Royal Navy Glossary
the front of the vessel.
Aft: To the rear of the vessel.
Aloft: High in the masts or rigging.
Amidships: In the middle of the vessel.
Bar: Shallow water in entrance to harbour.
Barque: Three-masted ship.
Beam: Width of ship.
Bear Away: Change direction to sail before
Bilges: Bottom compartment of ship, usually
filled with waste water.
Boarding Nets: Nets strung out from ship's
side to stop boarding.
Bowlines: Ropes attached to sails to pull them
Bowsprit: Spar at the front of a ship.
Box Haul: Sharp turning of a ship.
Brace: Rope used to hold direction of a sail.
Brigantine: Two-masted ship.
Bring To: Slowing a ship so that it almost
stops by heading it into the wind.
Bulkhead: Internal partitions of ships.
Cable: Heavy rope.
Cable (length): 240 yards.
Capstan: Large cylindrical device that sailors
inserted poles into to help haul up cables.
Careen: Lying a ship on its side to allow its
hull to be cleaned.
Caulking: System of using unpicked rope and
pitch to seal gaps in planks.
Close-Hauled: Rigging a ship to sail directly
into the wind.
Cutter: Single-masted small ship.
En Flute: A warship without some, or all, of
Flag Officer: Admiral.
Fore: Front of a ship.
Forecastle: Small deck at front of ship.
Gaff: Yard supporting top of a sail.
Gasket: Platted rope holding sails to yards.
Halyards: Ropes to raise or lower sails.
Haul Off: Move away.
Heave To: Stopping a ship by heading it into
Jib: Triangular sail at prow of ship.
Landsman: Inexperienced sailor.
Lateen sail: A triangular sail.
Leeward: Same direction as the wind.
Log-line: A knotted rope and piece of wood
that measures a ship's speed.
Luff: Turn a ship closer to wind.
Lug sail: A four-sided sail.
Lying To: Position a ship is in after being
Mast: Vertical spar from which sails and spars
Midshipmen: Junior-ranking officers who would
assist in the control of the crew.
Mizzen: Rear of a ship.
Ordinary Seaman: Sailor with limited experience.
Orlop deck: The lowest deck on a vessel.
Packet: Small, fast ship for sending despatches
Petty Officer: Included gunner's mates, quartermasters,
master-at-arms, carpenter, bosun and cooper, the ship's
master, chaplain and surgeon
Pinnace: A ship's boat.
Plying: Turn to windward.
Ratlines: Ropes attached to a ship's shrouds
that are used as ladders.
Reef: Lessen sail area by tying parts of it
to the mast.
Royals: Square sails sitting beneath the topgallants.
Sheets: Ropes attached to bottom corners of
Shrouds: Support ropes attached to the masts.
Square-Rigged: A ship rigged with square sails
at its bow.
Stays: Forwards and backwards support ropes
for the masts.
Tack: Way of a ship zig-zagging into the wind
or turning it by steering to winward.
Top: Platform around the mast.
Topgallant: Highest of the three spars used
to make a mast.
Wear: Turn a ship by moving prow in direction
of the wind.
Windage: How far a ship is blown off course
by the wind.
Yard: Horizontal spar that holds up the sails.
Yardarm: Outer sections of the yard.