of nautical terms
This is a
glossary of nautical terms; some remain current, many date from the
Above board – On or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding
Act of Pardon / Act of Grace – A letter from a state or power
authorising action by a privateer. Also see Letter of Marque.
Abaft – Toward the stern, relative to some object ("abaft the
Abaft the beam – A relative bearing of greater than 90
degrees from the bow. e.g. "two points abaft the port beam."
Abandon Ship – An imperative to leave the vessel immediately,
usually in the face of some imminent danger.
Abeam – 'On the beam', a relative bearing at right angles to
the centerline of the ship's keel.
Abel Brown – A sea song (shanty) about a young sailor trying
to sleep with a maiden. .
Aboard – On or in a vessel. Close aboard means near a ship.
Absentee pennant – Special pennant flown to indicate absence
commanding officer, admiral, his chief of staff, or officer whose flag
is flying (division, squadron, or flotilla commander).
Accommodation ladder – A portable flight of steps down a
Admiral – Senior naval officer of Flag rank. In ascending
of seniority, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, Admiral and Admiral of the
Fleet (Royal Navy). Derivation reputedly Arabic, from "Emir al Bath"
("Ruler of the waters").
Admiralty – A high naval authority in charge of a state's
a major territorial component. In the Royal Navy (UK) the Board of
Admiralty, executing the office of the Lord High Admiral, promulgates
Naval law in the form of Queen's (or King's) Regulations and Admiralty
Admiralty law – Body of law that deals with maritime cases.
administered by the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High
Court of Justice.
Adrift – Afloat and unattached in any way to the shore or
It may also imply that a vessel is not anchored and not under control,
therefore goes where the wind and current take her, (Loose from
moorings, or out of place). Also refers to any gear not fastened down
or put away properly. It can also be used to mean "absent without
Advance note – A note for one month's wages issued to sailors
on their signing a ship's articles.
Aft – Towards the stern (of the vessel)
Afternoon watch – The 1200-1600 watch.
Aground – Resting on or touching the ground or bottom.
Ahead – Forward of the bow.
Ahoy – A cry to draw attention. Term used to hail a boat or a
ship, as "Boat ahoy!"
Aid to Navigation – (ATON) Any device external to a vessel or
aircraft specifically intended to assist navigators in determining
their position or safe course, or to warn them of dangers or
obstructions to navigation.
All hands – Entire ship's company, both officers and enlisted
All night in – Having no night watches.
Aloft – Above the ship's uppermost solid structure; overhead
or high above.
Alongside – By the side of a ship or pier.
Amidships (or midships) – In the middle portion of ship,
along the line of the keel.
Anchor – An object designed to prevent or slow the drift of a
ship, attached to the ship by a line or chain; typically a metal, hook
like, object designed to grip the bottom under the body of water.
Anchorage – A suitable place for a ship to anchor. Area of a
port or harbor.
Anchor's aweigh – Said of an anchor when just clear of the
Anchor ball – Black shape hoisted in forepart of a ship to
show that ship is anchored in a fairway.
Anchor buoy – A small buoy secured by a light line to anchor
to indicate position of anchor on bottom.
Anchor chain or cable – Chain connecting the ship to the
Anchor detail – Group of men who handle ground tackle when
the ship is anchoring or getting underway.
Anchor light – White light displayed by a ship at anchor. Two
such lights are displayed by a ship over 150 feet in length.
Anchor watch – Making sure that the anchor is holding and the
vessel is not drifting. Important during rough weather and at night.
Most marine GPS units have an Anchor Watch alarm capability.
Andrew – Traditional lower-deck slang term for the Royal
Arc of Visibility – The portion of the horizon over which a
lighted aid to navigation is visible from seaward.
Armament – A ship's weapons.
Articles of War – Regulations governing the military and
forces of UK and USA; read to every ship's company on commissioning and
at specified intervals during the commission.
Ashore – On the beach, shore or land.
Astern – Toward the stern; an object or vessel that is abaft
another vessel or object.
Asylum Harbour - A harbour used to provide shelter from a storm.
ASW – Anti-submarine warfare.
Athwart, athwartships – At right angles to the fore and aft
or centerline of a ship
Avast – Stop! Cease or desist from whatever is being done.
Awash – So low in the water that the water is constantly
washing across the surface.
Aweigh – Position of an anchor just clear of the bottom.
Aye, aye – Reply to an order or command to indicate that it,
firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried
out. ("Aye, aye, sir" to officers)
Azimuth compass – An instrument employed for ascertaining
position of the sun with respect to magnetic north. The azimuth of an
object is its bearing from the observer measured as an angle clockwise
from true north.
Azimuth circle – Instrument used to take bearings of