasures.
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.
long nines Large ship guns that fired nine pound lead shot at much farther range.
lookout A person posted to keep watch on the horizon for other ships or signs of land.
loose in stays An expression that specifically refers to a ship that frequently "misses stays" or stalls out and fails to complete a turn while tacking. But often used generally as an expression for a ship that has slack discipline or is poorly handled
loot Stolen goods; money.
lugger A two-masted sailing vessel with a lugsail rig.
lugsail A quadrilateral sail that lacks a boom, has the foot larger than the head, and is bent to a yard hanging obliquely on the mast.
main mast primary mast, largest of a ship's masts. Located directly amidships, the middle mast in a three-masted ship
main sheet The rope that controls the angle at which a mainsail is trimmed and set.
Man-of-War or Man O' War A vessel designed and outfitted for battle.
marlinspike An iron pointed tool used to seperate strands of line for splicing
maroon To 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.
matey A piratical way to address someone in a cheerful, if not necessarily friendly, fashion.
measured fer yer chains To be outfitted for a gibbet cage or imprisonment.
mizzen A fore-and-aft sail set on the mizzenmast.
mizzenmast The largest and, perhaps, most important mast located in the mizzen; the third mast or the mast aft of a mainmast on a ship having three or more masts.
mutiny To rise against authority, especially the captain of a ship.
Nelsons folly Another name for Rum.
nipper A short length of rope used to bind an anchor cable. Also a term to describe a very young child.
nipperkin A small cup or drink.
no prey, no pay A common pirate law meaning a crew received no wages, but rather shared whatever loot was taken.
no quarter An instruction that an enemy crew is to be shown no mercy. There are to be no survivors.
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 as form of temporary protection until the captive could discuss their fate with the captain himself.
parrel (also parral) A sliding loop of rope or chain by which a running yard or gaff is connected to, while still being able to move vertically along, the mast.
picaroon A scoundrel.
Pieces of Eight Spanish silver coins worth one peso or eight "reales.," sometimes literally cut into eight pieces, each worth one reale.
pillage To rob of goods by force, especially in time of war; plunder.
pink A small sailing vessel with a sharply narrowed stern and an overhanging transom.
pinnace A light boat propelled by sails or oars, used as a tender for merchant and war vessels; a boat for communication between ship and shore.
piracy Robbery committed at sea.
pirate One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation; the opposite of a privateer.
The Pirate Round Infamous pirate-infested trade route from America to Madagascar and the Indian Ocean
piroque Small canoe, often used by Caribbean pirates to overtake other ships.
Plate Fleet Fleet of Spanish ships used to carry silver and gold to Europe.
plunder To take booty; rob.
poop deck The highest deck on the ship; usually above the captain's quarters
port (1) A seaport.
(2) The left side of the ship when you are facing toward her prow.
powder chest An explosive box filled with scrap metal, often strapped to the side of a ship. It could be set off to injury or discourage boarding parties.
powder monkey Term for a crew member whose job during battle was to run back and forth from the ship's powderhold to keep the guns supplied with black powder
pressgang A company of men commissioned to force men into service such as on a vessel, specifically a pirate ship.
press ganging The act of forcing individuals to serve aboard a ship, sometimes called being Shanghai'ed.
Privateer A privateer is a sailor with a letter of marque from a government. This letter "allows" the sailor to plunder any ship of a given enemy nation. 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 turned plain pirate before all was said and done.
prize a captured ship and/or its cargo
provost The person responsible for discipline on board a ship. Example, the boson on The Flying Dutchman, who took pride in ripping flesh from bone with his whips.
prow The "nose" of the ship.
quarter Derived from the idea of "shelter", quarter is given when mercy is offered. To give no quarter is to indicate that none will be spared. Quarter is often the prize given to an honorable loser in a fight.
quarterdeck Deck above the main deck at the aft of a ship. Usually where the captain and officer command the ship from
quartermaster Aboard a Royal Navy ship, the quartermaster was the helmsman and often handled crew provisions. On pirate ships, they led boarding parties and held rank as First Officer - even having a veto power over the captain in non-combat situations.
rapscallion A scoundrel.
ratline Horizontal lines run along the shrouds (see shrouds) to create a ladder for the crew to use in getting to the rigging and yards
real Pronounced 'ray-al'. A Spanish coin.
Red ensign British Royal navy flag, predominantly red with a Union Jack in one corner.
Reef An underwater obstruction of rock or coral which can tear the bottom out of a ship.
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.
Renegade or renegado A term originally applied to Christian European pirates who captained or served on Islamic pirate ships of the Barbary coast
rigging The system of ropes, chains, and tackle used to support and control the masts, sails, and yards of a sailing vessel.
rope's end Another term for flogging. ie: "Ye'll meet the rope's end for that, me bucko!"
rum An intoxicating beverage, specifically an alcoholic liquor distilled from fermented molasses or sugar cane.
rode anchor line or chain
rope's end To be flogged
round shot Simply a sphere of lead or iron. A typical cannonball.
run a rig Play a trick or run a scam.
Run a shot across the bow A command to fire a warning shot.
rutters Detailed instructions listing all that is known about a place or route.
sail ho! Exclamation alerting others that another ship is in view
salmagundi A salad usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil.
scallywag A villanious or bothersome person
schooner A fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel having at least two masts, with a foremast that is usually smaller than the other masts.
scope Length of anchor rode, measured in water depth units
scourge of the seven seas A pirate known for his extremely violent and brutal nature.
scuppers Openings along the edges of a ship's deck that allow water on deck to drain back to the sea rather than collecting in the bilge. "Scupper that!" is an expression of anger or derision meaning "Throw that overboard!"
scurvy (1) A disease caused by deficiency of vitamin C often affecting sailors.
(2) Mean and contemptible; a derogatory adjective suitable for use in a loud voice, as in "Ye scurvy dogs!"
scut Small crack or chink in the deck
scuttle (1) A small opening or hatch with a movable lid in the deck or hull of a ship.
(2) To sink by means of a hole in a ship's hull.
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.
sea rover a pirate's ship
shark bait Someone thrown overboard
sheet A line running from the bottom aft corner of a sail by which it can be adjusted to the wind
shiver A wooden splinter. The timbers of a ship splintering during battle gave rise to the infamous pirate phrase, "Shiver me timbers."
Shiver Me Timbers! An expression of surprise or fear.
Show a leg! Wake up!
shroud lines running from a mast to either side, port or starboard, that support the mast. Horiztontal 'ratlines' are run along the shrouds to create a ladder for the crew to use in getting to the rigging and yards
sink me! An expression of surprise -- as in: "Your friend hasn't made a Pirate yet? You've got to be sinking me!"
six pounders Cannons that typically fired a six-pound iron ball.
skysail A small square sail above the royal in a square-rigged vessel.
sloop Small, fast ship with a narrow, shallow hull and large sails. Normally, sloops had only a mainmast.
slow match A rope of braided hemp, often infused with gunpowder, that burned slowly like a candle wick and was applied to the touch hole of a cannon in order to fire it. Blackbeard braided small pieces of slow match into his hair and beard to create a wreath of smoke around his head, terrifying his enemies
smartly Quickly. "Smartly there, men!" = "Hurry up!"
snow A square-rigged vessel, differing from a brig only in that she has a trysail mast close abaft the mainmast, on which a large trysail is hoisted.
Spanish Main Lands taken by Spain from Mexico to Peru including the Caribbean islands.
spanker (see also driver) The after sail of a ship or bark, being a fore-and-aft sail attached to a boom and gaff.
spike To render (a muzzleloading gun) useless by driving a spike into the vent.
splice the mainbrace an order given aboard ships to issue the crew with a drink of rum or grog; To have a drink or perhaps several drinks.
spirits alcoholic beverages; particularly distilled liquor
spyglass A telescope.
squall A sudden, violent wind often accompanied by rain.
square-rigged Fitted with square sails as the principal sails.
squiffy Somewhat intoxicated; tipsy.
Step To a command to move quickly
starboard right side of vessel looking forward from stern
starting rope a short length of heavy rope with a large knot in the end which the bosun uses to beat crew members to 'start' them - i.e. make them work harder and/or faster
stay a heavy line running for or aft of a mast that supports the mast. Stays often have tiangular sails rigged from them called 'staysails'
stern The rear part of a ship.
stern chaser cannon mounted in the stern of a ship aimed behind the ship for use if the ship is being chased
Stink Pot primitive grenade-like weapon that emits noxious fumes. Lobbed aboard an enemy ship to sicken and disorient their crew prior to boarding
strike colors To lower, specifically a ship's flag as a signal of surrender.
strike sails Bring in the sails; either furling them, or taking them completely off the yards
strumpet A woman of disrespect, loose morals or a prostitute
studding sails Square sails that are rigged to extra yards that are lashed to and extra further out from the primary yards, they extend the width of the sails on a square-rigged ship
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. ie: "Man that gun, ye cowardly swabs!"
swag loot
swashbuckler 16th century English term for rough, noisy and boastful swordsmen, often applied to pirates, named due to the use of a sword in one hand and a buckle shield in the other.
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. A slacker.
swivel gun small cannon mounted on a swivel mount afixed to a ship's rail. Used to repel boarders or clear an enemy's deck prior to boarding
tack (1) The lower forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
(2) The position of a vessel relative to the trim of its sails or the act of changing from one position or direction to another.
tacking A technique for sailing a ship against the wind. It involves sailing the ship on a zig-zag course, sailing a few degrees off the direction of the wind for a period of time, then turning through the wind and sailing for another period of time a few degrees the other side of the direction of the wind.
tackle A system of ropes and blocks for raising and lowering weights of rigging and pulleys for applying tension.
take a caulk To take a nap. On 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.
tender A vessel attendant on other vessels, especially one that ferries supplies between ship and shore; a small boat towed or carried by a ship.
Tooth Rot Sugar
Top or fighting top The platforms on the masts above the yards. Used in combat as a platform for firing small arms down on an enemy's deck. Often inaccurately called 'crow's nests'
Topgallant or t'gallant Of, relating to, or being the mast above the topmast, its sails, or its rigging.
topmast The mast below the topgallant mast in a square-rigged ship and highest in a fore-and-aft-rigged ship.
topsail A square sail set above the lowest sail on the mast of a square-rigged ship or a triangular or square sail set above the gaff of a lower sail on a fore-and-aft-rigged ship.
transom Any of several transverse beams affixed to the sternpost of a wooden ship and forming part of the stern.
trysail A small fore-and-aft sail hoisted abaft the foremast and mainmast in a storm to keep a ship's bow to the wind.
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.
weather gauge (to have the ~) to have the weather gauge means to have a positional advantage on another ship in combat, where the wind is blowing the right direction for your ship to quickly close and engage the other ship, but blowing in the wrong direction for the other ship to do the same
weigh anchor To haul the anchor up; more generally, to leave port.
wench A young woman or peasant girl, sometimes a serving girl or even prostitute.
wherry A light, swift rowboat built for one person usually used in inland waters or harbors.
windward The direction of the wind.
yard A long tapering spar slung to a mast to support and spread the head of a square sail, lugsail, or lateen.
yardarm The main arm across the mast which holds up the sail; Either end of a yard of a square sail. The yardarm is a vulnerable target in combat, and is also a favorite place from which to hang prisoners or enemies. Black Bart hung the governor of Martinique from his yardarm.
yawl (or dandy) A two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailing vessel similar to the ketch but having a smaller jigger- or mizzenmast stepped abaft the rudder; a ships small boat, crewed by rowers.
ye You.
Yellow Jack A yellow flag flown to indicate the presence of an illness, often yellow fever, aboard a ship. Often the flag is used to trick pirates into avoiding potential targets.
yo-ho-ho An exclamation associated with pirates.Special thanks to Disney Online Worlds and