tumblr site counter
The Black Spades Pirate Society
Home TheCrew  PirateHistory HowTo's  Reviews  Image Library Events Spade Store Contact
General History Concerning Titles Famous Pirates Common Ships
Pirate Flags Weapons Other Equipment Ship-to-Ship Warfare
Daily Ship-Life Ranks and Pay Modern Piracy Lexicon




Aback: A vessel that is receiving wind from dead ahead and is being driven backward.

Abaft: To the aft or to the rear of.

Abeam: Meaning "off the beam." or to the direct side of. Alongside.

Able Bodied Seamen (AB):A member of the crew who is able to perform any & all duties required of him.

Aboard: Being on or in a vessel.

Abox: A vessel is said to be rigged abox when the yards are braced in alternating directions.

Abreast: Along side of. Same as Abeam.

Aburton: Barrels that are stowed end to end, athwartship.

Abyss: A very deep area of the ocean. Typically an area over 300 fathoms in depth.

Accommodation Ladder: A moveable ladder used to walk from the vessel to the dock.

Accommodation Space: A space designed to house seamen.

Admiral: The commanding officer of a Navy Fleet.

Adrift: A vessel underway, but drifting without power or steering.

Afloat: Resting on the surface of the water.

Aft: A sailor's term for the rear or back-side of an object (often a vessel)

Against the Sun: A sailor's term meaning counterclockwise.

Aground: When a vessel is touching the bottom, and thus unable to move.

Ahead: Being in front of a vessel, opposite of astern.

Ahoy!: An exclamation used to hail another vessel (or person)

Ahull: The act of being adrift while in a storm.

Alee: Being to the leeward (downwind) side of.

Alidade: A telescope device attached to the top of a compass for sighting celestial bodies.

All Standing: A sailor's term meaning to go to sleep while still wearing all of one's clothing.

Allision:The act of a moving vessel striking a stationary object (ie a pier, or dock)

Aloft: Being above the deck, usually in reference to being in the rigging.

Alongshoremen:Laborers who move cargo from the dock.

Amidships: Being in the center of a vessel.

Anchor: A heavy device used to hold a vessel in place by digging into the sea floor.

Anchorage: A safe place where a vessel may anchor.

Archipelago: A broad expanse of sea containing a group of islands.

Armada: A fleet of ships (typically being Man-of-War).

Armador (Sp.): The Owner, or investor of a maritime voyage.

Articles of Agreement: A contract between a vessel's master and it crew

Ash Breeze: A no-wind condition, requiring sailboats to use oars.

Ashore: Being on the shore.

Assiento (Sp.): A term used for a ship which is transporting slaves.

Astern: Being behind a vessel, opposite of ahead.

Athwartship: Movement from side to side (port to starboard)

Atoll: A ring shaped coral reef with islands enclosed.

Avast: A sailor's term meaning to halt or stop.

Aventurier (Fr.): A general term used for Rovers; Especially those who prey on the Spanish.

Awash: Being at or just above the waterline, so that waves intermittently wash over the top.

Aye: A sailor's term meaning, yes. Often used as "aye aye"

Azimuth: A bearing taken of a celestial body.




Back Shore: That part of the beach which remains dry except at the highest tides.

Backstaff: Used to measure the height of a celestial body. (pre curser to the sextant)

Back Stay: A part of a vessel's rigging which prevents a mast from falling forward.

BaggyWrinkle: A soft covering applied to the rigging to reduce damage to a sail from chafing.

Bail: To remove water from a vessel.

Ballast: Weights carried in the bottom of a vessel used to help with stability.

Bar: A ridge or mound of sand which is raised just below water level, lying just off the beach.

Bare Poled: A sailor's term for a sailing vessel which has removed all of its sails.

Barge: A large, flat bottomed vessel, not rigged to propel itself.

Bark: A general term for single decked ship, with one or two masts, displacing ten to one hundred tons. Typically this type of ship was used as a coastal trader.

Barkentine: A small Bark.

Barometer: A device used to decipher atmospheric pressure, used to predict weather.

Barque (Fr.): A Bark.

Barratry: The willful destruction of a vessel by its own master or crew.

Barrel: A wooden storage device of 42 gallons, used for liquid or fine dry cargos.

Batten: A long thin strip of wood used to help secure cargo.

Batten Down: To make ready for rough seas.

Beachcomber: A derelict seaman found unemployed on the waterfront.

Beached: A vessel that has been driven up onto a beach.

Bear A Hand: A sailor's term meaning to hurry.

Beam: The side of a vessel. Also; the maximum measured width of a vessel.

Bearing: The direction, on the compass, of an object.

Becalmed: Referring to a sailing Vessel that unable to move, due to windless conditions.

Becket: A permanent loop spliced into the end of a line.

Beer Belly: A particularly insulting sailor's term for a Dutchman or Dutch Vessel.

Belay: A sailor's term meaning to cancel or rescind an order. Also, the securing of a line.

Belay Pin: A wooden pin, fitting into a rail, upon which lines are secured.

Below: A sailor's term for the downstairs portion of a vessel.

Bend: A sailor's term for the tying of the end of one line to another.

Berg: A sailor's term for an Iceberg.

Bergy Bit: A sailor's term for a piece of berg which has broken off and free floating.

Bermuda Sloop: A Bermuda built Sloop; know for its speed, it was favored by Rovers.

Berth: An anchorage for a vessel. Also, a sailor's term for a bedroom.

Beset: A vessel at sea which is surrounded by ice.

Bight: A loop twisted in a line.

Bilge: The lowest part of the interior of a vessel, where water collects.

Binnacle: A stand located near the helm in which the compass rests.

Bitt: A pair of heavy metal posts fitted to a vessel's deck, to which the mooring lines are secured.

Bitter End: A sailor's term for the end of a line.

Blackest Day: February 10th. A day commemorating the death of Bartholomew Roberts, and the day in which the Golden Age of Piracy came to an end. Find out more by clicking here.

Block: A sailor's term for a pulley.

Block and Tackle: A system of lines and blocks used to lift a load or control a sail

Blow Him Down: A sailor's term meaning blast the horn at a another vessel.

Blow The Man Down: See Blow Him Down.

Board: To gain access to a vessel.

Boat: A general term used for any small vessel that can be hauled onto a ship.

Boatswain: (bo 'sun) The seaman aboard a ship who oversees maintenance of the rigging and sails.

Boatswain's Call: A small whistle used by the boatswain or his mate; for sending commands to those aloft.

Bollard: A metal post on a pier or dock to which a vessel's mooring lines can be secured.

Boom: A spar extending horizontally, aft from a mast. Used to support the bottom of a sail.

Booter: short for freebooter; meaning a Pirate.

Booty: A sailor's term used to refer to gold, silver or any other treasure.

Boucanier (Fr.): A hunter of pigs and cattle, who smoked the meat and traded it with passing ships.

Bow: The front end of a vessel.

Bower: An anchor which is stored at the bow.

Bowsprit: A spar projected from the bow of a vessel used for carrying sail and rigging.

Brace: A line used to swing a yardarm along a horizontal plane.

Brail: A line used to gather a square sail tight against its yard.

Brander: A Fire Ship; A vessel that has been sacrificially rigged to burn; used as a weapon.

Breaker: A sailor's term for a wave which topples over causing white water.

Breakwater: A man made structure, usually a line of rocks or concrete, which is used to break the force of the sea, thus forming a protected area.

Brig: A two masted vessel featuring a mixed sail rig. The mainmast was square rigged, while the mizzen was gaff or lateen rigged. Also used to mean a ship's prison.

Brigantine: A long hulled, two masted vessel; Usually square rigged, this vessel was originally intended for use by Rovers. Also know as a Corvette.

Bright Work: A sailor's term for brass fittings that are always kept shinny and well polished.

Brow: The portion of the gangway which touches the dock.

Buccaneer: Typically an English Pirate of the West Indies who preyed preyed on the Spanish.

Bulkhead: A sailor's term for a wall.

Bunk: A sailor's term for a bed.

Buoy: A floating marker used to notify seamen of a particular hazard.

Burner: A sailor's term for a Fire Ship.

By the Board: A sailor's term meaning it went overboard.




Cabin: A private room aboard a vessel.

Cable: Being 1/10 of a nautical mile.

Caper: A Dutch sailor's term for a Rover

Canoe: A small boat made from a hollowed tree, propelled with paddles.

Camber: An athwartship curve to a deck, so that the inboard is slightly higher than the outboard.

Capsize: To turn upside down (usually in reference to a vessel)

Capstan: A mechanical device used to raise the anchor or haul in a line.

Captain: The commander of a vessel.

Caravel: A lateen rigged merchant ship commonly found in the Mediterranean.

Cardinal Points: The four main points on a compass: "North, East, South, West"

Careen: The process of beaching a vessel and cleaning its hull of barnacles

Carrack: A Large merchant ship used by the Portuguese, featured a high stern castle

Carpenter: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for repairs to the hull and deck.

Cast Off: A sailor's term meaning to let go. (usually in reference to a line)

Cat Head: A spar projecting horizontally from the bow on which the anchor is rested.

Cat-O'-Nine-Tails: A whip who's end consists of nine separate strands of rope

Celestial Body: Being a planet, moon, or star.

Chain Shot: This modified cannon ammunition consists of two standard round shot linked together by a chain. This was used mainly to damage mast, sails, and other rigging.

Chandler: A person who sells equipment and supplies for vessels

Chart: A sailor's term for a map

Chinsing: The act of inserting oakum between wood planks to ensure watertightness.

Cleat: A piece of deck hardware with two horns, to which a small line can be belayed.

Cockpit: The place on a small vessel from where one would steer.

Colors, Colours : A flag used to identify a vessel's nationality.

Companionway: A ladder way which connects the main deck with the lower decks.

Compass: A magnetic instrument used to determine the direction of north.

Cook: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for preparing meals for all other crewmen.

Cooper: A person who makes and maintains barrels.

Corsair: A Rover from North Africa

Corsario (Sp.): A Corsair

Coxswain: (cox' n) The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for maintaining and operating the ship's boats.

Crew: Those individuals aboard a vessel who are responsible for its operation.

Crusier: A vessel used by a Rover; often referring to a Man-Of-War

Current: The horizontal movement of water.

Cutter: A sailing vessel with a single mast which carries a mainsail and two headsails

Cutlass: A short, broad edged sword favored by pirates for close combat.





Davy Jones' Locker: A sailor's term meaning the bottom of the sea.

Deadeye: A piece of hardware used to secure a vessel's shrouds to the deck.

Deadlight: Thick glass fitted into the deck, to provide light for the internal space below.

Deck: A sailor's term for the floor.

Deep Six: Another sailor's term meaning the bottom of the sea.

Derelict: A vessel or person which has been left abandoned.

Devil's Claw: A heavy iron claw, used to lock the anchor chain in the stowed position.

Dinghy: A small, open vessel, less than 20 feet in length.

Dismantle: To remove a vessel's spars and topmasts. Usually for repair or refurbishment.

Displacement: The total weight (measured in tons) of a vessel, including her contents.

Ditty Bag: A small bag used to carry a sail repair kit and sewing gear.

Dock: A shore side facility used to moor a vessel.

Dockyard: Same as a shipyard: A place where vessels are built or repaired.

Doubloon: A Spanish coin made of gold. Equal to 16 pieces of eight.

Down by the Head: Said of a vessel which is carrying too much weight in the bow & looks as such.

Down by the Stern: Said of a vessel which is carrying too much weight at the stern & looks as such.

Draft: The depth that a vessel extends below the surface of the water.




ecumeur de mer (Fr.): One who skims from the sea; meaning a Pirate.

Ease: To slowly release the tension from a line.

Embark: To go onboard a vessel.

Ensign: A national flag.

Even Keel: Said of a vessel sitting perfectly upright, with no heel or list.




Fanning The Willows: A sailor's term meaning to maneuver a vessel close to the shore or river bank.

Fathom: A unit of measure, exactly six feet, used in the measuring of distances, lengths or depths.

Fender: A device used as cushion and placed between a vessel and the dock or pier.

Fend Off: To push something away from one's vessel. Usually a dock/pier, or other vessel.

Fid: A tapered pin used by sail makers & riggers.

Field Day: A sailor's term meaning a day that is devoted to cleaning the ship.

Fife Rail: A rail secured around the base of a mast to which running rigging can be secured.

Figure Head: An ornately carved (usually female) figure, at the forward most point of a ship.

Filibuster: A French Rover found in the West Indies who typically preyed upon the Spanish.

Fine On The Bow: A sailor's term meaning just to either side of dead ahead.

Fixed Light: A port hole that is not designed to open.

Fleet: A sailor's term for a group of ships sailing together.

Flotsam: A sailor's term for cargo that has been lost from a vessel & is free floating at sea.

Fuke: The part of an anchor which digs into the ocean bottom.

Fog Bound: A sailor's term meaning a vessel that is stuck in a thick fog.

Foremast: The forward most mast, aboard a sailing vessel of two or more masts.

Forward: A sailor's term meaning close to the bow. Often abbreviated as "Fore"

Freebooter: A Pirate, one who fights for booty

Furl: To lower and secure a sail. Opposite of unfurl or set.




Gaff: A spar extending aft from the mast, used to support the top of a sail.

Galley: A sailor's term for the kitchen.

Gallows: A wooden structure used to hang criminals.

Gangway:A temporary ladder or walkway used to board a vessel from the pier or dock.

Gentleman of Fortune: A term for a pirate (or Highwayman); especially a pretentious one.

Gibbet: A wooden structure used to display the bodies of hanged criminals

Grommet: a ship's boy; a boy who was a 'seaman-in-training; also serves as a Powder Monkey

Gunner: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for maintaining the cannons, guns, and other arms.




Hail: To address or call out to another vessel.

Halyard: A line on a ship used to raise and lower sail.

Hand: A general term for any member of the crew.

Hard Tack: This is a hard, dry cracker/biscuit, a common provision aboard a ship.

Hatch: A sliding or hinged opening in the deck, providing access to the space below.

Haul: A sailor's term meaning to pull on a line.

Head: A sailor's term for the bathroom.

Headsail: A triangular sail carried forward of the mast.

Helm: The location of the steering component (ie. a wheel or tiller) aboard a vessel.

Hoist: Raising a piece of equipment or cargo by hauling a line.

Holy Stone: A large flat stone used to clean and whiten a vessel's wooden deck.

Hull: The body of a vessel.




Idler: A sailor's term for a member of the ship's crew who does not stand night watches.

Interloper: A person, or vessel, who illegally trades where trade is restricted.




More to come...




Keel: The bottom of a vessel's hull

Ketch: A ship with two masts: a main mast, and a mizzen. With the main main mast being taller than the mizzen.




Ladrones (Sp.): Thieves. A general term referring to a Rover; Especially one who attacks the Spanish

Landlubber: A person who is not accustomed to life onboard a ship, or at sea.

Landsman: A person who is not a mariner or seaman; A Lubber

Leeward(Lu-ward): Downwind.

League: A unit of measure, that is roughly 12 nautical miles. The normal visible distance to the horizon

Lexicon: Being the language, vocabulary, and manner of speaking.

Lieutenant: The Captain's Assistant aboard a Navy ship.

Line: The sailor's term for a rope.

'Lubber: Short for Landlubber. A person who is not accustomed to life onboard a ship, or at sea.




Main Deck: The longest continuous deck on a vessel.

Mainmast: The mast located closest to the center of the ship; usually the largest.

Marlinspike: A pointed metal tool used in working with line.

Maroon: To leave a person upon an isolated shore (either deliberately or by accident)

Mast: A vertical Spar used the main support for a sailing vessel's rigging.

Master: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for Navigation

Mate: An assistant to the Master, or other Petty Officers

Matelot (Fr.): A Sailor

Mess: A sailor's term the dining area of a vessel.

Midshipman: An officer-in-training aboard a Navy Ship

Mizzen: The aft most mast aboard a sailing vessel of two or more masts.

Moored: A ship being held in position by more than one anchor, or line is moored.




Nautical: A general term for anything relating to vessels, or work at sea.

New Turk: An Anglo-American Pirate




Outlyer: An outlaw; one who has avoided punishment for the crimes they have committed.

Overtaking: Passing by going faster than another (usually a vessel)

Owner's Agent: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for acting on behalf of the Vessel's Owner (also: Armador)




Petty Officer: A person on a ship who hold a rank based on a specialized skill: Boatswain, Captain, Carpenter, Cook, Coxswain, Grommet, Gunner, Lieutenant, Master, Quartermaster, Surgeon, Younker

Picaroon: A Rascal; or a Rover.

Pieces Of Eight: A Spanish coin made of silver. Worth eight reales.

Pilot: A navigator with specific local knowledge, Aboard a Rover this was often a prisoner.

Pirata (Fr.): French for Pirate

Pirate: One who steals, robs, plunders, or preys upon others from the sea.

Pirateer: A Pirate

Plunder: Treasure or other booty taken as a prize

Port: Being the left side of a vessel (when looking forward)

Port Hole: A circular window with hinges, that can be opened to provide light and ventilation.

Private: A Privateer

Privateer: A person who is authorized by the Government to attack and plunder others at sea; A Government sanctioned Pirate; Also a term for a vessel used for this purpose.

Purser: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for handling the provisions.




Quarterdeck :The name of the upper deck on a ship which is reserved for the officers.

Quartermaster: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for overseeing the crew; this seaman maintains order onboard and oversees discipline.




Raffine (Fr.): A person who duels for no reason

Rig(Rigging): This includes a ship's mast and the lines and cables used to support it.

Rover: Short for Sea Rover; A general term which encompasses both Pirates and Privateer; Anyone who operates a vessel in order prey on another.

Renegade: A traitor; One who deserts one side and actively serves against it.

Rouge: A scoundrel; also a general term for a Pirate.

Rudder: The mechanical arm, extending off the transom, which causes a vessel to turn.

Ryder: A person aboard a vessel who is not a part of the crew, and does not contribute to its operation.




Sail: A tightly woven piece of fabric which is used to propel a vessel by utilizing the wind.

Sail maker: A person who sews and mends sails.

Sailor's Term: A slang word, or phrase, used by seaman.

Seaman: A general term used to refer to a man who works at sea, in any capacity.

Sea Dog: A slang term for a Rover

Sea Rover: A general term which encompasses both Pirates and Privateer; Anyone who operates a vessel in order prey on another.

Seeker: One who seeks prey at sea; a Rover

Secure: To put away and store safely.

Ship: A vessel large enough to haul a boat upon its deck

Shroud: A part of a ship's rigging which runs transversely and supports the mast port and starboard

Stay: A part of a ship's rigging that runs fore-and-aft and supports the mast front and back.

Stow: A sailor's term meaning, to put away or secure.

Smuggler: A person or ship carrying illegal goods. (usually by night or other cover)

Spar: A pole use in the rigging for the support of sails.

Starboard: Being the right side of a vessel (when looking forward)

Stern: The rear most section of a vessel.

Surgeon: The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for the doctoring and mending fellow crew.

Swashbuckler: A swordsman; characterized by swaggering stance and boastful manner.

Sextant: A device used to measure the height of stars, and thus provide seamen with a means of navigation on the open sea.




Tack: To change direction by steering a vessel through the wind.

Tide: The change in height of water. Caused by the earth's rotation and the position of the moon.

Trader by Stealth: A Smuggler

Transverse: Arranged along the port and starboard axis. (90 degrees from fore-and-aft)

Transom: The flat surface on the stern of a vessel.




More to come...




Vessel: A general term referring to any type of floating body that can carry a person aboard.

Vryjbuiter (Dutch): A Freebooter; meaning free-booty




Waggoner: A book of charts.




More to come...




Yard: A horizontal spar from which a square sail is supported.

Yard Arm: The outboard portion of a yard

Younker:The seaman aboard a ship who is responsible for setting and furling sails aloft.




More to come...





www.piratespades.org; ©201
6 The Black Spades Pirate Society; all rights reserved

| Terms or Use| Privacy Statement | Copyright and Trademark Notice | Maintenance Records |