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Naval Terminology A-K

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Naval Terminology A-K
The terms in this list were taught to recruits at Recruit Training Command San Diego.


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Farther aft, as "Abaft the beam."
On a relative bearing of 90 degrees (abeam to starboard) or 270 degrees (abeam to port).
In or on a ship.  Extended to use ashore, as aboard a naval station.
On or in a ship. Close aboard; near a ship.
Accommodation Ladder
A ladder suspended over and inclining down the side of a ship to facilitate boarding the ship from boats.
Derived it’s pronunciation from term for a Moorish chief. A Moorish chief is an Emir, and chief of all the chiefs is the EMIR-AL, from which we get our English word "Admiral."
Loose from mooring and out of control.  Applied to anything that is lost, out of hand, or left lying about.
In, near or toward the stern of the ship.
That which is farthest aft, as after fire room.
Afternoon Watch
The 1200 to 1600 watch.
Ahoy or demand for attention, as "Boat ahoy."

This old traditional greeting for hailing other boats, was originally a Viking battle-cry.
Slang, a naval aviator.
In direction toward which the wind is blowing; downwind.
Lively, energetic
All Fast
Tired or lashed down as necessary.
Assignment of part of military pay directly to a person or bank.
Generally specking, any area above the highest deck.
Beside a pier, wharf or ship.
An indefinite area midway between the bow and the stern.  Rudder amidships means that the rudder us in line with the ship's centerline.
Anchor Cable


A group of persons available to the OOD during the night for such duties as heaving in or paying out the cable.
The hook used at the end of a chain and dropped to the sea bottom to hold a ship in one particular place. The smallest Navy anchors can be lifted by one person; two anchors used by USS KITTY HAWK each weigh 30 tons.
An area designed to be used by ships for anchoring. Suitable place for ship to anchor. A designated area of a port or harbor.
Anchor's Aweigh
Said of the anchor when just clear of the bottom. (2) A US Navy Song. The word "Aweigh" is from the old English "Woeg" to raise.
A device, usually electromechanical, used to indicate or transmit information.  See Engine order Telegraph.
The weapons of a ship.
Armored Deck
A deck, below the main deck, that provides added protection to vital spaces.
as soon as possible
Directly behind a ship.
Annual Training for a Naval Reservist.
Across; at right angles to.
Naval internal telephone system.
(1) Extra, or secondary, as auxiliary engine; (2) a vessel whose mission is to supply or support the combatant forces.
Stop, as "Avast heaving."
absent without leave
Aye Aye
Reply to a command or order, meaning "I understand and will obey."
Term used to acknowledge receipt of a command or order from senior. It means "I have heard the order; I understand it; I will carry it out. "This affirmative expression is generally supposed to be a corruption of the words Yea, yea. The claim is advanced that Cockney accents changed the Yea to Yi, and from there it was a simple transition to Aye.
See Bearing




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Back And Fill
The act of sailing craft in repeatedly catching and losing the wind from its sails, so as to be unable to make headway.  Extend to cover the "fits and starts" of an indecisive individual.

(1) To go backwards; (2) act of the wind in changing direction counterclockwise.
Piece of standing rigging leading aft.
To back off from something.
Basic Allowance for Housing


(1) To rid a boat of water by dipping it out; (2) a rigid member affording support at two end points, as the bail (handle) of a bucket or the support for an accommodation ladder.
Weight (solid or liquid) loaded into a ship to increase stability.
Basis Allowance for Quarters
A long, narrow shoal across a harbor entrance.

(1) A blunt ended, scow type of craft, usually nonself propelled, used to haul supplies or garbage; (2) a type of motorboat assigned for the personal of a flag officer.
An admiral's boat. 
Small marine animal that attaches itself to hulls and pilings.
Small shellfish that are found attached to bottoms of vessels and to piling and other submerged structures.
A heavily armored cylinder extension downward from a gun turret to the lowest armored deck to provide protection to projectile and powder handling crews.
Basic Allowance for Subsistence
Batten Down

The act of applying battens to a hatch; extended to mean the closing of any watertight fixture.


(1) A long strip of steel that is wedged against the edge of tarpaulins on a hatch to make the hatch watertight; (2) removable wood or steel members used in a ship's holds to keep cargo from shifting.
Battle Latern
A Battery powered light.
(1) The extreme breadth of a vessel; (2) a transverse frame supporting a deck.
Bear A Hand

(1) Provide assistance; (2) expedite, as "Bear a hand with rigging this stage," or "All divisions bear a hand with readiness for sea report."

The act of being located on a particular bearing, as "The lighthouse bears 045 degrees."

The direction of an object from an observer, measuring in degrees clockwise form a reference point.  True bearing is the angular difference between lines drawn from the observer to true north and to the object; magnetic bearing is the direction of the object measured on a magnetic compass; relative bearing is the angle between the ship's head and the object.

(1) Fitting on a block to which the dead end of a fall attached; (2) short form of bucket bend.

(1) To secure a line to a fixed point; (2) order to disregard a previous order or to stop an action, as Belay the last order," or "Belay the small talk."
To cancel an order; stop; firmly secure a line.
Bell-Bottom Trousers

A phrase that described the pants of sailors. Of all the reasons given for the extreme width of sailor's trousers at the bottoms, the obvious and practical one remains the best, they were easy to roll to the knees when the owner was swabbing decks.
Below decks; below main deck.
Downward, beneath, or beyond something, as to lay below; below the flight deck; below the horizon.
To join two lines together; the type of knot so used.
Bachelor Enlisted Quarters
Space assigned ship for anchoring or mooring.
The middle part of a line, or a loop in a line.

This slang term for men in high positions gathers its meaning from the fact that senior officers in the old British Navy actually did wear huge wigs.
Bilge Keel

A keel attached to the outside of a ship's hull, near the turn of the bilge, to reduce rolling.

(1) Bottom of the hull near the keel; (2) to fail an examination; (3) bilge water is foul water, so to apply the term oral or written statements implies that the statement is worthless.
An allotted sleeping space; an individual's position in the ship's organization.
Place or duty to which one is assigned.
Binnacle List
List of persons excused from duty because of illness.
Stand containing a magnetic compass.

Cylindrical upright fixture to which mooring or towing lines are secured aboard ship.
Bitter End
 The free end of a line.
Black Neckerchiefs

Every time an American gob dons his neckerchief, he is unconsciously paying tribute to the death of Lord Horatio Nelson. This however, is only because the American uniform is patterned so closely after the British.
Black Shoe
An officer who is not an aviator; the latter is a brown shoe.
Block And Tackle
See Purchase

A frame containing a pulley, called a sheave, around with a line (known as a fall) is rove.
Navy enlisted member below the grade of CPO.
Bluejacket’s Manual
A manual originally produced in 1902 by Lieut. Ridley McLean, United States Navy to help the guidance and instruction of petty officers and enlisted men. The United States Naval Institute or the US Navy has published it since 1902. Until the 1970’s every edition was published with blue covers.

(1) The act of going aboard a vessel; (2) a group of persons meeting for a specific purpose, as an investigation board.
Boat Boom
A spar rigged out from the side of an anchored or moored ship to which boats are tided when not in use
Boat Falls
Tackle used to hoist and lower a boat in davits.
Boat Hook
A staff having a hook at one end.  Used for feeding a boat off, hooking a line, and so on.
A small craft capable of being carried aboard a ship. Or the common terminology for a submarine.
Pronounced "bosun," refers to the mate, warrant officer, or petty officer in charge of boats, rigging, and ground tackle aboard ship.
Boatswain's Chair
A seat attached to a gantline for hoisting a person aloft.
Boatswain's Locker
A compartment, usually forwarded, where line and other equipment used by the deck force are stowed.
A strong, cylindrical upright fixture on a pier to which a ship's mooring lines are secured.
A spar used for hoisting loads; usually movable.
Slang, any remote or isolated place.
Boot Topping
Black paint applied to a ship's sides along the waterline.
Slang for recruit.
In the 17th century, ships were required by law to carry three boats, which were named respectively (1) the BOAT, (2) the COCK, and (3) the SKIFF. The men in charge were rated BOATSWAIN, COXSWAIN and SKIFFSWAIN. Swain meant lover or keeper.
Bo'sun's Pipe
A whistle used for passing orders on a ship, also called a Boatswain’s Call before the 1900’s.  It can be traced back to the day of the Crusades, 1248 A.D. Don't let a Bo'sun here you call their pipe a whistle!
Bow Hook
Member of a boat's crew whose station is forward.
Most forward part of a ship.
Break Out
To bring out supplies or equipment form a storage space.
Breast Line
Mooring line that leads from ship to pier at right angles to the ship.
Platform or area from which ship is steered, navigated and conned; usually located in forward part of ship.Area in the superstructure from which a ship is operated.  See Conn.
Sailor's universal term for jail. Because Admiral Nelson once assigned a small ship (a brig) to carry captives taken in one of his naval engagements, and because his seamen ever afterwards associated that vessels with prisoners, the name "brig" because sailor's universal slang for Jail.
Broach To
To get crosswise (without power) to the direction of wave travel; particularly dangerous neat a beach.
Broad On The Bow Or Quarter
Halfway between dead ahead and abeam, and halfway between abeam and astern, respectively.
Wide, as broad in the beam.
Large gangplank leading from a ship to a pier, wharf or float; usually equipped with hand rails. Used to cross form one ship to another, and from a ship to a pier.
Bucket Bend
Simple knot used to tie two lines together.
a vertical partition in a ship; never call a wall.
One of the upright, crosswise partitions dividing a ship into compartments. In civilian lingo it would be a wall.
A closed chock at the bow.
Solid barrier along the edge of weather decks.
An anchored float used as an aid to navigation or to mark the location of an object.
Burdened Vessel
That vessel required by the Rules of the Road to keep clear of another.
By The Board




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Living compartment of a ship's commanding officer.
A line, wire, or chain that connects a ship to its anchor.
Casualty Assistance Calls Officer. A Navy liaison that assist family members with the procedures in dealing with a casually.
Gate at the end of a drydock that keeps out the water.
Large timber or rectangular structure used as a fender between a ship and the pier.
Can Buoy
A navigational buoy, cylindrical in shape, that marks the port side of a channel form seaward; painted green and odd numbered.
From Latin caput meaning head. (Until 1862, captain was highest commissioned rank in U.S. Navy.) Rank or commanding officer of a ship or squadron.
Carrick Bend
A knot used for joining two lines.  The single carrick bend is seldom used because it jams tight; instead, a double carrick bend is used, particularly for bending towing hawsers together.
Carry On
While the order "Carry On" now mean only to proceed with any duty, it was originally a specific order not to shorten sail, but to carry on all canvas the ship would stand unless stress of bad weather dictated otherwise.
Carry Out
To break loose. as "The rough seas carried away the lifelines."
Shipboard mechanism for launching aircraft.
The act of stuffing the seams between wooden planking with oakum for water tightness.
Chafing Gear
Material used to protect lines form excessive wear.
Chain Cables
"Old Ironsides" was one of the last American ships to use hemp cables for her anchors. In 1812, chain cables were introduced and quickly demonstrated their superiority over rope.
Chain Locker
Space where anchor chain is stowed.
Area (a platform of large ships where the leadsman stands when taking sounding with the hand lead.
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services. A program for family members which supplements the medical benefits offered at military treatment facilities. Now called Tri-Care.
Nautical counterpart of a road map, showing, land configuration, water, depths, and aids to navigation.
(1) To slow or ease; to check a line is to pay out just enough line to prevent its parting when under a strain; (2) to investigate or examine something.
One of the sides of a block.
Chief of the Boat Equivalent to a CMC, Command Master Chief. The most senior enlisted person on the boat (submarine).


Chief of Naval Information
The name "chit" for a note or voucher, was introduced into our language in the days of the East Indian Company. A number of other Hindustani words were also added to our vocabulary through the medium of this old "Honorable John" line.
Deck fitting through which mooring lines are fed.
A metal casting with two projecting arms to which a line is belayed.
Command Master Chief
A new rating established December 19, 2000 for the Command Master Chiefs.
Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Personnel
Commanding Officer
Bulwark around a hatch opening.
COB Chief of the Boat. The most senior enlisted person assigned to a boat (submarine).


Cost of Living Allowance
Collusion Bulkhead
A bulkhead, stronger than normal, located forward to control flooding in the event of a head on collision.
(1) The national ensign; (2) the ceremony of raising and lowering the ensign.
National ensign; distinguishing flag flown to indicate a ship's nationality. Naval ceremonies are performed when national flag is hoisted at eight o'clock in the morning and hauled down at sunset.
Combantant Ship
A ship whose primary mission is combat.
Title of an officer between a Lt Commander and Captain. The rank of commander was introduced into U.S. Navy in 1838 replacing that of "master commandant." The title was introduced into British Navy by William III, when it was spelled commandeur; later such officer was second in command of large ships.
Grocery store on base where service members and families can purchase food, beverages, etc., at prices usually lower than in civilian stores.
Commission Pennant
A long, narrow starred, and striped pennant flown only aboard a commissioned ship.
To activate a ship or station; written order giving an officer rank and authority.
Commissioning Ceremonies
Ceremonies during which a new ship is placed in service. It is customary to invite friends of officers and others interested to attend the ceremony, along with the sponsor who christened the ship.
The officer rank above a Captain. This title arose from a practiced economy of the old Dutch Admiralty. In her war with England, Holland found herself short of admirals and distressingly short of cash. She solved her difficulty by created a brand new rank of "commodore," which carried with it all the responsibilities of an admiral .. but only HALF his pay. (2) Used as an honorific to any officer commanding a squadron or flotilla of submarines, destroyers or smaller ships
Deck opening giving access to a ladder (includes the ladder).
Interior space (room) of a ship.
Space enclosed by bulkheads, deck and overhead, same as a room in a building.
Complete Deck
Any deck that extends to the length of a ship and from side to side.
Commuted Rations
Station, usually on the bridge, from which a ship is controlled; to the act of so controlling.
The Continental United States. (48 states and the District of Columbia.) Flying in CONUS determines certain limitations to space-available travel on military aircraft.
A ship's desire direction of travel, not to be confused with healing, which is the direction in which the bow is pointed at any given instant.
Military court for trial of serious offenses (summary, special, and general courts-martial).
(1) to protect; (2) a shelter; (3) headgear, and the act of donning same.
Enlisted person in charge of a boat. Or "cockswain" from the combination of  "cock," a small boat, and "swain," a servant.  It originally meant one who had charge of a boat and a crew in the absence of an officer. 
Abbreviation for chief petty officer.
Cracker Jacks
A slang term for an enlisted uniform consisting of a top with a flap that hangs from the back of the neck and trousers that are bell bottomed.
We have the word "crew" from the old Norse "Acrue," meaning to gather; and from the same sources also the word "recruit."
Crossing The Line
this traditional ritual, now introducing the greenhorn to King Neptune in fun and merriment, originally was a very serious procedure among the Vikings, and was practiced with all kinds of severe tests to see if the novice could really stand the hardships of the ocean.
Slang, eagle on petty officer's rating badge.
Crow's Nest
The ship's lookout station was named for the cage which housed the ravens carried by Norsemen at their mastheads. When these sea-warriors lost sight of land, they would release one of the birds, and as it headed for the nearest shore, they would follow its flight. A crude method of navigation, but, within limits, both efficient and practical.
Cup of Joe
Ever wondered where the term "cup of Joe" came from?

The U.S. Navy used to allow alcoholic beverages on U.S. Navy ships. Grog, Ale, and Beer were the supplied in the general mess hall . When Admiral Josephus "Joe" Daniels became Chief of Naval Operations, Lined through text is what was in thye origanl US Navy text - In 1914 Josephus "Joe" Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, outlawed alcohol on board all ships under General Order 99. Coffee quickly replaced the alchol and was served on the ships, hence the term "Cup of Joe."

International seagoing term for petty graft or secret commissions; Chinese alms for a beggar; pidgin English for gift or something thrown in on trade; in Navy parlance, something obtained "for free," or the act of obtaining it.
Chief Warrant Officer




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Darken Ship
To turn off all external lights and close all opening through which lights could be seen from the outside of the ship.
Davey Jones
The keeper of the deep ocean. This name is a corruption of Jonah, the Biblical gentleman who is credited with having supplied Vitamin A to a whale for three days.
Shipboard crane that can be swung out over the side; used for hoisting or lowering boats and weights.
These devices for hoisting boats were named for their inventor, a Welshman named David, and given the Welsh pronunciation of that word, Davit.
Davy Jones
Scribe and emissary of King Neptune.
Dead Ahead
Directly ahead; a relative bearing of 000 degrees.  Dead astern is 180 degrees relative.
Dead Horse
This expression, meaning that one is working at some job for which he has already been paid, dates back to early days, when it was customary to advance a sailor his first month's pay. After the ship had been thirty days at sea, the crew would construct a horse out of a barrel and odd ends of canvas. It would be hoisted over the side and set on fire, and, as it drifted astern, the men would sing the old chantey "Poor Old Horse." This indicated that they would once again be working for wages, and no longer for "Salt Horse" (food).
Dead Reckoning
This navigation term was originally spelled "ded" (the abbreviation for deduced) reckoning. An unscholarly British shipmaster thought the "a" had been omitted, so he inserted it. Ever since then, even the officially printed forms spell it "dead" reckoning.
Deck Seamanship
The upkeep and operation of all deck equipment.
A floor or platform extending from end to end of a ship.
Horizontal planking or plating that divides a ship into layers.
Deep Six
To throw something overboard.
Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System. The DEERS database lists everyone entitled to active duty and retired pay and their dependents.
Family members who meet specific benefits eligibility requirements.
Tactical term used for dispersal of troops; also disposition of ships in battle formations.
This name for a ship's smallest boat, is a contribution to our nautical vocabulary from India. Dinghy means "small," and from this same word, we get also our slang term "Dinky."
The act of lowering a flag part way down the staff as a salute to, or in reply to a salute from, another ship.
Dipping The Flag
Dipping the flag is a survival of a very old custom when merchant ships were required to clew up all their canvas and wait until the adjacent man-o'-war either sent a boat off to inspect their papers or signaled them to proceed. The flag salute was later adopted as a time-saver.
Distance Line
A line stretched between two ships engaged in replenished or transfer operation underway.  The line is marked at 20 foot intervel to aid the conning officer in maintaining station.
Do It Yourself
(1) A main subdivision of a ship's crew (1st, E, G, and so on); (2) an organization composed of two or more ships of the same type.
In the organization of ship or plane groups, the unit between sections and squadrons; in shipboard organization, Sailors and officers grouped together for command purposes, a component group of a department
The term dock is commonly given to any pier or wharf, but, strictly, speaking, it refers only to the space alongside a pier or in dry-dock.
Department of Defense
Department of Defense Dependent Schools
Dog Down
To set the dogs on a watertight door.
Dog Watch
This name for the split watch between the hours of four to six and six to eight p.m., was originally "Dodge Watch," as it allowed seamen to escape (or dodge) standing the same watch every day of the voyage. As time went on, the names gradually corrupted to the present "Dog Watch."
Dog Watches
The 1600 to 1800 to 2000 watches.
(1) A lever, or bolt and thumbscrews, used for securing a watertight door; (2) the act of dividing a 4hour watch into two 2hour watches.
(1) A cluster of piles at the end of a pier; (2) a porpoise.
Double Up
To double mooring lines for extra strength.
The vertical distance from the keel of the waterline.
the speed at which a ship is pushed off course by wind an current.
See Sea Anchor.
A dock from which the water may be removed for the purpose of inspecting or working on a ship's bottom; it may be either floating or built into a shore.
Defense Switched Network; Department of Defense internal telephone system (formerly Autovon).




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End of Active Obligated Service
To relax; to slack.
Ebb, ebb tide, and on the ebb all refer to a falling tide.
Exceptional Family Member
Eight Bells
This measure of time originated in the days when a half-hour glass was used to tell off the four-hour watches. Each time the sand ran out, the ship's boy, whose job it was to reverse the glass, struck a bell to show he was attending to his business. Thus, eight times he turned the glass, and eight times struck the bell.
To go aboard ship preparatory to sailing.
Engine Order Telegraph
Electromechanical device that transmits orders to the engine room concerning desired direction of turn and general speed of the engines.
Enlisted Evaluation
Written report of an enlisted service member's performance of duty.
(1) The national flag; (2) the lowest grade of a commissioned officer.
Lowest ranking commissioned officer. This title dates back to when privileged squires carried the banners of their lords and masters into battle. Later, these squires became known by the name of the banner (the ensign) itself. Though today, we look on ensign as a purely naval rank, as a matter of fact, an ensign was originally the lowest commissioned officer in the Army. (2) In the US Navy it is also the US flag
Estimated Time of Arrival
Estimated Time of Departure
Department store run by the military.
Executive Officer
Executive Officer (XO)
Regardless of rank, the officer second in command of a ship, squadron or shore activity. In early days, such an officer was the first Lieutenant.
The most forward part of the forecastle.




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A device, usually a block, for leading a line around a corner.
Thoroughfare for a ship.
A line, wire, or chain rove on a purchase.
Main deck section in after part of flush-deck ship.
The after end of the main deck.
Family Advocacy Program
In measuring depth of water, six feet. From Anglo-Saxon faehom. Originally distance spanned by man's outstretched arms. (2) This well-known nautical word comes from the old English "FAETM" meaning to embrace. Parliament decided that, since an embrace involved the distance between a man's hands when placed around his sweetheart, and as that distance averaged about six feet, it should be established as a standard measure.
Unit of depth equal to 6 feet.
A cushioning device hung over the side of a ship to prevent contact between ship and a pier or another ship.
A long, tapered, wooden tool used to open the strands of a line for splicing.
Field Day
A day devoted to general cleaning, usually in preparation for an inspection.
Fife Rail
Rail containing belaying pins.
Piping systems to which fire hydrants are connected.
First Watch
The 2000 to 2400 watch.  (also evening watch.)
Fitness Report
Written report of an officer's performance of duty. Includes CPO’s.
Fitness Report
Flag At Half-Mast
Begun in times of mourning in old sailing days, indicated that grief was so great it was impossible to keep things shipshape. Half-masting of colors is the survival of days when slack appearance characterized mourning on shipboard.
Flag Officer
 An officer of the rank of real admiral (lower half) or higher.
Flag Officer
Rear Admiral, Lower Half; Rear Admiral, Upper Half; Vice Admiral, Admiral, and Fleet Admiral are flag officers.
Vertical staff at the stern to which the ensign is hoisted when moored or at anchor.
Flank speed
Certain prescribed speed increase over standard speed; faster than full speed.
Partial deck (often a grating) to provide walk and working surfaces; used extensively in engineering spaces.
An organization of ships, aircrafts, marine forces, and shore based fleet activities, all under one commander, for the purpose of conducting major operations.
Flight Deck
Deck of ship on which planes land and takeoff.
(1) To fill a space with water; (2) a rising tide.
Flying-Fish Sailor
Old Navy slang to differentiate between a seaman on duty in Asiatic waters, and one in a Mediterranean squadron. The later was known as a "Sou'Spainer."
A longevity pay increase. (Pronounced fogee.)
Fore And Aft
The entire length of a ship, as in "Sweep down fore and aft."
Foreword section of the main deck, generally extended from the stem aft to just abaft the anchor windlass.  (Pronounced foksul.)
Forecastle (Fo'c'stle)
Pronounced "focsul." In the days of Columbus, ships were fitted with castle-like structures fore and aft. The structures have disappeared, but the term forecastle remains; refers to upper deck in forward part of ship. Abbreviated fo'c'sle. (2) This name is a relic of the days when huge wooden castles actually were built on the fore and aft ends of ships from which fighting men could throw spears, arrows, stones, etc., onto the decks of an enemy.
First mast aft from the bow.
Forenoon Watch
The 0800 to 1200 watch.
A stay leading forward.
(1) Entangled, as "The lines are foul of each other"; (2) stormy.
Fouled Anchor
It seems strange that the navies of the world should use as an insignia the abomination of all good sailors. Somewhere back in the early days, a draftsman with more artistic ability than technical knowledge produced the well-know design which shows an anchor with its cable hopelessly fouled around the shank and arms. How such a design could win the approval of the Admiralty Board is beyond comprehension, but the fact remains that the sign of the fouled anchor has become an international emblem.
To sink because of being overwhelmed by the sea.
Four O
Top mark; equal to 100%. Navy grades and marks run from 0.0 to 4.0. By common usage, perfect.
Fleet Reserve Association
Ribs of a vessel.
The athwarship strength member of a ship's hull.
Vertical distance from waterline to gunwale.
Slang, member of underwater demolition team (SEALs).
Family Service Center




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A light spar set at an angle formt he upper part of a mast.  the ensign ins usually flown from the gaff when the ship is underway.
Space where food is prepared.  Never called a kitchen.
The most logical explanation for ship's kitchens being called galleys, is the one which maintains the word is a corruption of "gallery." Ancient mariners cooked their simple meals on a brick or stone gallery laid amidships.
See Brow.
(1) The opening in a bulwark or lifeline to provide access to a brow or accommodation ladder; (2) given as an order, it means "Clear the way."
Opening in bulwarks or rail of ship to give entrance. (2) order to stand aside and get out of the way.
Line used for hoisting and lowering a boatswain's chair.
Slang, ice cream soda, malted milk, anything from soda fountain or Geedunk stand.
General Quarters
Battle stations for all hands.
General Quarters
The condition of full readiness for battle.
Gig line
Where the placket of a shirt lines up with the belt buckle.
A captain or commander's personal boat. 
Boat assigned for the commanding officer's personal use.
A longitudinal supporting a deck.
Abbreviation for U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Granny Knot
A bungled square knot.
Groung Tackle
Equipment used in anchoring or mooring with anchors.
Slang, a Marine.
Slang, eager and aggressive beyond normal requirements.
The upper edge of the sides of a ship. Pronounced gunnel.
A line used to steady a spar or boom.




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Half Deck
A partial deck below the main deck.
Half Mast
Flags flown at half-mast for mourning, are a survival of the old custom which decreed that slovenliness was a mark of respect for the dead. Sails and rigging were slacked off, yards cock-billed, flags part lowered etc. In fact, anything to give the ship a dejected appearance.
A light line used to hoist a flag or pennant.
Originally an order to "haul yards," these two words were corrupted into one which now designates any lines used for hoisting sails, flags, etc.
Hand Over
Condition of a rudder that has been turned to the maximum possible rudder angle.
A ship's crew member.
A small portable water pump for general use.
Slowly and carefully.
Hash Mark
Slang, service stripe worn on uniform of enlisted personnel. For Navy personnel each stripe represents four years of service.
A red, blue, or gold diagonal strip across the left sleeve of an enlisted person's jumper; each stripe indicates 4 years' service.
A square or rectangular access in a deck.
Haul Off
The act of a vessel in changing course to keep clear of another vessel.
To pull in or heave on a line by hand.
Opening through which the anchor cable runs from the deck out through the side.
A large rope for mooring, towing or securing a ship. The word "Hawser" is derived from the old English "Halter," meaning a rope for the neck.
Any heavy wire or line for towing or mooring.
Health Benefit Advisors
  (1) The upper end of a lower mast boom; (2) compartment containing toilet facilities; (3) ship's bow.
Place in ship or on shore station which might otherwise be called a rest room, washroom, or toilet.
The direction toward which the ship is pointing at any instant.
Heave Around
(1) The act of hauling in a line, usually by means of a capstan or which; (2) general term for "Get to work."
Heave In
Take in line or cable.
Heave Out And Lash Up
Admonishment given at reveille to persons sleeping in hammocks.  It meant "Get up and lash up your hammocks." Now applied to bunks.
Heave To
The act of a vessel in stopping or reducing headway just enough to maintain steerageway.
To throw.
Heaving Line
A line with a weight at one end, heaved across an intervening space for the purpose of passing over a heavier line.
Mechanical device used to turn the rudder; usually a wheel aboard ship, a lever in boats.
Person who steers the ship by turning the helm.  Also called steerman.
The line stretch between ship underway on which a trolley block travels back and forth for transfer of material and personnel.
(1) Used to bend a line to or around a ring or cylindrical object; (2) common term for an enlistment.
Holding Bulkhead
The innermost of a series of bulkheads that form the tank and voids of the torpedo protection system.
Holiday Routine
A schedule that is followed aboard ship on authorized holidays and Sundays.
Space on a painted surface that the painter neglected to cover.
Ceremonies conducted in honor of a visiting dignitary, usually involving side boys and, occasionally, a band and honor guard.
Familiar terms for the anchor.
(1) One pf the projections on a cleat; (2) one of a pair of protruding timbers attached athwart ships to the underside of stage.
The act of two blocking (pulling up tight) an anchor in its hawse pipe.
Hull Down
Refers to a ships that is so far over the horizon that only its superstructure or top hamper is visible.
The shell, or plating, of a ship from keel to gunwale.
This term, meaning everything is O.K., was coined from a street named Honki-dori in Yokohama. As the inhabitants of this street catered to the pleasure of sailors, one can readily understand why the street's name became synonymous for anything that is enjoyable or satisfactory.



I, J, K

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This traditional name for members of the ship's company who stand no regular watch is a flagrant thrust at the toil-worn members of the medical staff, messmen and others who work on a different schedule.
Toward the centerline.
Inhaul Line
Line used to haul the trolley block back to the delivering ships ship during highline transfers.
A narrow strip of sea extending into the land.
Jack Tar
International nickname for government sailors, because of the custom among old Navy men of giving their work clothes a light coating of tar to waterproof them.
Starred blue flag (representing the union of the ensign) flown at the jackstay of a commissioned ship not underway.
Vertical spar at the stem on which the jack is hoisted.
Any horizontal line or wire (such as sea bags).
Jacob's Ladder
A portable rope or wire ladder.
Judge Advocate General (lawyer)
Bluejacket term for Coffee.  For twenty years before "grog" was legislated out of the Navy, the rum ration was cut back and coffee and tea were supplied as a substitute.  Congress passed a  bill on 23 May 1872 that provided "an additional ration of coffee and sugar to be served at his (the bluejacket's) first turning out."  Not a surprise to most, the United States Navy uses more coffee than any other military organization in the world.
A structure built out from shore to influence water current or to protect a harbor or pier.
Junior Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps
Jolly Roger
Banner showing skull and crossbones, the royal standard of His Imperial Majesty Neptunis Rex.
Jump Ship
The act of deserting a ship.
Jury Rig
Any makeshifts device or apparatus.
Materials used to stuff life jackets and other lifesaving apparatus.
(1) A small anchor; (2) the act of moving a ship by hauling it ahead by heaving in on a line to a laid out kedge.
Keel Block
One of a series of blocks along a dry-dock bed; used to support the keel of a vessel in dry-dock.
The lowermost longitudinal strength members from which the frames and plating rise.
Keel-hauling was a brutal punishment inflicted on seamen guilty of mutiny or some other high crime in the "good old days" of sail. It practically amounted to a death sentence, for the chances of recovery after the ordeal were slight. The culprit was fastened to a line which had been passed beneath the vessel's keel. He was then dragged under the water on the starboard side of the ship, hauled along the barnacle-encrusted bottom and hoisted up and onto the deck on the port side. If the barnacles didn't cut him to pieces, and if he hadn't been drowned in the process of the operations, he was considered to have paid for his crime and was free.
That part of a boat's keel that is inside the boat.
Key Volunteer
The Marine Corps equivalent to a Navy Ombudsman; spouse of a member of the command who is appointed by the commanding officer to serve as official liaison between the command and family members.
King Post
On of a pair short, strong upright when the rudder is amidships; usually distinctively marked, as with a Turk's head.
Kissed By Mother Carey
This is another way of saying, "Once a sailor, always a sailor." It is an old superstition that all boys who go to sea were kissed in their infancy by the sailorman's guardian angel Mata Cara (Mother Carey).
Knock Off
Cease what is being done; stop work.Quit working.
(1) A method of forming an eye in a line, or of typing the line to or around something; (2) a speed term that means nautical miles per hour.

Measure of speed for ships and aircraft, as "the destroyer was making 30 knots," or "the top speed of the plane is 400 knots." To ascertain the speed of his vessel, a British commander had knots tied at regular intervals in a coil of rope. The rope was then tied onto a log and the log heaved overboard. With an hour-glass, he timed each knot as it disappeared over the taffrail thus originating the custom of telling off a ship's speed by knots instead of miles.





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Last modified: June 11, 2005