Pirates Online Wiki
Pirates Online Wiki
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Pirates, or sailors in general, have their own unique jargon and lingo. Many of the common phrases have to do with sea travel, parts of a ship, or drinking. Or often, they were practical statements, but from a nautical point of view.

Term Definition
abbey lubber A loiterer who could work but doesn't.
Abraham men Beggars who pretend to be sailors who were discharged without pay.
addle putrid water from water / rain barrels.
addled mad or insane (since you must have 'drunk the water').
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.
back-o-beyond A long way from anywhere.
barking irons Large pistols.
batten down the hatches Cover the topside hatches to the lower decks with canvas covers during a storm to prevent water from getting belowdecks. It can also simply mean beware or get ready for something bad.
beating the booby Slapping your arms to try and keep warm
before the mast Meaning to take an oath as a loyal crewman, usually done while standing on deck before the commanding officer.
belay To secure or make fast. To stop.
bell Every half hour a bell is rung telling how many half-hours have passed in a watch.
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.
black spot A death sentence handed to a pirate or the warning of one.
bleeding the monkey Stealing rum or from the ship's grog supply.
Blimey! An exclamation of surprise. Shortened from "God blind me!"
blow the man down to strike someone hard enough to bring him to the deck or to kill a man.
blunt slang for money
bucko A familiar term meaning friend.
carouser One who drinks wassail and engages in festivity, especially riotous drinking.
chowder head Stupid or foolish
clap of thunder A strong, alcoholic drink.
codger An easy going, but steady person.
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 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.
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. i.e.: "Use yer deadlights, matey!"
dead men tell no tales Pirate sayng for leaving no survivors, since no survivors means no witnesses.
double Dutch Gibberish.
down to the depths! Expression similar to Go to Hell. "Down to the depths whatever man thought up parley!"
dredgie ghost or ghosts of pirates dead by betrayal
fire in the hole A warning issued before a cannon is fired.
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.
Give no quarter Show no mercy
Go on account A pleasant term used by pirates to describe the act of turning pirate
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.
hearties term to refer to fellowship among sailors
"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!
hold fast Keep tightly secure
hornswaggle to cheat, or trick
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.This was due to the tar used to seal planks would often get on sailors backs and legs if they slept on deck.
keel haul A horrific punishment involving being dragged under the ship, resulting in massive lacerations at best, drowning at worst.
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.
lass A way to address a younger female.
loaded to the gunwall To be drunk.
loose in stays An expression referring to a ship that frequently "misses stays" or stalls out and fails to complete a turn while tacking. Also used as an expression for a ship that has slack discipline or is poorly handled
loot Stolen goods; money.
make fast Tie off something securely. Fast meaning fasten.
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.
Nelsons folly Another name for Rum.
Newgate birds Prisoners serving time on a ship instead of in a cell. Newgate was an infamous British jail.
nipper A short length of rope used to bind an anchor cable. Also a term to describe a very young child.
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.
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.
pistol proof A very lucky person.
plunder To take booty; rob.
quarter Pity or mercy granted to a defeated enemy.
ramshackle Out of repair. Broken.
rapscallion A scoundrel
rope's end Another term for flogging. i.e.: "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.
run a rig To play a trick.
Run a shot across the bow A command to fire a warning shot. Usually across the front of ship to get its attention and warn of further action should they not surrender (heave to).
sail ho! Exclamation alerting others that another ship is in view
scallywag A villanious or bothersome person
scourge of the seven seas A pirate known for his extremely violent and brutal nature.
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.
shark bait Someone thrown overboard
Shiver Me Timbers! An expression of surprise or fear.
Show a leg Wake up!
sink me! An expression of surprise—as in: "Your friend hasn't made a Pirate yet? You've got to be sinking me!"
smartly Quickly but well done. "Smartly there, men!" = "Hurry up!"
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
squiffy Somewhat intoxicated; tipsy.
Step To a command to move quickly
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
swab (1) To clean, specifically the deck of a ship.
(2) A disrespectful term for a seaman. i.e.: "Man that gun, ye cowardly swabs!"
swag loot
Swing the Lead Originally the easy task of using a lead weighted rope to measure water depth, it came to mean doing easy work or being a slacker.
Sweet Trade The 'trade' of being a pirate. "T'were hard in the Navy, but now I be in the Sweet Trade."
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.
togs Clothes
watch The crew is divided into Port and Starboard watches. Each is a four-hour shift. First (8p-12a), Middle (12a-4a), Morning (4a-8a), Forenoon (8a-12p), Afternoon (12p-4p), Dog Watch (4p-8p)
wench A young woman or peasant girl, sometimes a serving girl.
ye You.
yo-ho-ho An exclamation associated with pirates.