An Explanation of the most usual SEA-TERMS, digested into ALPHABETICAL ORDER.


AFT, or Abaft. From the Head or Fore-Part of the Ship towards the Stern; as, Carry such a Thing abaft; the Mast hangs aft; that is, towards the Stern.

How chear ye Fore and Aft? That is, how fares all the Ship's Company!

Amain, that is Yield: A Term used by a Man of War to the Enemy.

Strike Amain, Lower your Top-sails.

Aloft, signifies over-head, or above.

The Anchor is foul; that is, the Cable is got about the Fluke, which is the Flat Point, or Wings that resemble the Head of an Arrow.

The Anchor is a Peck, or a Peek; signifying, that it is directly under the Hawse (or Hole) thro' which the Cable of the Anchor runs out.

The Anchor is a Cock-Bell; that is, swings or hangs up and down by the Ship's Side.

An Awning, is a Shelter or Skreen that's made of a Sail, or such like, supported in the Nature of a Canopy over the Deck, to keep off the Heat of the Sun.


Bale; that is, lade Water out of the Ship's Hold.

French the Ballast, to divide or separate it.

The Ballast shoots; meaning that it shifts or runs over from one Side of the Ship to the other.

To bear with the Land, &c. that is, to sail towards it.

To bear to, viz. To sail unto a Channel or Harbour before or with the Wind.

Bring the Guns (or Ordnance) to bear; that is, Point them right with the Mark.

Bear up; that is, make the Ship sail more before the Wind.

Bear up round, Put her right before the Wind.

Belay, make fast any running Rope.

Bend the Sails; that is, fasten or apply them to the Yards.

Her Sails are unbent, viz. Has no Sails fixed.

Bend a Cable, make it fast.

A Birth, A convenient Place to moor a Ship in.

A Bight, is any Part of a Rope between the Ends.

The Buge, is the Breadth of the Place the Ship rests on, when she is a-ground.

The Ship is bilged; that is, has struck off some of her Timber on a Rock or Anchor, and springs a Leak.

A Binacle, is that whereon the Compass stands.

The Bits, are two square Pieces of Timber, to which the Cables are fastened, when the Ship rides at Anchor.

A Bitter, is a Turn of a Cable about the Bits.

A Bonnet, is an Addition of another Sail. To fasten it on, they say, Lace of the Bonnet. And to take it off, Shake off the Bonnet.

Board and Board, signifies, that two Ships come so near as to touch one another.

To Board a Ship, is to enter it in an hostile manner, or against the Inclination of those in her.

To go Aboard, is to enter it by Consent, or in a friendly Manner.

Board it up; that is, turn to Windward.

To break Bulk, to open the Hold, and take Goods thereout.

A Buoy, is a floating Cask, or such like, which is moored at a Sand bank, to warn Shipping against it. Also used to every Anchor, in order to shew where the Anchor lies.


To Chase, is to pursue another Ship or Vessel; and the Ship, &c. so pursued, is called the Chase.

Careening, is bringing a Ship to lie down on one Side, while the other is trimmed and caulked.

Caulking, is driving Oakham, Spanhair, &c. into the Seams of the Ship, to keep out Water.

To Cond or Cun, is to direct or guide.

To Cun a Ship, is to direct the Person at the Helm how to steer her. If the Ship goes before the Wind, then the Pilot, or he who cuns the Ship uses these Terms to him that steers, according as the Case requires; viz. Starboard, that is, to put the Helm to the Starboard (or right) Side, to make the Ship go to the Larboard (or left) Side; and so of the contrary. Port, is to keep the same Direction of the Helm upon the Starboard or Larboard, as has been last ordered. Helm a Midships, is to keep the helm in a right Line with the Ship's Head and Stern, neither inclining to Right or Left.

In keeping the Ship near the Wind, these Terms are used; viz. Loof (or Luff) keep your Luff; fall not off; veer no more; keep her too; touch the Wind; have a care of the Lee-Latch; See Letter L.

To make her go more large; they say, Ease the Helm; No near; Bear up.

To keep her upon the same Point; they say, Steady;

Thus, Thus; or, As you go, and such-like.

When she neither goes by a Wind, nor before a Wind, but betwixt both; then they make use of some one of the following Terms, which are all of the same Signification, viz. The Ship goes Lasking, Quartering, Veering, or Large.

The Course, is that Point of the Compass on which the Ship sails. What Course did you sail? viz. On what Point of the Compass?

Courses, signify the Ship's Sails: as, She is under a fore Course; that is, sails with her Fore-mast Sails only. Under all her Courses, is under all her Sails.

Cut the Sail, viz. Unfurl it, and let it fall down.


Dead Water, signifies the Eddy Water at the Stern of the Ship.

To Disembogue, is to go out of the Mouth of a Gulph.

To Dispart a Piece of Ordnance, is to find out the Difference of Diameters betwixt the Breech and Mouth of a Cannon.

The Deck is a flush afore and aft; that is, laid from Head to Stern without any Falls or Risings.

The Ship drives, is when her Anchors give way.


End for End, is a Term used, when a Rope runs all out of the Block, so that it is unreev'd (or all drawn out.)


A Fathom, is a Measure containing six Feet.

A Fack, is one Circle of any Rope or Castle quoiled up round.

To Hand (or Furl) a Sail, is to wrap it up close together, and bind it up with little Strings, called Caskets, fast to the Yard.

To Fish a Mast, or Yard, is to fasten a Piece of Timber, or Plank, (by way of Splinter) to the Mast or Yard, to strengthen it; which Piece or Plank is called a Fish.

To lower or strike the Flag, is to pull it down upon the Cap; and is either done in saluting with the utmost Respect, or in Token of yielding to an Enemy in Fight.

Free the Boat or Ship; that is, Bale or Pump the Water out,

To fall off, viz. To fall a-stern.

Fore, is towards the Head of the Ship.


The Ship's Gage, is so many Foot as she sinks in the Water, or so many Foot as she draws.

Weather-Gage, is when one Ship has the Wind (or is to the Weather) of another.

To Greave the Ship, to bring her to lie a-ground, to burn off her old Filth.

The Ship Gripes, viz. Turns her Head to the Wind more than she should.


The Helm is hard a Weather; that is, it is as far to the Weather as it will go.

To Haul, signifies to pull.

Heave over-board, is to throw any thing out of the Ship.

To Hail a Ship, to call her Company, to know whither they are bound, &c. and is thus done.

Hoa the Ship! or only Hoa! To which they Answer Hoa! Likewise to salute another Ship with Trumpets, &c. is called Hailing.

Fresh the Hawse, signifies to veer out more Cable, when that Part that lies in the Hawse (or Hole through which it runs) is fretted or chafed.

An Hawser, is the Cable belonging to the Anchor.

Clear the Hawse, is when two Cables, that come through two several Hawses, are twisted, and are ordered to be untwisted or freed.

To ride thwart the Hawse, and upon the Hawse, signifies when a Ship lies thwart, or cross, or with her Stern just before another Ship's Hawse.

To Hitch, is to make fast.

The Ship Heels, she inclines more to one Side than the other; as, She heels to Larboard, viz. inclines to the Larboard (or left) Side.

The Hold of a Ship, is the very lower Apartment or Division in the Bottom of the Ship, betwixt the Keelson and the lower Deck, where all Goods, Stores, &c. lie.

To rummage the Hold, is to remove or clear the Goods, &c. out of it.

To stow the Hold, is to place Goods, &c. in the Hold.

To Hoist, is to hawl or lift up.

To Hull, is to take in a Ship's Sails, when she's at Sea.


The Ship Labours; that is, rolls and tumbles much.

Land-fall, is expressing an Expectation of seeing Land.

Land-locked, is when a Ship lies within a Bay or Creek, and sheltered all round by the Land, so that no Point is open to the View of the Sea,

Lies Land-to, is said, when a Ship is at so great a Distance, as only just to discern Land.

To Lash, signifies to bind.

To Launch a Ship, is to put her forth off the Dock into the Water: But in some Cases, it is used in a negative Sense; as,

Launch hoe, viz. Hoist no more, when a Yard is hoisted high enough, and that Orders are given to stop.

To lay the Land; that is, to lose Sight of it.

Lee-Shore, is that against which the Wind blows.

Have a Care of the Lee-latch; viz. Take care the Ship go not out too much to the Leeward.

She lies by the Lee; that is, a Ship has all her Sails lying flat against the Masts and Shrouds.

Leeward, is with the Wind, or on that Point towards which the Wind blows.

The Ship Lifts, viz. heels or inclines to one Side more than the other.


Mizen, has several Words peculiar to it. The Mizen-mast is that which is abaft, or nearest to the Stern of the Ship; and from thence, every thing belonging to that Mast is distinguished accordingly, as are all the other Masts, and their Rigging, &c. So therefore the Mizen-sail is called the Mizen, and is thus understood, viz.

Set the Mizen; that is, fit the Mizen-sail.

Change the Mizen; bring the Yard to the other Side of the Mast.

Seek the Mizen; that is, put the Yard right up and down the Mast.

Spell the Mizen, let go the Sheet, and peek it up.

To Moor a Ship, is to lay out her Anchors in such a manner as she may most conveniently ride with Safety.


Niep-Tides, are those Tides which are in the first and last Quarter of the Moon, and are not so high, so low, nor so swift as the Spring-tides.

A Ship is beniep'd; that is, when the Water does not flow high enough to bring her from off the Ground, or over a Bar, or out of a Dock.


The Offing, is to the Sea-ward from the Land; as, when a Ship, or a Fleet, is said to lie in the Offing, it means, that they from whom that Expression has come, were in a Ship which lay in Harbour, or were near the Shore, when the others were to the Seaward of them.

Offward, signifies contrary to the Shore.

She stands for the Offing; the Ship sails from the Shore into the Sea, or from the Landward to the Seaward.

Overset, is turned over.


To Pay a Seam, is to lay hot Pitch and Tar on (after Caulking) without Canvas.

To Parcel a Seam, (is after a Seam is caulked) to lay over it a narrow Piece of Canvas, and then pour hot Pitch and Tar on it.

To ride a Peek, is when the Yards are so ordered, that they seem to represent St Andrew's Cross.

To Purchase an Anchor; that is, to loose it so as to be able to hawl it up.

The Capstain Purchases apace; viz. draws in the Cable apace.


Quarter-winds, are when the Wind blows in abaft the Main-mast Shrouds, even with the Ship's Quarters.

A Quoil, is a Rope or Cable laid up round, one Fack over another; and the Fack is called Quoiling. See F.


A Reach, is the Distance between any two Points of Land, that lie in a right-line from each other.

To Reeve, is to put a Rope through a Block; so, Unreeving the Rope, is to pull the Rope out of the Block.

To Ride; a Ship is said to Ride at Anchor, when she does not drive with the Wind or Tide, but is held fast by her Anchors.

To Ride a-thwart, is to ride with the Ship's Side to the Tide.

To Ride betwixt Wind and Tide, is when the Ship rides at Anchor, and that the Wind and Tide are contrary, and have equal Strength.

To Ride Hawse-fall'n, is when the Water breaks into the Hawses in a rough Sea.

A Road, is any Place near the Land, where Ships may ride at Anchor; from whence a Ship so riding, is call'd a Roader.

Rowse-in, signifies to Hawl in, and is properly applicable only to the Hawser or Cable, in ordering it to be made strait, tight or tort, when it is slack.


To Serve a Rope, is to wind something about it to preserve it from fretting or wearing out.

A Service; the Thing wound about the Rope is so called.

To Seaze, is to make fast or bind.

She Seels; that is, when on a sudden the Ship lies down on her Side, and tumbles from one Side to the other.

The Ship Sands; viz. when her Head or Stern falls deep in the Through (or Hollow) of the Sea.

To Settle a Deck, is to lay it lower.

The Ship is Sewed; viz. the Water is gone from her.

The Ship Sheares; that is, she goes in and out, and not right forward.

To Sound, is to try with a Line, or other Thing, how deep the Water is.

The Ship has spent her Masts; that is, they have been broke by foul Weather; but if a Ship lose her Masts in Fight, it is then said, Her Masts have been shot by the Board.

To Splice Ropes; that is, to untwist two Ends of Ropes, then twist them both together, and fasten them by binding a String about them.

The Sails are Split; that is, blown to pieces.

The Ship Spoons; that is, goes right before the Wind without any Sail.

Spring-tides, are the Tides at new and full Moon, which flow highest, ebb lowest, and run strongest.

The Bowsprit Steeves; viz. stands too upright.


Tack-about; that is, bring the Ship's Head about to lie the other Way.

Talle aft the Sheets: A peculiar term used for hawling aft the Sheets of the Main or Fore-sail.

A Windward-tide, is a Tide that runs against the Wind.

Tort, signifies the same as strait, tight, or secure.

A Leeward-tide, when the Wind and Tide go both one Way.

A Tide-gate, is so call'd, where the Tide runs strong.

To Tide it up, is to go with the Tide against the Wind; and on the Tide's altering, to lie at Anchor till it serves again.

It flows Tide and Half-tide; that is, it will be high Water sooner by three Hours by the Shore, than in the Offing.

To Tow; that is, to drag any thing after the Ship or Boat.

The Ship's Traverse, is her Way.


To Veer; that is, to let out; as, Veer more Cable, c.

The Wind Veers; viz. it shifts or changes about from one Point to another.


The Ship Veers well; that is, answers her Helm well.

The Wake of the Ship, is the dead Water that follows the Ship.

The Ship is Walt; viz. she wants Ballast.

To Weather a Ship; that is, to go to Windward of her.

To Wind a Ship; viz. to bring her Head about.

How Winds the Ship? that is, upon what Point of the Compass does she lie with her Head.

To Warp a Ship in or out of Harbour, is to carry her against the Wind, by means of carrying out an Anchor in the Boat, and dropping it; then to hawl upon it and so cary out another Anchor, after the Ship is come up to the first Anchor.

To would; that is, to bind Ropes about the Mast, or the like, to keep on a Fish, or strengthen it.


The Ship Yaws; viz. she goes in and out, and does not steer steady.

Younkers, are the young Fore-mast-men.

William Mountaine: The Seaman's Vade-Mecum, and Defensive War by Sea: containing the Proportions of Rigging, Masts and Yards Weight of Anchors, Sizes and Weight of Cables and Cordage, List of the Navy. The Exercise of the Small Arms, Bayonet, Granadoes and Great-Guns, Duty of Officers, &c. also Shewing how to prepare a Merchant-Ship for a close Fight. Chasing; … Defensive-Fighting; … Naval Fortification; … An Essay on Naval Book-keeping; …
W. and J. Mount & T. and T. Page, London, 1756. First edition 1744.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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