This glossary lists many of the specialized words used aboard Navy ships. It includes technical terms and nautical slang, plus everyday words with shipboard origins. The words were compiled from online sources, from publications such as The Bluejacket's Manual,
and from contributions of many individuals. You can go quickly to any letter by clicking it in the alphabet at the top of the page.
The section for each letter is headed by the letter's international phonetic form, followed by its international signal flag, its U.S. Navy semaphore representation, and its representation in Morse code. The letter's pre-1957 phonetic form is shown at the end of the line. Click Here
to see an overview of all these naval alphabets.
Please help us improve this list of Navy words; we want it to be the best such list in the world. Click Here
to submit your additions and corrections. (Don't worry if you don't have a good definition—tell us the term and its meaning in your own words, and we will do the rest.) We are particularly looking for slang and other terms that wouldn't necessarily be found in official publications.
WARNING! Seafaring men have long had a colorful or "salty" manner of speech, filled with sexual, excretory, and other "purple" words not used in polite society. That may be changing in these politically correct times, but to Bowdlerize the language used here would be to deny its rich history. The traditions and origins of "swearing like a sailor" remain. While we have attempted to present things with a bit of humor, if you are easily offended this listing may not be for you. You have been warned.
To help you avoid the saltiest, most purple words, (or to help you find them more easily), they are shown below like this.
01 level -
the deck above the main deck
. The next higher decks are the 02 level, the 03 level, and so on. Though these are formally called decks, they are usually referred to as levels, since they are not usually complete decks that run from stem
and all the way athwartships
the basic public address system on a ship. Reaches all spaces, and is used for general announcements and to transmit general alarm system signals. Control stations are located on the bridge and quarterdeck, and at the central station. Other transmitters may be installed at additional points.
4.0 - a perfect score; used on written tests, examinations, inspections, etc. Pronounced "four-oh."
10% - the number who never get the word. See pass the word.
a three-day liberty, such as over a holiday weekend; named for the number of hours in three days. It is unusual for 72's to be granted, because a man usually has the duty every third day, and cannot be on liberty at that time.
90-day wonder -
derisive term for a graduate of OCS
. The derision arises from the lack of experience and naval knowledge of the typical graduate. Sometimes seen as 90-day blunder.
farther aft of a given point on a ship, as in "abaft the beam," which is said of something which bears between the beam
and the stern
, or is further back than the ship's middle.
ABC warfare - Atomic/Biological/Chemical Warfare. In different eras, has been known as NBC warfare (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical) and CBR warfare (Chemical/ Biological/ Radiological).
Abandon ship - get away from the ship, as in an emergency.
Abeam - at right angles to the centerline of, and outside of, the ship. An object that is abeam of your ship is directly off to its side.
Aboard - on or in a ship or naval station.
Abreast - abeam of; directly alongside.
Accommodation ladder - a portable flight of steps down a ship's side, used to get from the deck to the pier, wharf, or water level.
Acey-deucey - a board game traditionally played in off-duty hours; the game is a variety of backgammon.
Acey-Deucey Club - a social club for First- and Second-Class Petty Officers.
not secured; scattered about; not properly stowed, or out of place. Gear adrift
refers to miscellaneous articles scattered about.
Advance and Transfer -
two separate terms involving a ship's turn. Advance is the forward progress made between the time that the rudder is put over and the time the ship is steady on her new course. Transfer is the horizontal displacement of the ship during the same period of time. Advance is maximized in a turn of 90º or more; transfer is maximized in a turn of 180º or more.
Affirmative - Navy term for "yes." The opposite is negative.
Aft - in, near, or toward the stern; not as specific as abaft. Opposite of forward.
After - refers to something aft, particularly when it is the furthest aft thing of its kind. On land, the back room is a room far at the back of the house. Aboard ship, an after compartment is a compartment far toward the stern.
Afternoon watch - the 1200-1600 watch.
Aground - resting on or touching the bottom. If his ship goes aground and is not an amphibious ship designed to do so, it is very bad news for the Captain.
Ahoy - term used to hail a boat or a ship, as in "Boat ahoy!"
Air bedding - an evolution where all hands bring their mattresses, pillows, etc. topside to expose them to the purifying effects of the air.
Airdale, airedale -
naval aviator, aka brownshoe
. Can also refer to any member of the aviation community, officer or enlisted. Often modified by non-aviation types with the universal adjective
A. J. Squared-Away - mythical sailor who always has his act together.
Alee - to the leeward side; downwind.
Alfa Mike Foxtrot - see AMF, below.
All hands - the entire ship's company, both officers and enlisted. As in "all hands man your battle stations," etc.
All night in - having no night watches, and therefore able to sleep all night.
Allotment - assignment of a man's pay directly to a person, bank, or other agency. Paid by check, and used to assure payment, no matter where the man may be on payday; commonly used to provide for one's family, to make payments on a debt, etc.
All stop - an order to the engine room to bring all engines, (even if there is only one), to a condition where they are not driving the ship ahead or astern.
Aloft - above the ship's uppermost solid structure; overhead or high above, often on a mast.
Alongside - by the side of the ship or a shore structure.
AMF - acronym for "Adios, Motherfucker," a common farewell phrase. The polite form, "Adios, My Friend," is seldom used among seafarers.
Amidships - in or towards the middle of a ship in regard to length or breadth; rudder amidships means that the rudder is in its center position, aligned with the ship's centerline.
Anchor - a heavy iron device which is attached to a ship by a cable (rope or, usually, chain), and which, being cast overboard, lays hold of the earth by a fluke or hook and thus retains the ship in a particular station.
Anchorage - suitable place for the ship to anchor. Area of a port or harbor set aside for such a purpose.
Anchor ball - black shape hoisted in the forepart of a ship to show that the ship is anchored.
Anchor buoy - small buoy secured by a light line to the anchor, to indicate its position on the bottom.
Anchor cable - chain, wire, or line running between the anchor and the ship.
Anchor detail - the group of men assigned to handle ground tackle when the ship is anchoring or getting underway.
Anchor lights - the riding lights required to be carried by vessels at anchor.
Anchor man - the lowest-graded man in a Naval Academy graduating class, or in any Navy training class.
Anchor pool - the betting pool on the hour and minute the ship will drop anchor or tie up.
Anchor's aweigh - when a ship raises anchor, the anchor is said to be aweigh as soon as it is no longer in contact with the sea bottom. In the process of weighing anchor, the sequence of reports is usually as follows:
"Anchor's at short stay" - The ship has been pulled up to the anchor, but the anchor is still lying on the bottom, undisturbed.
"Anchor's up and down" - The anchor's flukes have broken free of the bottom, and the shank is more or less vertical. The crown of the anchor is still resting on the bottom.
"Anchor's aweigh" - The anchor has left the bottom. At this point the ship is underway, whether or not it is moving through the water under its own power.
Anchor watch - detail of men standing by as a readiness precaution while the ship is at anchor or in port.
Anemometer - instrument to measure wind velocity.
Antifouling paint - composition applied to reduce marine growths on a ship's bottom.
APC - aspirin-like headache remedy, no longer in use. Familiarly called "All Purpose Capsules," they took their name from their ingredients: aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine.
Armament - the weapons of a ship or aircraft.
ASAP - As Soon As Possible. Usually spoken as a word, "A-sap," with the first "A" accented and given the long sound.
Ashore - on the beach or shore.
Astern - behind, or toward the stern; said of an object or vessel that is abaft another vessel or object.
Athwart or athwartships -
across; at right angles to the fore and aft centerline of the ship or other object.
Augment - to transfer from the Naval Reserve to the regular Navy. "LTJG Savio wanted to make the Navy his career, so he put in his papers to augment."
Auxiliary - an assisting machine (such as an air conditioner) or vessel (such as an ammunition ship).
Avast - a command to cease or desist from whatever is being done. "Avast heaving on that line, Berninger."
Awash - so low in the water that water is constantly washing across the surface.
Away all Boats - the command to launch all an amphibious ship's boats. Also the title of a famous book and movie about amphibious operations.
Aweigh - see anchor's aweigh, above.
Absent WithOut Leave; an offense under Article 86 of the UCMJ
. It is pronounced "A-woll," with the "A" being long and accented.
AWOL bag - small canvas or vinyl bag used to carry clothing or personal items while on weekend liberty.
Aye, aye - reply to an order or command, indicating that it is understood and will be carried out.
Azimuth - the bearing of an object from the observer, measured as an angle clockwise from true north or the heading of the ship.
Back Alley - a card game often played aboard ship.
Backing - operating the ship's engine(s) so that they tend to drive the ship astern. Used primarily in slowing or stopping a ship, and occasionally to make it go backwards.
Backing down - same as backing, above.
Bad shit - a situation, or a collection of material, etc. that is especially not good. "Bringing drugs aboard can lead to some very bad shit."
Bag - to get, or collect. "I'm going to go below and bag some Z's." Also to abandon, or leave. "Let's bag this gin mill and get back to the ship."
Ballast - heavy weights packed in the bottom of a ship to give her stability.
Ballast tanks - double bottoms for carrying water ballast and capable of being flooded or pumped out at will.
Balls to the wall - maximum speed, or maximum effort.
Bandit - air contact positively identified as hostile. A bogey is an unidentified air contact.
Barge - any boat reserved for use by an Admiral. Also an unpowered flat-bottomed craft used to haul material.
Barnacles - small shellfish that attach themselves to submerged structures, including a vessel's undersides.
Batten down - to cover and make fast, secure, or shut; usually said of a watertight fixture or structure. Originally, deck hatches did not have hinged, attached covers. Hatch covers were separate pieces which were laid over the hatch opening, then made fast with battens (pieces of timber).
Battle cover - the steel cover for a port or deadlight.
Battle lantern - A rugged battery-powered lantern for emergency use.
Battle lights - dim red lights that furnish sufficient light for personnel during darken ship.
Beach - ashore, or to be put ashore. "The Navigator ran us aground and they beached him."
Beach Jumper -
member of an extremely secret Naval Special Warfare
unit, founded in WWII by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and disbanded in the 1970s. At least they say
Beachmaster - the officer in charge of the beach in an amphibious landing. He and his beach party control everything between the surf and the high water line, and are responsible for the proper handling of all men and cargo as they come ashore from the sea.
the greatest athwartships width of a vessel, usually found about halfway between the bow and the stern. Also, an object directly to port (or starboard) is said to bear on the port (or starboard) beam.
Bear a hand - speed up the action; lend a helping hand. "Now bear a hand in rigging the ship for heavy weather."
the direction of an object, expressed in degrees clockwise from zero, either as relative
bearing. Relative bearings are measured from the bow of the ship; true bearings are measured from true north.
Beef boat - a supply ship or cargo ship.
Beer muster - slang for a beer party ashore.
Before the mast - from the days of sail; literally, the position of the crew whose living quarters on board were in the forecastle (the section of a ship forward of the foremast). The term is also used more generally to describe seamen as compared with officers, in phrases such as "he sailed before the mast."
Belay - to stop. "Belay the chatter on the bridge." Also, an instruction to disregard a request or an order, as in "belay my request for overnight liberty." Finally, to secure a line to a fixed point.
Belaying pin - a wooden or iron pin fitting into a rail upon which to secure lines.
bells are traditionally rung every half hour during a watch. One bell is rung after the first half hour, two after the first hour, and so on to eight bells,
rung at the end of the four-hour watch. Bells are rung in sequenced pairs, so five bells would be sounded ding-ding, ding-ding, ding.
Below - within the ship, but beneath the main deck. To go below is to go below decks.
Below decks - any place below the main deck.
Benny - a treat or reward, derived from benefit.
Benny Sugg - a Beneficial Suggestion program where personnel were rewarded for making suggestions to improve some aspect of military life, usually living conditions.
BEQ - Bachelor Enlisted Quarters; apartments and barracks ashore, reserved for enlisted personnel without families.
Berth - space assigned a vessel for anchoring or mooring. Also, a man's bunk.
Bight - a loop in or a slack part of a line. Also a curve or bend in a shoreline, or a small body of water formed by same.
Bilge - the area below the deck gratings in the lowest spaces of the ship, where things, especially liquids, tend to collect. Also, to fail an examination. "Johnson bilged his test for Machinist's Mate Third Class."
Bilge rat -
someone who works in the engineering spaces; a snipe
Bilge wine - homemade wine, made in the engineering spaces and hidden in the bilges.
Billet - a specific position in the ship's organization. For example, First Division Officer, Captain's yeoman, etc. Also, the position to which one is assigned. "Mr. Sander's billet was Electronics Material Officer."
a large stand used to house a magnetic compass and its fittings; typically found next to or in front of the ship's wheel.
Binnacle list - sick list; a listing of the names of the men currently in sick bay and unable to perform their duties due to sickness or injury. This list was originally to be found attached to the binnacle.
an amplified intercom, such as the 1MC
, used to communicate between spaces of the ship.
Bitter end - the free or loose end of a line. Originally, the bitter end of a mooring line was taken to the bitts to secure it.
Bitts - mooring fixtures on the deck of a ship. Their counterparts ashore are bollards.
Black-Hand Gang - the engine room and fire room crew. Older (ca. WW II), less politically-correct form is Black Gang. Originally, it referred to the appearance of men who had been handling or working around coal. During WWII, members of the Black Gang were issued black hats instead of white ones, and were therefore sometimes called black hats.
Blackshoe - member of the surface or submarine community. Until recently, the only approved footwear for these communities was black in color. More recently, brown footwear is optional, but seldom seen due to tradition. A brownshoe is a member of the Naval aviation community, where brown shoes have been worn for many years.
Blivet - traditionally, "ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag." Technically, a rubber fuel bladder.
Block - an apparatus consisting of an outside shell and a sheave or pulley through which a line may be passed.
Blow tubes - in ships with oil-fired boilers, an operation performed several times daily to clean the soot from tubes internal to the boiler. The operation generates significant amounts of soot and smelly gases, and often requires the ship to sail abreast of the wind, so these will not foul the weather decks.
a Navy enlisted man below the grade of Chief Petty Officer; bluejackets are the typical "sailor," wearing the traditional sailor's uniform, with white hat, blue or white jumper, black silk neckerchief, and (sometimes) bell-bottom trousers.
Blue Nose - one who has sailed above the Arctic Circle.
Blue water - literally, deep water, but more traditionally, away from land. The opposite of brown water. A blue water navy is capable of prosecuting battle away from shore-based support in vessels of sufficient size and endurance to do so safely.
BMOW - Boatswain's Mate Of the Watch.
Board - To go aboard a vessel. Also, a group of persons meeting for a specific purpose, such as an investigation board.
Boat - any small vessel incapable of making regular independent voyages on the high seas; the traditional differentiator is that "ships carry boats." Also, a submarine of any size.
Boat boom - a boom to which boats secure; it is swung out from the side when the ship is anchored or moored.
Boat hook - long pole with a hook and pushpoint on one end. The bow hook and stern hook use them to position boats into place while alongside a ship or pier.
Boats - nickname for a Boatswain's Mate.
Boatswain - a warrant officer or limited duty officer in charge of all deck work.
Boatswain's chair -
a simple seat that can be lowered over the side to hold a man while painting. Also a more complicated chair into which a man can be strapped; used to highline
personnel from ship to ship.
Boatswain's locker - a compartment, usually forward on the main deck, where line and other equipment used by the deck force is stowed.
Boatswain's Mate - enlisted rating having primarily to do with deck work.
Boatswain's pipe -
small metal whistle with a characteristic sound, used to signal the announcement of important messages, or for ceremonial purposes. In the days of sail, orders to the deck crew were given by various calls on the boatswain's pipe.
Boatswain's whistle - same as boatswain's pipe, above.
Bogey - unidentified air contact. May turn out to be friendly, neutral, or hostile. A hostile bogey becomes a bandit.
Bollard - squat cylindrical fixture attached to a pier. Used to secure lines, such as mooring lines.
Boom - projecting pole or spar that provides an outreach for handling cargo, mooring boats, etc.
Boondoggle - travel which is more fun than functional; applies to many military schools.
Boot - rookie or newbie; usually applied to enlisted men, but often heard as boot Ensign. Originated in the habit of referring to a new man as 'bootcamp,' rather than by name.
Boot camp - training camp for new enlistees. During the Spanish-American War, sailors wore leggings called boots, which came to mean a Navy (or Marine) recruit. These recruits trained in "boot" camps.
Boot topping - black paint used at the waterline of many warships; separates the hull paint from the anti-fouling underwater paint.
BOQ - Bachelor Officer Quarters; apartments and other living spaces ashore, reserved for officers without families.
Boresight - a rough method of aligning guns to a sighting system.
Bosun - phonetic spelling of boatswain; also spelled bos'n.
Bow - the forward section of a vessel. Off the bow refers to the position of an object somewhat off the heading of the ship, usually within 45º of dead ahead.
Bower anchor - either of the two anchors usually carried at the ship's bow. Most ships anchor by using one of the bowers.
Bow hook - boat crew member who tends to the lines in the forward part of the boat.
Box the compass - to name all the points of the compass. Also, to face successively in all directions, as when a ship loses steerage and drifts aimlessly.
Boyson - a young striker or apprentice; usually used by an older and more experienced salt.
Boys' town - large stateroom with bunks for six or more of the most junior officers. Sometimes called an "ensign locker."
Bracket - in shipboard gunnery, a bracket results when one salvo lands to the left of the target and the next lands to the right. Adjustments in deflection usually result in a hit soon after.
Bracket and halving - a method of correcting the aim of shipboard gunnery. For example, say a salvo falls left of the target; a spot (an aim correction) is made using right deflection, and the next salvo falls to the right of the target. Another spot is applied back to the left, half the amount of the previous correction. In this way, the fall of shot is walked onto the target.
Brass - officers, especially senior officers. Also, shell casings from small arms or larger guns whose shells have metal casings.
Brasso - commercial product used for polishing bells, belt buckles and anything else made of brass; extremely effective, but more than a little messy.
Bravo Zulu -
phonetic pronunciation of 'BZ' from the NATO signals codes. Another way of saying well done
Break out - to unstow or prepare for use. "Break out your rain gear, for there's heavy weather ahead!"
Breast line - mooring line that runs at right angles to the ship and is used to keep the ship from moving laterally away from whatever it is moored to.
Bridge - the raised deck from which the ship is steered, navigated, and conned; usually located in the forward part of the superstructure, and consists of the wheelhouse or pilot house and port and starboard bridge wings.
Brig - A jail or jail cell on a ship or naval shore base.
Brightwork - metal work, usually brass, that is kept polished rather than painted.
Broach - to be thrown broadside into the surf. Broaching is a serious problem with landing craft, and is greatly to be avoided.
Broad on the (starboard or port) beam - bearing 090º or 270º relative to the bow of the ship.
Broad on the (starboard or port) bow - bearing 045º or 315º relative to the bow of the ship.
Broad on the (starboard or port) quarter - bearing 135º or 225º relative to the bow of the ship.
Broadside - simultaneous firing of all main battery guns on one side of a warship.
Brow - the proper term for what is often called the gangway, the temporary bridge connecting the ship's quarterdeck to the pier, wharf, or float; usually equipped with rollers on the bottom and handrails on the sides.
Brown-bagger - married member of the crew. Aka khaki sacker. So called because of his presumed activity of bringing his lunch from home, carried in a brown paper bag.
Brownshoe - member of the Naval air forces, as opposed to blackshoe, or member of the surface or submarine forces.
Brown water - shallow water or shallow draft, especially a ship or navy whose ships are not suited to deep (or open) water and deep-water combat.
Brown water ops - Naval operations in shallow water, typically 100 fathoms or less.
Bubblehead - a submarine sailor.
Buck - an arbitrary object on the wardroom dining table, determining at which place food is first served. The buck moves from place to place between meals, to insure that every officer has a chance to be served first. Said to be involved in the expressions "pass the buck" and "the buck stops here."
Bug juice -
Food term: substance similar in appearance to Kool-Aid which is served as a beverage aboard USN ships; its color has no bearing on its flavor. Largely composed of ascorbic acid. Used extensively as an all-purpose cleaner/stripper for bulkheads, decks, brass fire nozzles, and pipes.
Bulkhead - vertical structure enclosing a compartment; equivalent to a wall ashore, but never called a wall.
Bulkheading - loudly criticizing a fellow officer.
Bull Ensign - the senior ensign aboard.
Bullnose - a chock placed right over the stem, in the eyes of the ship.
Bullshit - idle chatter, frequently untruthful.
Bullshit artist - a glib person, or one who lies convincingly.
Bullshitting - lying or exaggerating, usually without sinister purpose.
Bulwark - raised plating running along the side of a vessel above the weather deck; helps keep decks dry and prevents men and gear from being swept overboard.
Bumboat - supply boat, usually of an unofficial nature; often operated by purveyors of curios, souvenirs, etc.
Bum skinny - bad information. (Skinny is information.) "Rogers gave us bum skinny about liberty being good in Izmir."
Bunk - built-in bed aboard ship. Also called a berth or rack.
Bunker - compartment for the storage of oil or other fuel.
Buoy - floating marker anchored to the bottom, which by its shape and color conveys navigational information; may be lighted or unlighted, silent or with a bell or whistle.
Burn bag -
cloth or paper bag containing classified matter
that is soon to be destroyed by burning.
Busted - said of an enlisted man who is reduced in rate, usually due to some offense. Also seen as broke or broken. "That affair in the captain's cabin got Chief Clinton busted all the way back to Second Class. He was lucky he didn't get brig time."
Butter bar - Ensign/Second Lieutenant (O-1 paygrade), so called for the gold bar collar device.
Butt kit - an ashtray, especially a can-shaped one mounted on a bulkhead. Sometimes called a spit kit.
By and large - colloquial term meaning 'for the most part.' Origin of the term seems to be that a ship was considered particularly seaworthy if it could sail both by (close to the wind) and large (before the wind).
By the board - overboard; over the side.
Cabin - the Captain's living quarters.
Camel - large float used for keeping a vessel away from the wharf, pier, or quay. A camel is in the water, while a fender is suspended above the water.
short for tincan
; a destroyer. Also a can-shaped buoy that marks the left side of the channel when entering port from seaward.
Candy ass - one who doesn't do his share of the work. Marines embarked aboard ship, usually with no nautical duties when underway, are often called candy ass Marines.
Cap stretcher - mechanical device used to shape the cover of an officer's or CPO's distinctive cap.
Capstan - the vertical barrel device used to heave in cable or lines; usually used in connection with the anchor.
Captain - the master or commanding officer of the ship.
Captain of the head - the person responsible for a head cleaning detail; a bathroom cleaner.
Captain's Mast -
non-judicial disciplinary procedure, usually meted out by unit commanders for minor offenses such as fighting. Also known simply as mast.
Cardinal points -the four principal points of the compass: North, East, South, and West.
Cargo net - heavy, square net made of rope used for slinging cargo. When Marines are debarking into boats, cargo nets are placed over the side and the Marines climb down them.
Carry away - to break loose, as in "the rough seas carried away the lifelines."
Carry on - an order to resume work or duties.
Cast loose - to let go a line or lines; also cast off.
CBR warfare - Chemical/Biological/Radiological (nuclear) warfare. In different eras has been known as ABC warfare (Atomic/Biological/Chemical) and NBC warfare (Nuclear/ Biological/ Chemical).
Celestial navigation - navigation with the aid of celestial bodies. Commonly uses a sextant and Nautical Almanac. Seldom used in the Navy now.
Chafing gear - guard of canvas or rope around spars, hawsers, chocks or rigging, used to protect lines from excessive wear.
Chain of command - the succession of commanding officers through which command is exercised from superior to subordinate, and through which requests are forwarded from subordinate to superior.
Chain locker - the compartment in the bow, below the anchor windlass, where the anchor chain is stowed when not paid out.
Channel fever - anxiety to get home, or reach port.
Charlie Noble - the galley smokestack. The most popular version of the term's origin is that Charlie Noble was an Admiral who insisted that the brass or copper galley smokestack be polished for inspections.
Charm school - training program attended by enlisted men about to be commissioned as officers.
Chart - the nautical equivalent of a road map, showing land configuration, water depths, and aids to navigation. Never referred to as a map.
Charthouse or chartroom - compartment on or near the bridge for handling and stowage of navigational equipment.
Chief - see Chief Petty Officer, below.
Chief Master at Arms - the enlisted man officially designated to keep order on the mess decks and elsewhere aboard the ship. More or less the ship's sheriff and chief of police.
Chief Petty Officer -
an enlisted man in one of the three highest rates: Chief Petty Officer, Senior Chief Petty Officer, and Master Chief Petty Officer. Instead of the bluejacket's
traditional sailor garb, they wear officer-like uniforms, including a special cap or hat, and they occupy a special place between the bluejackets and the officers. Because of their skills, knowledge, and experience, the Chiefs are widely recognized as "the backbone of the Navy."
Chief snipe - the Engineer Officer.
Chinese fire drill - any evolution notable for its lack of coordination and military smartness.
Chip - to remove paint or rust from metallic surfaces before applying paint. A major activity of deck apes.
Chipping hammer - small hammer with a sharp peen and face set at right angles to each other; used for chipping paint and scale from metal surfaces.
Chit - any small piece of paper bearing permission to do something, or requesting such permission. Before going on leave, you need to get a chit from the Captain or Exec. To request a change in duty, you need to submit a chit.
Chock - steel deck member, either oval or U-shaped, through which mooring lines are passed. Usually paired off with bitts.
Chockablock - completely full; full to the top; as close to one another as possible.
Chow - food.
Chronometer - an especially accurate timepiece, set to Greenwich time; used for navigation.
CIC - Combat Information Center. The compartment, usually close to the bridge, where tactical and navigational information is gathered, evaluated, and disseminated.
Cinderella liberty - liberty that expires at midnight.
Class Bravo fire - a fire involving flaming liquids.
Class Charlie fire - an electrical fire.
Class Delta fire - a fire involving special materials and firefighting methods, such as a fire involving flammable metals or deep fat fryer equipment.
Classified matter -
information or material that would be of aid to a possible enemy if it were divulged improperly. From lowest to highest importance, classified matter is classified Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. In the Navy and other military branches, all material of any importance to operations is classified. Since journalists almost never have access to classified matter of any sort, one can see that commercial news organizations almost never know what is really going on.
Clean bill of health - this term has its origins in the document issued to a ship showing that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic or infection at the time of departure.
Cleat - a small deck fitting of metal with horns, used for securing lines; also called a belaying cleat. Short piece of wood nailed to a brow or gangplank to give surer footing.
Clinometer - bridge and engine-room instrument that indicates the amount of a ship's roll or degree of list.
Close aboard - nearby.
Cluster fuck -
an evolution remarkable for its significant lack of excellence. Mass confusion and chaos. Similar to a Chinese Fire Drill
Chief of Naval Operations; the senior Admiral in the Navy. Every ring knocker
wants to be CNO one day, but knows that it's extremely unlikely.
CO - Commanding Officer. The captain of a vessel.
Coaming - raised framework around deck or bulkhead openings and cockpits of open boats; designed to prevent entry of water. Not always effective.
Coastie - member of the United States Coast Guard.
Coffee mess - an area, usually in a duty or working area, where coffee is made and served.
Cofferdam - the space between two bulkheads set close together, especially between fuel tanks, to use for drainage or safety.
Cold iron - engineering term meaning that the entire engineering plant has been secured. Lighting off boilers and getting steam up has always been an involved and lengthy operation, requiring anywhere from an hour to even longer before the ship could get underway; in time of war, being caught cold iron could be tactically disastrous. With the increasing usage of gas turbines, this is less of an issue—a gas turbine ship can get underway within minutes if the lube oil systems are warm.
Collision mat -
a mat used to temporarily lose a hole in a ship's hull below the waterline. Also, a food term: pancake.
Colors - the national ensign; distinguishing flag flown by a vessel to indicate her nationality. Also, the ceremonies performed at a naval activity when colors are hoisted at 0800 and hauled down at sunset.
Combatant ship - a ship whose primary mission is combat.
COMCIVLANT / COMCIVPAC - refers to the spouse at home, the one really in charge. "I'll have to run my leave plans past COMCIVLANT."
Command at sea -
being captain of a seagoing warship; the goal, reachable by many who make the Navy a career, of every line officer
Command Duty Officer -
many ships, particularly larger ones, establish a command duty officer
who is senior to the OOD while on duty—a period that usually spans several OOD watches. The command duty officer, or duty commander
relieves the executive officer of some of his detailed supervisory duties, and acts as the XO's representative in that officer's absence.
Commander - An officer rank above Lieutenant Commander and below Captain. Also, another name for the executive officer. As the commanding officer is known as the captain, the executive officer is known as the commander.
Commissary - land-based Navy grocery store. Non-grocery items are sold at the exchange.
Commission - to activate a ship or aircraft; a written order, approved by Congress, giving an officer his rank and authority; the rank and authority itself.
Commission pennant -
long, thin, seven-star pennant flown by a ship to indicate that she is commissioned in the U. S. Navy.
Companionway - set of steps or ladders leading from one deck level to another.
Compartment - any room or other enclosed space aboard a ship; often specifically refers to living quarters. "The electrician's mates have their racks in the E Division compartment."
Compartment cleaners - group of men, usually newcomers on board, assigned to clean living quarters.
Compass rose - diagram of a compass card on a chart; assists the navigator in laying out courses and directions on the chart.
COMPHIBLANT - Commander, Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet. Formerly the admiral in charge of all amphibious ships in the Atlantic Fleet.
COMPHIBPAC - Pacific Fleet version of COMPHIBLANT, above.
Complement - the number, ranks and ratings of officers and men, as determined by the Chief of Naval Personnel, to be necessary to fight the ship most effectively.
Condition 1 - General Quarters (battle stations). May be modified for certain conditions, such as Condition 1-AS, in which all antisubmarine watch stations and weapons are manned, but anti-air stations may not be. Modified conditions are used to minimize crew fatigue, which can be a significant factor over a prolonged period at battle stations. Other types of modified conditions include 1-SQ (battle stations for missile launch).
Condition 1-A - on an amphibious ship, the condition where all hands are involved in unloading men and cargo and making the amphibious landing. Pronounced "one-alfa."
Condition 2 - a condition of modified General Quarters, generally used on large ships.
Condition 3 - a condition of readiness commonly associated with wartime steaming where some, usually half, of the ship's weapons are kept in a manned and ready status at all times.
Condition 4 - a condition of readiness commonly associated with peacetime steaming. There are no weapons in a ready status.
Condition 5 - a condition of readiness associated with peacetime in port status.
to direct the helmsman
and lee helmsman
as to movement of the helm
and engine order telegraph
, especially when navigating in narrow channels or heavy traffic. Similar to driving. When an officer announces "I have the conn," he is then legally responsible to give proper steering and engine orders for the safe navigation of the ship.
Conning - giving orders regarding the maneuvering of a ship.
CONUS - the CONtinental U.S.
Convoy - a number of merchant ships and/or naval auxiliaries, assembled and organized for the purpose of passage together, and usually escorted by warships and/or aircraft for the purpose of defense.
a maneuver of a formation of ships. In its simplest form, ships in a column turn in succession, each at the same point, akin to a column movement of marching men. See turn.
part of the ship where certain people live, such as officers' country, chiefs' country, snipe country,
and so forth.
a ship's desired direction of travel. It is not necessarily the same as the ship's heading
Court martial -
military court, authorized under the UCMJ
, for the trial of more serious offenses. There are three kinds of court martial: summary
, and general
. See also captain's mast.
Cover - a hat. Also, to put on a hat.
Covered - wearing a hat. Naval personnel do not salute when covered. Doing so is for lesser breeds of servicemen.
Coxswain - enlisted man in charge of a boat; usually acts as helmsman. Pronounced "koksun." A coxswain or cockswain was at first the swain (boy servant) in charge of the small cock or cockboat that was kept aboard for the ship's captain and which was used to row him to and from the ship. The term has been in use in England dating back to at least 1463. With the passing of time the coxswain became the helmsman of any boat, regardless of size.
CPA - Closest Point of Approach. The bearing and distance of another ship when it is anticipated to most closely cross your path, either ahead or astern.
Critter fritters - food term: fried mystery meat.
Crossbar Hotel - the ship's brig.
the rate insignia of a USN Petty Officer (E-4 and above), so-called because of the eagle surmounting the rate chevrons.
Crow's nest - a platform or tub, standing high on a mast and used by a lookout.
Cruise book - a book, similar to a school yearbook, published to commemorate long or special cruises. They are produced informally by people aboard the ship, and they contain pictures of the ship's personnel and their activities at sea and in port. The cruise book staff is chosen from men who are good at photography and drawing. The editor, usually one of the ship's junior officers, provides the written material.
Crypto - term referring to the personnel, equipment, and practices involved in coding messages so they cannot be read by those for whom they aren't intended.
Crypto board - a group of officers assigned the duty of handling coded messages.
Cumshaw - procurement of needed material outside the supply chain, usually by swapping, barter, or mutual backscratching. Often involves the barter of coffee or other food items. Officially frowned upon, but a widespread practice. The word comes from the pidgin English of the old China Fleet for "Come Ashore" money. It was usually anything useless to a sailor or ship, scavenged and saved for trade to locals for the purpose of earning a little extra liberty money.
Cunt cap - garrison cap worn by officers and CPOs. Also called a pisscutter.
Cut and run - to leave quickly; from the practice of cutting a ship's moorings in a hasty departure.
Cut of his jib - a person's general appearance. From the days of sail, when individual sails were made aboard the ship and a certain amount of individuality was expressed in the shape and size of the sails. Ships could be, and were, identified by the "cut of their jib."
Damage Control - measures necessary to keep the ship afloat, fighting, and in operating condition.
Dark adapted - said of one's eyes when they have been optimized for seeing in the dark. The condition comes from spending several minutes with the eyes open in an area that is dark or illumniated only by dim red lights. Flashlights aboard ship often have red lenses, to avoid their destroying the dark adaption of those who see their light.
Darken ship - condition where all the ship's external lights are extinguished, and all inside lights are prevented from being seen from outside. In peacetime, allows all hands topside to appreciate the beauty of the heavens and the phosphoresence of the sea. In wartime, keeps the enemy from seeing the ship.
Davit - shipboard crane for lowering and raising boats. Pronounced "day-vit."
Davy Jones' locker -
the bottom of the sea.
DCA - Damage Control Assistant. The officer responsible, under the Chief Engineer, for damage control and stability of a ship.
Dead ahead - directly ahead of the ship; bearing 000º relative.
Dead astern - directly behind the ship; bearing 180º relative.
Dead in the water - said of a ship that is underway but making no headway or sternway.
Dead reckoning - navigator's estimate of the position of the ship from the course steered and the distance run. Short for "deductive reckoning." Not always accurate, due to the effects of wind, currents, and tides.
Deadhead - the resistance of a magnetic compass to swinging back and forth excessively; a compass with insufficient deadhead will swing so much (due to normal movement of the ship or aircraft) that it is difficult to steer a course.
Debarkation station - the place on a ship where personnel assemble to debark in boats. On ships where debarkation is a major part of the mission, debarkation stations are marked by numbers on colored backgrounds, the numbers and colors having a specific organization.
Deck - on a ship, corresponds to the floor of a building on land. Decks below the main deck are the second deck, third deck, and so on, moving downward. Decks above the main deck are the 01 deck, 02 deck, and so on, moving upward. Also refers to work or personnel mainly involved with deck seamanship.
Deck ape - a deck hand.
Deck gray - dark color used to paint decks aboard ship. Haze gray is used on vertical surfaces.
Deck hands - personnel, usually Seamen and Boatswain's Mates, who work with and care for topside gear and equipment. A deck hand is sometimes called a deck ape.
Deck log -
the official record of all the ship's activities, maintained and signed by the Officer of the Deck. It is traditional that the first log entry of a new year is made in verse.
Deck seamanship - branch of seamanship embracing the practical side, from the simplest rudiments of knot tying up to navigation; includes small-boat handling, ground tackle, steering, heaving the lead, signaling, etc.
Deep six - euphemism for throwing something overboard. Originally, the call of the leadsman signifying that the water is more than six fathoms deep, but less than seven.
Deflection - in gunnery, the adjustment of fire to the left or right.
Degaussing - treating the ship to reduce its magnetic field; used to protect the ship from magnetic mines.
Demurrage - a fine levied for not unloading a ship on time.
Department Head - an officer reporting to the Executive Officer and responsible for a department of the ship's organization. Most mid-sized ships have an operations department, a navigation department, a gunnery or deck department, an engineering department, and a supply department. Larger ships may have more, and smaller ships fewer, departments.
Deploy - to move into position for battle or other purposes. A ship or a sailor can deploy to the Mediterranean, for example.
Depth charge - large explosive charge used against submarines. It is dropped or launched from a ship, and explodes upon reaching a preset depth.
Deviation - magnetic compass error caused by the magnetic effect of metal in the ship.
Dilligaff - Do I look like I give a flying fuck? Usually a short-timer's attitude.
Dip - to lower a flag partway in salute or in answer, then to hoist it again.
Direct fire - gunnery and fire control where the fall of shot can be directly observed by the firing unit.
Director - electro-mechanical device for directing and controlling gunfire.
Displacement - weight of water displaced by a ship. Equal to the weight of the ship.
Distance line - a light line stretched between two ships engaged in replenishment or similar operations when underway. The line is marked at 20' intervals to aid the conning officer in maintaining the proper distance between ships.
Distress signal - a flag display or a sound, light, or radio signal calling for assistance.
Ditty bag - small cloth bag with drawstring closure; usually used to hold toilet articles and the like.
Division - the smallest organizational unit aboard a ship. Usually consists of one or more officers plus a group of men responsible for a particular part of the ship's work. Also, an organization composed of two or more ships of the same type; two or more divisions make up a squadron.
Division officer - the officer in charge of a division. Newly-commissioned officers often seek this responsibility, since it is the first step to assuming command at sea.
Dixie cup - the bluejacket's white sailor hat.
Dog - metal fitting used to tighten down watertight doors, hatch covers, scuttles, etc.
Dog down - to set the dogs on a watertight door.
Dog watch -
a shortened watch period. Generally, there are two two-hour watches, designated First and Second Dog Watches, arranged so that personnel on watch can eat the evening meal. They usually run from 1600 to 1800 and 1800 to 2000. They also serve to alternate the daily watch routine so men with the midwatch one night will not have it the next time.
Doggie dicks - food term: breakfast sausages.
Dolphins - the warfare insignia of the submarine fleet. Aka tin tunas or pukin' fish. Represented as two heraldic dolphins flanking the prow of a WWII-type submarine, gold for officers and silver for enlisted. "Getting one's dolphins" is achieving the status of a qualified submariner.
Douche kit - shaving gear.
Double up - to double the mooring lines for extra strength.
Down by the head (or stern) - said of a ship that is not level in the water from bow to stern. A ship that is down by the head has her bow lower in the water than her stern.
Down the hatch - this drinking expression seems to have its origins in sea freight, where cargoes are lowered into the hatch. First used by seamen, it has only been traced back to the start of the twentieth century.
Down to the short strokes - nearly done; almost finished. Origin unknown.
Draft - the depth of water from the surface to the bottom of a ship's keel. Depends, to an extent, on how heavily the ship is loaded.
Dramamine - drug used to prevent or minimize seasickness.
Dress ship - to display flags in honor of a person or event.
said of a sailor who is not squared away
. Probably comes from adrift
Drill - a shipboard evolution used to practice and develop skills; includes fire drills, general quarters drills, man overboard drills, abandon ship drills, and so forth.
Drop the hook - to anchor. "We dropped the hook at 1400."
DRUNKEX - any evolution characterized more by the amount of alcohol consumption than by accomplishment of any goals (other than getting toasted, of course).
Drydock - special dock used to facilitate repairs to the hull of a ship. The ship is floated into the drydock, which is then sealed off from the water. The water inside is pumped out, and the ship is left, high and dry, sitting on large wooden blocks in the bottom of the drydock. Quite a sight to see.
DTG - Date-Time Group; part of the header of a message which indicates the date, time, and timezone of the message's origin. "150345Z JUL" is a DTG indicating 15 July at 0345 ZULU time.
Duffel - name given to a sailor's personal effects. Also spelled duffle, it referred to his principal clothing as well as to the seabag in which he carried and stowed it. The term comes from the Flemish town of Duffel near Antwerp, and denotes a rough woolen cloth made there. A duffel bag is a rough cloth bag used to carry personal effects.
Dungarees - the blue-jean-like enlisted working uniform. The term dates to the 18th century and comes from the Hindi word dungri, for a type of Indian cotton cloth.
Dungaree liberty - liberty on which men are allowed to wear dungarees; usually called in isolated or uninhabited areas, or when fights are expected or desired.
Duty, the - requirement, when in port, to be aboard and available for watchstanding or other responsibilities; shipboard personnel commonly have the duty every third day while in port, but it can be every second or fourth day, depending on the situation. At shore stations, the duty less frequent. "I can't have Thanksgiving dinner with your family, Dear, because I have the duty on Thursday."
Dynamited chicken - food term: Chicken a la King.
EAOS - End of Active Obligated Service.
Eagle shits - said of payday, the day when "the eagle shits."
Eight bells -
signal traditionally rung at the end of a four-hour watch. See bells
Eight o'clock reports - reports made by all department heads to the XO, who then takes them to the CO. The reports usually consist of equipment reports and position reports, significant events of the day or of the day to come, etc., and are made shortly before 2000.
EMCON - EMissions CONtrol. Various conditions of electronic silence. EMCON Alfa is total emissions silence, EMCON Bravo allows radiation of certain non type-specific emitters, etc.
anyone who works with the ship's propulsion equipment, electrical equipment, or other mechanical devices. A snipe
Engineer officer - the department head in charge of the engineering department. Sometimes called engineering officer or chief snipe.
Engineer Officer of the Watch - the officer on watch in charge of the ship's propulsion machinery.
Engineer's bell book - a log, kept in the engineering spaces, of all orders to change speed, stop engines, back down, etc.
Engine order telegraph -
device used to transmit speed and direction orders from the bridge to the engine room; usually operated by the lee helmsman
Engine room - belowdecks space housing the ship's engines.
Ensign - the national flag. Also the most junior rank for a commissioned officer.
Ensign locker - large stateroom with bunks for six or more of the most junior officers. Sometimes called "boys town."
Enswine - derogatory term for an Ensign.
EOOW - Engineer Officer Of the Watch
. Pronounced "ee-ow."
Evap - short for evaporator, a distilling unit, aka the still. Used to produce fresh water at sea, both for the boilers and for drinking. For many years, vacuum "flash" evaps were used; reverse osmosis systems are becoming more common now.
Evolution - any activity where all hands, or at least a large number of men, work together to accomplish a specific task.
EX - short for "exercise." Some forms: MOBEX, DRUNKEX, BOREX, SINKEX.
Exchange - shore-based Navy store selling all items except groceries;the ship's store is the seagoing version. Groceries are sold at the commissary.
Exec - short for executive officer.
Executive officer - the line officer next in rank to the captain. Under the direction of the captain he has entire charge of all matters relating to the personnel, routine, and discipline of the ship. All orders issued by him are considered as coming from the captain. In case of the absence or disability of the captain, the executive officer assumes command. He is, by virtue of his position, senior to all staff officers aboard.
Extend - to lengthen the term of one's service, voluntarily or involuntarily, without signing up for an additional term. "Harris extended for two years to get shore duty in Hawaii."
Eyes of the ship - the foremost part of the weather deck in the bow of the ship.
Fake down - to lay out a line to permit free running while maintaining seamanlike appearance. Generally used for large-diameter lines. The line is laid out in long parallel lines, generally starting up against a bulwark or deck edge and working inboard from there.
Fall of shot - point of impact of a shell or salvo of shells.
Fancy work - intricate, symmetrical rope work used for decorative purposes.
Fantail - the aft-most weather deck on a ship, right above the stern.
Fart sack - a fitted mattress cover.
Fast - snugly secured; said of a line when it is fastened securely to a bitt, bollard, cleat, etc.
Fathom - depth measure equal to six feet.
Fathometer - electronic device used to measure the depth of the water under the keel.
Fender - canvas, wood, rope gear, or old rubber tire used over the side to protect a ship from chafing when alongside a pier, wharf, or other ship. See camel.
Fenderhead - stupid person. He displays all the intelligence of a fender.
Fid - a tapered wooden pin used to separate the strands when splicing heavy line.
Field day - a special time to scrub or otherwise clean a ship's spaces. Usually ordered when the CO or the XO thinks morale is low.
Fuck it, I Got My Orders; phrase often used by short timers or others who will be leaving soon. "Go away and don't bother me, I'm outta here."
Fire and flushing water - salt water piped throughout the ship for firefighting and flushing purposes.
Fire control - shipboard system of directing and controlling gunfire, torpedo fire, or missile fire.
Fire main - system of pipes which furnish water to fire hydrants.
Fireman - an E-3 enlisted man, on track to become rated in an engineering rating.
Fireman Apprentice - an E-2 enlisted man, on track to become rated in an engineering rating.
Fireman deuce - a fireman apprentice.
Fire room - on a ship with a steam boilers, a compartment where a boiler is located.
First Lieutenant - the officer in charge of cleanliness and general upkeep of a ship or shore station. This is a duty, not a rank. In a ship with a large deck department, the First Lieutenant is generally the deck department head.
First watch - the 2000-2400 watch; also called the evening watch.
Fisheyes - food term: tapioca pudding.
Five S's - preparing oneself for duty or liberty; from shit, shower, shave, and shine shoes.
Fix - to determine the ship's position by using one or more navigational methods.
Flag bag - container for storage of signal flags and pennants; rigged with slots to take the flags' snaps and rings.
Flaghoist - a nondirectional means of transmitting signals with predetermined meanings taken from authorized publications. The U.S. and allied navies use use 68 different flags and pennants for this purpose. International use consists of 40 different flags and pennants.
Flag officer - an officer of the rank of Rear Admiral or above; so called because he is entitled to fly his personal flag which, by the number of stars it shows, indicates his rank.
Flagstaff - small vertical spar at the stern, on which the ensign is hoisted while in port.
Flag writer - an admiral's yeoman.
Flank speed - a certain prescribed speed increase over standard speed; faster than full speed, but less than emergency full speed.
Flashing - a navigation light (buoy or lighthouse) in which the light is off longer than it is on during its periodic cycling. The opposite condition is occulting.
Flashing light - the term applied to the transmission of signals by light. The equipment used may be directional or nondirectional. Directional transmission reduces the possibility of its interception, thus providing some security. Nondirectional flashing light permits simultaneous transmission to a number of stations in any direction, but has little security from interception.
Flat hat - brimless winter hat worn by sailors until it was abolished about 1960. Originally it had the name of the sailor's ship printed on a silk headband. Later the printing was changed to "U. S. Navy." A few old salts still use the expression "I hope to shit in your flat hat!" to express emphatic agreement about something. Even more emphatic is "I hope to shit in the captain's flat hat!"
Flat top - aircraft carrier.
Fleet - organization of ships and aircraft under one commander; normally includes all types of ships and aircraft necessary for major operations.
Fleet up - to promote from within.
Flemish - to coil a line on deck so that it can run freely while maintaining a seamanlike appearance. Generally used for lines of small diameter. The line is laid in a flat, close-coiled spiral on the deck.
Floating drydock - movable dock floating in the water; ships of all sizes are floated into it and repaired.
Float test -
testing the buoyant qualities of unwanted material while at sea. Material that fails the float test becomes jetsam
and goes to Davy Jones' locker
; material which passes it becomes flotsam
. Pass or fail, it's outta here.
wreckage or cargo left floating in the sea after a shipwreck; sometimes applied to objects that float when thrown overboard. The related term jetsam
applies to cargo or equipment thrown overboard (jettisoned) and either sunk or washed ashore. The common phrase flotsam and jetsam
is now used loosely to describe any objects found floating or washed ashore.
Fluke - flat end of an anchor; the part that bites into the bottom.
Flying Bravo - When a woman is having her monthly period, she is said to be flying Bravo. The Bravo alphabet flag is all red.
Flying bridge - a bridge extending out from the control tower.
Flying Dutchman - superstition has it that any mariner who sees the ghost ship called the Flying Dutchman will die within the day. The tale of the Flying Dutchman trying to round the Cape of Good Hope against strong winds and never succeeding, then trying to make Cape Horn and failing there too, has been the most famous of maritime ghost stories for more 300 years. The cursed spectral ship sailing back and forth on its endless voyage, its ancient white-hair crew crying for help while hauling at her sail, inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write his classic "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," to name but one famous literary work. The real Flying Dutchman is supposed to have set sail in 1660.
FNG - Fucking New Guy
Foc'sle - phonetic spelling for forecastle.
Fog bound - said of a vessel when forced to heave to or lie at anchor due to fog.
Fog horn - a sound signaling device, used when visibility is limited by fog.
Forecastle - the upper deck in the forward part of the ship; pronounced "foke-sul."
Foremast - the first mast aft of the bow.
Forenoon watch - the 0800-1200 watch.
Forepeak - the part of the vessel below decks at the stem.
Foretruck - the highest point of the foremast.
Formation - any ordered arrangement of two or more ships or aircraft proceeding together.
Forward - in, near, or toward the bow (the front of the vessel). Opposite of aft. "The anchors are forward of the bridge." Often pronounced "for'ard."
FOT - Food term: creamed chipped beef on toast. Long form is Foreskins On Toast. See SOS.
Foul - jammed; not clear for running. Also, dirty or unsuitable for use. "When you're seasick, be careful not to foul the deck."
Foul bore - in gunnery, a condition where the bore of the gun is not clear for further firing; a shell or casing may be jammed in it. Also, one who, unnecessarily saltily and repeatedly, tells highly uninteresting sea stories.
Foul weather - weather that is cold, or wet, or both.
Foul weather gear - protective clothing worn in foul weather.
Foul weather jacket - a warm, water-resistant jacket; the most common item of foul weather gear.
Fouled anchor - the fouled (rope- or chain-entwined) anchor so prevalent in Navy designs and insignia is a symbol at least 500 years old that has it origins in British traditions. The fouled anchor was adopted as the official seal of Lord High Admiral Charles Lord Howard of Effingham during the late 1500s. A variation of the seal had been in use by the Lord High Admiral of Scotland about a century earlier. The anchor (both with and without the entwined rope) is a traditional heraldic device used in ancient British coats of arms. As a heraldic device, it is a stylized representation used merely for its decorative effect.
Founder - to sink.
Four by Eight -
the 0400 to 0800 watch
Foxtail - handheld brush used for sweeping dirt from workbenches, bulkheads, etc.
Frame - one of the ribs of the ship.
Freeboard - height of a ship's sides from waterline to main deck.
Freighter - a ship designed to carry all types of general cargo, or "dry cargo." See gator freighter.
French interrupted screw - type of rotating breech block on large Naval guns; has nothing to do with abbreviated liberty in Cannes.
Frock - to temporarily promote an officer, usually because his assignment is suited to a person of the rank to which he is frocked. "LCDR Opal was frocked to Commander when he became CO of the Reluctant."
FUBAR - Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.
Fuckee fuckee - social invitation, usually delivered by a non-English-speaking female in a liberty port. Sometimes seen as fuckee suckee.
universal adjective, used frequently in Naval speech to express displeasure, to demonstrate the saltiness of the speaker, or for no fucking reason at all. As in "I rolled out of my fucking rack, put on my dunga-fucking-rees, and went to fucking chow in the forward fucking messdecks. They had no fucking fresh milk, so I drank bug juice with my mother-fucking collision mats." (Purists may note the absence of an adjective before "bug juice." Just because the universal adjective can
be used, doesn't mean it is
used. The man quoted here may not be quite as salty as he thinks
Full rudder - rudder position all the way to the right or left rudder stop.
Full speed - a prescribed speed that is greater than standard speed but less than flank speed.
Funnel - a ship's smokestack; stack.
Gaff - a light spar set at an angle from the upper part of a mast. The national ensign is usually flown from the gaff when underway.
Galley - the ship's kitchen; any space in which food is prepared.
Gang - a group of sailors in a particular rating or work group, such as sonar gang or engineering gang.
Gangway - improper word for the temporary bridge connecting the ship's quarterdeck to the pier; more properly called a brow. Also, a call to get out of the way, which originated as a call for junior personnel to give precedence to a senior while crossing the gangway. "Gangway! The captain is coming."
Gator - term referring to the amphibious force or any of its members.
Gator freighter -
Attack Cargo Ship, designated AKA or, after 1969, LKA. The best and most famous ship of this type was USS Rankin (AKA-103)
Gator hashmark -
grease stripe on one's clothing, gotten by colliding with one of the many greased cables on the decks of amphibious ships; a true mark of manhood.
Gear - general term for lines, ropes, machinery, personal effects, etc.
Gear adrift - miscellaneous articles scattered about a compartment. Generally speaking, gear adrift should be stowed ASAP.
dessert/junk food/candy, or a place to buy same. Aka
General court martial -
the most serious trial court authorized by the Uniform Code of Military Justice
; consists of at least five officers, and tries the most serious offenses.
General mess - the main dining area used by a ship's crew. Officers and Chief Petty Officers usually dine separately.
General quarters - condition where all hands are manning their battle stations and the ship is ready to fight. Often used prepare the crew to react to a potential emergency. For example, a ship will call away general quarters for a major fuel or oil leak in the engineering spaces, to prepare in case a fire results.
Gig - a boat reserved for use by the Captain, and usually specially outfitted.
Gig line - on a uniform, a line formed by the buttoned shirt, a crease on the belt buckle, and the trousers' fly. At a personnel inspection, if your gig line isn't straight, you hear about it.
Gimbals - a pair of rings, one inside the other, with axes at right angles to each other; supports a compass or gyro repeater and keeps it horizontal despite the ship's motion.
Gin mill - a bar ashore, especially if small, uncomplicated, and full of local color.
Gitmo - See GTMO.
Glass - a barometer.
Glit - generic substance good for repairing leaks, breaks, ruptures, etc. A mixture of glue and shit.
Goat locker - Chiefs' quarters and mess. The term originated during the era of wooden ships, when Chiefs were given charge of the milk goats on board. Nowadays more a term of respect for the age of its denizens.
Golden rivet - The mythical last rivet which completes a ship. Generally found in the depths of the engineering spaces, a maneuver used to get a female guest to bend over. "And if you look way down there, you can see the golden rivet!"
Gouge - information, especially the "inside scoop." Also, an answer sheet to a written examination.
GQ - General Quarters. See general quarters, above.
Grab-assing - horsing around, skylarking, etc.
Grapnel - a small anchor with several arms, used for hooking or dragging.
Grease pencil - a pencil with a very thick lead made of hard grease mixed with colorings, used especially for marking on glossy or glazed surfaces; such surfaces are widespread on ships, in the plotting boards, etc. used to record temporary or semi-permanent information. Ships use lots of grease pencils.
Great circle route -
the shortest route to a distant point; because of the difficulty of calculating and following it, used only for sailing uncommonly long distances. In most cases, ships follow a rhumb line
Green water - solid water (a swell or wave) coming aboard, usually over the bow.
Grounded - said of a ship which hits the bottom.
Ground tackle - term referring to all anchor gear. Pronounced "ground tay-kl."
Group grope - A disorganized or confused evolution.
a United States Marine, especially an infantryman. Aka leatherneck, jarhead,
. Often preceded by the universal adjective
GTMO - Abbreviation for Guantanamo Bay, a U. S. Naval Base in Cuba. Pronounced "gitmo."
Guard mail - special class of official mail for the ship, kept separate from postal mail and always handled securely.
Guide, the -
in a formation of ships, that ship from which the others keep their stations
. By definition, the guide is always on station.
Gun Boss - the Gunnery Officer or Weapons Officer.
Gundeck - to mark a maintenance check as complete without actually doing the work. Aka pencil-whipping, especially when intentionally falsifying logs or records, such as by filling in the blanks just before an inspection.
Gunwale - the line where the deck of a ship or boat meets its side. Pronounced "gunnel."
a United States Marine. Said to have come from "GI Marine." Also jarhead, grunt
Often preceded by the universal adjective
Gyrocompass - compass used to determine true directions by means of gyroscopes.
Gyrocompass repeaters - compass cards electrically connected to the gyrocompass and repeating the same readings.
Hack - informal confinement of an officer to quarters. An officer so committed is said to be "in hack."
Hail - to address a nearby boat or ship, either by voice or by radio.
Halyard - line used for hoisting flags or sails.
Hammock - bluejackets slept on them in ships built before WWII. Replaced by racks in the modern era.
Handsomely - said of something executed deliberately and carefully, but not necessarily slowly.
Hand - a member of the ship's company.
Handrail - a steadying rail of a ladder; a banister.
Handy billy - small, portable power-driven pump.
Hard over - the condition of a rudder that has been turned to the maximum rudder angle.
diagonal stripes on the lower left sleeve of an enlisted man's uniform, denoting periods of enlistment completed. Formally referred to as service stripes.
One hash mark is awarded for each four full years of service in any of the armed forces. Men with three or more hash marks who have served with good conduct wear gold hash marks and a gold crow.
Also used informally to refer to any mark on one's person or uniform, such a gator hashmark
, poop stains on one's underwear, etc.
Hashmark seaman - a Seaman (or Fireman, etc.) who has completed his first four-year hitch and has not been, or is no longer, rated.
Hatch - an opening in the deck, and its closure. Sometimes incorrectly used to mean a watertight door, which is mounted vertically in a bulkhead.
Haul - to pull.
Hawsepipe - steel casting in the bow, through which anchor chains are run.
Hawser - heavy line, 5" or more in circumference, used for heavy work such as towing or mooring.
Haze gray - color of paint used on vertical surfaces of Navy ships. Decks are painted deck gray.
Head - bathroom. In the days of sail, toilet facilities were found far forward in the bows, so that the smell would be blown downwind and away from the ship (since sailing ships could not lie directly into the wind when underway). The extreme fore part of a ship was known as the "beakhead," which may have been shortened to "head" over time. Q: "Where are the headlights on a submarine?" A: "In the heads."
Headway - the forward motion of a ship.
the direction toward which a ship's bow is pointing at any given moment.
Heave - to pull on a line. Past tense is hove. Also to vomit, as when seasick; see ralph.
Heave around - an order to haul in on a line, wire, or anchor chain, whether with power (windlass or capstan) or by hand.
Heave in - to haul in.
Heave out and trice up - get out of bed and secure your rack.
Heave the lead -
to take soundings by throwing a lead weight ("the lead", rhymes with "dead") on a line ahead of the vessel, then pulling the line taut and reading the depth from markers on the line as the ship passes over the weight.
Heave to - to stop; said of a ship. Past tense is hove to. "The ship hove to for swim call."
Heaving line -
a small line with a weight on one end; the weighted end is thrown to another ship or to a pier so that a larger line may be passed.
Heel - to list over.
the ship's wheel, used for controlling the rudder. Similar to the steering wheel of a land vehicle.
the man at the helm; the man who steers the ship. Though an officer is the helmsman in Star Trek,
in the Navy he is always an enlisted man. The lee helmsman
is the standby or substitute helmsman, who usually mans the engine order telegraph.
Helo - a helicopter, particularly one that is based on, or delivers something to, or picks something up from, a ship. "The Captain will depart by helo at 1400." Pronounced with a long "e" and a long "o."
Hemp - line made of the fibers of the hemp plant, and usually less than about 2 inches in circumference. See manila.
Her - the ship. Ships are traditionally spoken of as feminine beings.
line running between two ships that are running side by side for replenishing or other purposes, used to transfer mail or light cargo between the ships; often used with a boatswain's chair
to transfer personnel from ship to ship.
Hoist - a display of signal flags on a halyard. Also, to raise a piece of gear or cargo.
Hoist away - an order to haul up.
Hold - space below decks for storage of ballast, cargo, etc.
Holiday - an imperfection or vacant space in an orderly arrangement; an unfinished spot in painting.
Holiday routine - daily routine followed aboard ship on Sundays and authorized holidays.
Holystone - to clean a wooden deck with a small abrasive sandstone, roughly fitted to the end of a stick. Also, the abrasive stone itself; a small one is called a prayer book. Before the stick was used, sailors had to kneel as if in prayer when scrubbing the decks.
Home port - the city in which a ship is based. "The USS Rankin's home port was Norfolk; the USS Sheliak was home ported in Honolulu."
Hook - the anchor. "We dropped the hook at 1400, and got underway again at 1430."
Horse cock -
food term: cold cuts. Aka tube steak, cylindrical sirloin,
or filet of mule tool
Hot rack - timesharing of beds due to a lack of living space aboard ship; when one man leaves his rack, another takes his place there.
Hotel services - power, water, and steam used for cooking, heating, laundry, or other non-engineering or non-propulsion purposes.
House - pronounced howze; to stow or secure in a safe place.
Hove - past tense of heave.
Hull - the framework of a vessel, together with all her decks and deckhouses, but exclusive of masts, rigging, guns, and all superstructure items.
Hull down - said of a vessel when only her stack-tops and mast are visible above the horizon.
Hull up - the term for a ship which is sufficiently close that her weather decks may been seen.
I & I -
Intoxication and Intercourse. A takeoff on R & R
Inboard - toward the ship's centerline.
INT - spoken as "eye-en-tee." Short form of the radio pro-word "Interrogative". Also used as a phrase in flag or Morse communications.
In the drink - in the water; usually said of something that falls there. "The line supporting it parted, and the cargo fell in the drink."
International Code of Signals -
a communications system, primarily based on colored flags used individually or in pairs. It is used for communications between ships, aircraft and authorities ashore during situations related to the safety of navigation and persons, and is especially useful when language difficulties arise. The Code is suitable for transmission by all means of communication. Example: the combination Charlie Delta, expressed by flags, morse code, or voice, means "I need immediate assistance." Click here
for more information.
Irish pennant - Any dangling or loose thread on a uniform, or lines left adrift or dangling from the upper works or rigging of the ship.
Island - the superstructure of an aircraft carrier; it contains the bridge, CIC, flight control center, etc.
Jack - small flag similar to the union of the national ensign, flown from the jackstaff on the bow of USN ships when in port; has a blue field and 50 white stars; flown from the yardarm when a court martial or court of inquiry is in session aboard. Also, to slowly turn the propeller shaft or shafts of a ship when engines are stopped, both to maintain the oil film in shaft bearings and to prevent the shaft from bowing from its own weight.
Jacking gear - the machinery used to jack a shaft (see jack, above); may also be used to lock the shaft.
Jack-o'-the-dust - enlisted man serving as assistant to the ship's cooks. Named for the flour of which he is in charge.
Jackstaff - removable vertical spar at the stem from which the jack is flown.
Jack tar -
slang term for sailor. See tar
Jacob's ladder - light ladder made of rope or chain with metal or wooden rungs; used over the side or aloft.
JAG - Judge Advocate General; a staff corps of the Navy, specializing in legal matters. Television has made heroes out of these people, but they are really just a tiny group of candy-ass pencil-pushing shore-duty pussies who, if they ever got real Navy duty, wouldn't know their asses from a hawsepipe.
a United States Marine. Reportedly, due to the "high and tight" haircut favored by many marines; it looks as if someone put a bowl on the victim's head and cut or shaved off all the hair that protruded. Also gyrene, leatherneck,
Often preceded by the universal adjective
cargo or equipment thrown overboard (jettisoned) and either sunk or washed ashore. The related term flotsam
applies to wreckage or cargo left floating in the sea after a shipwreck.
Jettison - to throw overboard.
Jews harp - the ring bolted to the upper end of the shank of an anchor and to which the bending shackle secures.
Joy - term used when visual or radio contact is made following a search. No joy indicates a failure.
Jump ship - to desert a ship.
Jury rig - any makeshift device or apparatus. "The dilithium crystal had cracked, so Scotty jury rigged a patch out of oakum, glit and Vulcan baling wire."
Kapok - a life jacket, so called for the highly buoyant material originally used for the floatation filling. These lifejackets have an orange canvas cover which leaves nasty stains on white uniforms, even when not covered with grease or other crud.
Keel - the backbone of a ship, running along the bottom from from stem to sternpost.
Keelhaul - to reprimand severely. Keel hauling was a shipboard punishment said to have originated with the Dutch but adopted by other navies during the 15th and 16th centuries. A rope was rigged from yardarm to yardarm, passing under the bottom of the ship, and the unfortunate delinquent was secured to it, sometimes with weights attached to his legs. He was hoisted up to one yardarm and then dropped suddenly into the sea, hauled underneath the ship, and hoisted up to the opposite yardarm, the punishment being repeated after he had had time to recover his breath. While he was under water, a "great gun" was fired, "which is done as well to astonish him so much the more with the thunder of the shot, as to give warning until all others of the fleet to look out and be wary by his harms" (from Nathaniel Boteler, A Dialogicall Discourse, 1634). The U.S. Navy never practiced keel hauling.
Kiddy cruise - an enlistment offered to 17-year-olds, in which their obligated service ceases on their 21st birthday.
King Neptune -
mythological God of the Sea. He always presides, with his court, at the line-crossing ceremony
King post - short mast supporting a cargo boom.
Knee-knockers - the coamings of watertight doors or bulkhead openings, usually about a foot off the deck; so called because they can wreak havoc on the shins of those new to shipboard life.
Knob turner - derogatory name for a new and/or curious crew member who turns knobs and pushes buttons just to see what they do.
Knock off - to cease what is being done; to stop work.
Knot - a measure of speed through the water, equal to one nautical mile per hour ("knots per hour" is incorrect usage, often from the mouths of JAGs, jarheads, boots, and the like). Also, a knob, tie or fastening made with rope.
Ladder - any kind of stairs aboard ship; it is a ladder whether it looks stairs or like a ladder.
Lagging - fiber glass insulation material commonly attached to bulkheads, ducts, and piping.
Lagging paste -
food term: oatmeal.
Land the Landing Force - Command to begin an amphibious landing, issued by the amphibious force commander.
Landfall - first sighting of land at the end of a sea voyage.
Landing craft - a boat or similar vessel designed for landing troops and equipment directly on a beach.
Landlubber - seaman's term for one who does not go to sea.
Landward - toward the land from the sea; also seen as shoreward. The opposite of seaward.
Lanyard - any short line used as a handle or as a means of operating some piece of equipment.
Lash - To secure an object by wrapping it with turns of line, wire, or chain.
Latitude - Distance north or south of the equator, expressed in degrees and minutes. See longitude.
Launch - To float a vessel off the building ways in a shipyard. Also a type of power boat, usually over 30 feet long.
Lay - to go somewhere aboard ship. Lay below, or lay aloft, for example. "Now the navigator lay up to the bridge."
Lead, the -
weight used for soundings. Pronounced "led." See heave the lead
Lead line -
line secured to the lead
used for soundings.
Leadsman - one who heaves the lead from the chains.
United States Marine. Derives from the historical use of a leather collar or stock to protect the neck from saber cuts. Also grunt, jarhead, gyrene
. All these terms are frequently modified by Naval personnel with the universal adjective
Leave - authorized absence in excess of 48 hours; the military equivalent of vacation time. Naval personnel get 30 days leave every year.
Lee - away from the direction of the wind.
Leeward - in a lee direction. Pronounced "lu'ard."
Let the cat out of the bag - to reveal a secret. Originally, this term simply meant to remove the cat (cat o'nine tails) from its baize bag, generally preliminary to administering punishment.
any partial deck above the main deck. See 01 Level
authorized absence from a ship or station for a short time. This is the sailor's valued time ashore when in port. Other than in home port
, liberty typically requires men to return to the ship before the following morning. See 72.
Liberty boat - a boat specially assigned to take (and retrieve) men on liberty when the ship is at anchor.
Liberty call - announcement made over the 1MC that liberty is about to start. Usually includes details about starting time, ending time, etc.
Liberty card - card carried by enlisted personnel to prove they are authorized to be ashore.
Liberty hound - party animal.
Liberty port - a city where liberty is granted; usually has a pleasing number of bars, scenic and cultural attractions, friendly local residents, etc.
Liberty risk - one with a reputation for getting into trouble while on liberty.
Life jacket - a buoyant jacket designed to support a person in the water.
Lifelines - lines or metal pipes running fore and aft along weather decks to provide safety against falling or being washed overboard.
Lifer - career member of the service, or one who has been in a long time.
Light off - to start a piece of machinery. As in "light off the forward bilge pump."
Lightship - small ship equipped with a distinctive light and anchored near an obstruction to navigation or in shallow water to warn shipping.
seagoing term for rope or cable. Thin line, or small stuff,
is called by the number of threads it's made up of (e.g.
9-thread line); larger line is sized by its circumference (rather than diameter). Traditionally, it is called rope
while on its original spool, but becomes line
as soon as it is removed.
Line-crossing ceremony -
the ceremony which turns pollywogs
. Enjoyed much more by the shellbacks than by the 'wogs. Held when a vessel crosses the Equator. During the ceremony, pollywogs are made to go through a number of ordeals, each more disgusting than the last. These trials are conducted in full view of King Neptune
and his court. Once the ceremony is completed, the pollywog is now a shellback. Similar ceremonies are conducted for Orders of the Bluenose and Rednose.
Line officer -
an officer who is eligible for command at sea
. He wears a star above the braid on his sleeve or inboard of the braid on his shoulder boards.
Line-throwing gun - small-caliber rifle that projects a weighted-at-one-end line line a long distance; surpasses a heaving line in gaining distance.
List - inclination or heaving over of a ship to one side. "The ship wasn't properly loaded, and she had a five degree list to starboard."
Locker club - an establishment where sailors could rent lockers in which to keep civilian clothes. They flourished in the days when sailors could not keep civvies on board ship. They were typically right outside a Navy base, and were associated with clothing stores selling clothing on credit at very high interest.
a book containing the official record of a ship's activities and other pertinent data. See deck log
Log room - a space used for engineering administrative purposes, often used as the office for the engineering department.
Longitude - distance east and west of the prime meridian running through Greenwich, England. Expressed in degrees and minutes.
Longshoreman - a laborer who works at loading and discharging cargo.
Look alive - admonishment to be alert or to move faster.
Lookout - a man assigned to watch and report to the OOD any objects or sounds of interest; the lookouts are "the eyes of the ship."
Lose the load - to lose electrical power, usually throughout the ship. Also seen as drop the load.
Lubber's line - the vertical mark on a compass bowl that marks the ship's heading. To chase the lubber's line is to be unable to hold a steady course.
Lucky bag - a compartment maintained by the Chief Master at Arms where gear adrift is stored. Equivalent to the civilian Lost and Found. If after a period of time the items are not claimed, they are sold with the proceeds going to the Rec Fund.
Machinist's Mate - enlisted rating specializing in operating and maintaining the ship's engines and other propulsion machinery.
Magazine - compartment where ammunition is stowed.
Mail buoy watch - practical joke played on inexperienced crewmembers and midshipmen which revolves around convincing the victim that mail is delivered to a ship at sea via a buoy.
Main Control -
the engineering space from which the operations of the engineering spaces are controlled. Watchstation of the EOOW
Main deck -
the highest complete deck extending from stem to stern and from side to side.
Mainmast - the tallest mast on a vessel, usually the second mast abaft the bow.
Main truck - the top of the mainmast.
Makee-learnee - a term for on-the-job training. Also seen as make-ye learnee.
Make fast - to tie off (a line) securely.
Make way -
for a ship to move, no matter how slowly, under her own power. Often confused with underway.
A ship adrift is underway, but not making way, even though she may be moving with respect to the seabed due to wind and current. Also, a command to get out of the way. "Make way for the stretcher bearers."
Man - To assume a station, as in manning a gun.
Maneuvering board - circular chart, marked with rings for ranges and degree marks for headings, used for determining courses, closest points of approach, etc.
Manila - line made from the fibers of the abaca plant, and usually over 2 inches in circumference. See hemp.
Man-o'-war - a ship designed for combat.
Marine napkin - the flap on the front of the traditional 13-button US Naval enlisted uniform trousers.
Marine shower - changing clothes without bathing, usually just applying deodorant.
Marlinspike - pointed iron instrument used in splicing line or wire.
Marlinspike seamanship - those aspects of seamanship that have to do with rope, line, wire, knots, splices, etc.
Maroon - to put a person ashore with no means of returning.
any upright spar supporting yards, antennas, etc. Also, short term for captain's mast
Master at arms - member of a ship's police force.
Masthead - the top part of the mast.
Masthead light - the white running light placed over a vessel's fore-and-aft centerline showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 225 degrees forward of the ship.
Mate - a shipmate; another sailor.
Material condition - one of several conditions where certain specially-marked hatches, watertight doors, valves, flappers, etc. must be closed and kept so. Used to control the ship's watertight integrity. Used on surface ships only.
Material condition Circle William - A material condition involving ventilation fittings and machinery marked with a W inside a circle. Used to control the spread of smoke in a fire belowdecks, or in preparation for an NBC attack. (William is the pre-1957 phonetic for W. Nobody knows why the names of the conditions were not updated when the phonetic alphabet was changed.)
Material condition X-ray - condition where fittings and closures marked with an X (X-ray, in the phonetic alphabet) are secured. Generally seen only in port.
Material condition Yoke - condition where fittings and closures marked X and Y (Yoke, in the pre-1957 phonetic alphabet) are secured. This is the normal daylight underway material condition, and represents a minimal condition of watertight integrity.
Material condition Zebra - condition where all fittings and closures marked X, Y, and Z (Zebra, in pre-1957 phonetics) are secured. Maximum watertight integrity. "Set Condition Zebra" is the command to close all water-tight doors, hatches, and fittings throughout the ship. Usually follows the call to GQ.
Mayday - the distress call for voice radio, for vessels and people in serious trouble at sea. The term was made official by an international telecommunications conference in 1948, and is an anglicizing of the French m'aidez, (help me).
Meat in the bread - Food term: what you get when, after a long period at sea, weevils and other insects contaminate the flour used in baking. It is always prudent, before eating a slice of ship-baked bread, to hold it up to the light to check for meat.
Med cruise -
a cruise to the Mediterranean sea, usually involving extensive drills and operations, and typically lasting four to nine months or more. Lots of hard work, but lots of good liberty, too. For photographic records of three Med Cruises, Click Here
, then click on the cruise books.
Mediterranean moor - mooring of a ship with its stern to a wharf and its bow kept from swinging by anchors placed ahead while maneuvering in; difficult to execute, and used extensively by the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
Meet her - an order to the helm to use the rudder as needed to stop the ship's turn. Usually followed by an order giving a course to steer.
Merchantman - a ship engaged in commercial service, as opposed to a warship. Also called a merchant ship.
Mess - to eat. A group of men eating together. Also applied to the area where they eat.
Mess cook - enlisted man temporarily assigned to assist in the preparation and serving of meals for the crew.
Mess decks - crew's eating area.
Mess gear - equipment used for serving meals.
Messenger - a line used to haul a heavier line across an intervening space.
Messenger of the Watch - enlisted man who runs errands for the Officer of the Deck. After taps, one important errand is to awaken the men who will relieve the watch.
Mid-channel buoy - a buoy placed in the middle of a channel, to be passed on either side. In U.S. waters it has black and white stripes.
Midrats - food served at midnight for ongoing watchstanders, although the oncoming watch section commonly does not get up early enough to partake. Offgoing section gets the remnants, if any. Usually a combination of leftovers, plus something new to round out the service.
Midshipman - a student officer.
Midwatch - a watch stood from midnight (2400/0000) until 4 a.m. (0400). Aka midbitch, midshitter, balls to four, etc.
Mike boat -
a large ramped boat used in amphibious landings, and carried aboard amphibious ships. Officially designated as LCM
, and nicknamed after the final letter in its designation.
Military press - a special way of pressing military shirts, typically with two vertical creases down the front and three down the back. Looks VERY sharp.
Mind your Ps and Qs - in the past, when sailors were paid and went ashore for liberty, the tavern keepers knew how much they were paid. They'd keep tally of a sailor's beer consumption by marking up P for pints and Q for quarts, then settling up with the sailor at the end of the evening. If a sailor failed to "mind his Ps and Qs," he'd come up short (or perhaps be cut off by the bartender).
Mind your rudder - warning to the helmsman to watch his course very carefully.
Monkey fist -
the complex knot surrounding, and sometimes taking the place of, the weight on the end of a heaving line
Monkey shit - a waterproof putty used to seal openings where electrical wiring passes through bulkheads, etc.
Moor - to secure a ship to a pier, buoy, or another ship. Also to anchor with two anchors.
Mooring lines - lines used to tie the ship to the pier or to another ship. Mooring lines are numbered from forward aft; the direction they tend (lead) is also sometimes given. Number one mooring line typically is made fast at the bow, and tends straight across to the pier or other ship. Spring lines tend forward or aft of their attachment point.
Morning watch - the 0400-0800 watch.
Morse code -
code of dots and dashes used in visual and radio signaling, named after its inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse. Click Here
to learn more about this genius and his code.
Motor mac - WWII term for the engineer aboard a landing craft.
Motor whaleboat - a double-ended powerboat.
MPA - Main Propulsion Assistant. Division Officer for the group that operates and maintains the ship's boilers and engines.
Mud - coffee.
Mustang - an officer who has come up through the ranks, i.e. started out as an enlisted man and earned a commission.
Muster - to assemble the men for calling roll or other duties. "Now all hands muster on the fantail for a barbeque."
Muster out - to leave the service, generally before retirement. "He put in six (years), then mustered out in 1998."
Mystery meat - Food term: meat (?) served in such a way that one can't tell just what it is. Sometimes known as "six way beef."
NANCY - a method of sending messages in Morse Code using flashing infrared lights, invisible to the naked eye, and requiring special night vision equipment. Used from WWII onward, and the technical precursor to today's military night vision equipment.
Napkin ring - ring labeled with officer's name and used to hold his cloth napkin at the wardroom table. Since to wash napkins after every meal would waste fresh water, they are kept in napkin rings between washings; the label insures that the same man always uses a given unwashed napkin. Not nearly as yucky as it sounds.
Nautical mile - measure of distance at sea. Approximately 2,000 yards, about a sixth longer than a land mile. A knot is a speed of one nautical mile per hour.
Naval Special Warfare -
warfare conducted by small elite units organized, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations in maritime and riverine environments. Currently, they consist of SEAL Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and Special Boat Units, together comprising less than one-tenth of one percent of U.S. Navy personnel. They like to think that they are the toughest
less than one-tenth of one percent, and in truth, they probably are. Former NSW units included Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU), Amphibious Scouts & Raiders, the OSS Maritime Unit, and Beach Jumpers. Click Here
to learn more.
Naval stores - oil, paint, turpentine, pitch, and other such items traditionally used for ships.
Navigator - the officer responsible, under the captain, for safe navigation and piloting of the ship.
NavSta - NAVal STAtion.
Navy brat - one who has grown up in a Navy household.
Navy SEAL -
extremely tough and honorable warrior, accustomed to fighting on SE
ir and L
and; don't fuck with him. Click Here
to learn more. Also see Naval Special Warfare
Navy shower - water-saving process in which one attempts to get reasonably clean while using as little water as possible. Basically, you wet yourself down, turn off the shower, lather up, then turn the shower back on to rinse off. Effective, but somewhat uncomfortable.
NBC warfare - Nuclear/Biological/Chemical Warfare. In different eras, has been known as ABC warfare (Atomic/Biological/Chemical) and CBR warfare (Chemical/ Biological/ Radiological).
Negat - spoken or abbreviated form of negative.
Negative - Navy term for "no." Opposite of affirmative.
Nest - two or more boats stowed one within the other. Also two or more ships, often destroyers, moored alongside each other.
NFG - No Fucking Good. Written on the sides of inoperative equipment as an indication that it should be replaced or scrapped (float tested). The polite form is non-functional gear. Also, a rating for movies shown aboard in the evening.
NOB - Naval Operating Base. Obsolete term for U.S. Naval Base, Norfolk.
No joy - no radio contact, or no visual contact. Sometimes used to say "it didn't work."
Nonskid - An epoxy compound applied to deck surfaces to improve traction for feet and wheels. At the end of a cruise, when a flight deck's nonskid is mostly gone, not to mention oily and/or greasy, taxiing or landing can be even more of an adventure than usual. Usually applied to all weather decks of any ship.
NORVA - abbreviation for Norfolk, Virginia, the home port of many ships in the Atlantic Fleet.
NOTAM - Notice to Mariners
Notice to Mariners - U.S. Coast Guard publication advising mariners of changes in aids to navigation.
Now hear this - words used to preface announcements over the ship's public address system. "Now hear this. The smoking lamp is out throughout the ship."
Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. Program at colleges and universities leading to commissioning as a Naval officer. NROTC midshipmen, with four years of part time naval training before commissioning, are typically better prepared for their duties than OCS graduates, and less well prepared than Naval Academy midshipmen. Click Here
for more information.
Nun buoy - cone-shaped buoy used to mark channels (dredged pathways into ports). It is anchored on the right side of the channel, as seen when entering from seaward, and is painted red.
Oakum - a caulking material made of old, tarred jute or hemp fiber.
OBA - Oxygen Breathing Apparatus. An oxygen generating and rebreathing system used for firefighting.
Occulting - a navigation light (buoy or lighthouse) in which the light is on longer than it is off during its periodic cycling. The opposite condition is flashing.
Officer Candidate School. A 13-week program which takes in college graduates and turns out commissioned Naval officers. Formerly in Newport, RI, now in Pensacola, FL. See 90-Day Wonder
Officer of the Deck -
the officer on watch in charge of the ship. Abbreviated OOD.
He represents the Commanding Officer and therefore, while is on watch (or has the deck
), he is superior to everyone on board except the CO, the XO, the Command Duty Officer if one is assigned. The OOD carries out the routine of the day and other duties as prescribed by the Executive Officer. Underway, the OOD takes his position on the bridge. In port, his station is on the quarterdeck.
Officers' Country -
the part of the ship where officers live. See country
Oh Dark Thirty - Very late at night, or very early in the morning. Aka Zero Dark Thirty.
Oil bag - a bag filled with oil and triced over the side for making a slick in a rough sea, for the purpose of keeping seas from breaking.
Oil king - petty officer in charge of inventorying, testing, and bringing aboard petroleum products of various types.
Oilskins - waterproof clothing.
Old man - nautical term for the Captain.
Old Navy, the - the Navy as it was in an unspecified previous time; thought to have been tougher, more disciplined, more effective, and better in every way. "This isn't the Old Navy (and of course it never was)."
On report - to be formally accused of some offense, usually minor. "Jones was put on report for talking back to Chief Ware."
On the beach - ashore; a seaman assigned to shore duty, unemployed, retired, or otherwise detached from sea duty.
On the double - order to move fast, or do something immediately.
OOD - Officer of the Deck. See Officer of the Deck, above.
Oscar - the dummy used for man overboard drills. Also, the international signal flag hoisted for "man overboard".
Outboard - toward the side of the ship, as seen from the centerline. "An outboard compartment can have a port hole, an inboard compartment cannot."
Out of trim - to carry a list or to be down by the head or stern.
Overboard - over the side.
Overhaul - to repair or recondition. Also to overtake another vessel.
Overhead - aboard ship, the equivalent of a ceiling ashore. Buildings have ceilings, ships have overheads.
Over the hill - AWOL
. "Haver got drunk and went over the hill."
Overtaking - said of a vessel when she is catching up to or passing another vessel.
Pad eye - a metal eye permanently secured to a deck or bulkhead, used for attaching blocks and tackle.
Painter - a line in the bow of a boat for towing or making fast.
Papa boat -
small ramped boat used for amphibious landings and carried by amphibious ships. Officially named an LCVP
, and nicknamed after the final letter in its designation. Always pronounced "PAP-a," unlike the official pronunciation.
Papa Hotel - phonetic pronunciation of the flag signal PH. Its meaning is "all hands return to ship".
Parrot - IFF transponder. IFF is short for Identification, Friend or Foe, an electronic system aboard aircraft that marks them, to friendly forces, as friendly.
Part - to break, as a rope. "Number one mooring line has parted."
Party - a group on temporary assignment or engaged in a common activity, as in liberty party.
Passageway - any hallway or corridor aboard ship. Ships don't have hallways or corridors—they have passageways.
Pass the word - to repeat an order or information to all hands. "No matter how much you pass the word, there are always 10% who never get the word." (Typically the 10% includes a random selection of individuals, but there are people who never get the word, no matter what.) See word.
Pay - nickname for the Disbursing Officer or Disbursing Clerk.
Paygrade - alphanumeric designation corresponding to rank (officer) or rate (enlisted). Used to denote pay level or as an analog to rank/rate. For example, O-1 is an Ensign (USN/USCG) or 2nd Lieutenant (USA/USMC/USAF); an E-1 is a Seaman Recruit (USN) or Basic Airman (USAF).
Pay out - to ease off or slack a line; to increase the scope of anchor cable.
Peak tank - a tank built into in the bow or stern of the ship, usually used for water ballast.
Pecker checker - Navy doctor or Corpsman. Aka dick doc, chancre mechanic.
Pelican hook - a quick-release shackle which can be knocked free with a hammer. Often used to release the anchor when anchoring.
Pelorus - a stanchion topped with a gyrocompass repeater, used to shoot bearings to an object for navigation purposes.
abbreviation for PERmission GRAnted; often used in radio messages. See REQPER
Petty officer -
an enlisted man in the rates E-4 and above; equivalent to corporal in the Marine Corps, or corporal or specialist in the Army. Often abbreviated PO.
Petty officers are said to be rated,
which means they are qualified in a rating
such as Quartermaster, Electrician's Mate, etc. Their rates proceed from Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) to Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9).
Phantom feeler - one who visits berthing quarters at night, to fondle sleeping sailors.
Pier - harbor structure projecting out into the water with sufficient depth alongside to accommodate vessels. Differs from a wharf, which is built along the water's edge, and is sometimes called a dock.
Pig of the port - the least attractive woman brought aboard during a port visit. Awards and honors are often granted, though seldom sought.
Pig palace - a bar populated with ugly women, watered booze, etc.
a small spar that projects above the top of the mainmast; the commission pennant
is usually flown from a pigstick.
Pile - a spar driven into the bottom and projecting above the water.
Pilot - an expert in local navigation who comes aboard ships in harbors or dangerous waters to advise the captain as to how the ship should be conned.
Pilot house - the topside compartment containing the ship's main controls, and where on most ships the OOD, helmsman, quartermaster of the watch, etc. stand their watches; also called the wheelhouse.
Piloting - navigation close to shore, where positions are obtained by observing visible objects such as bouys, and by paying close attention to soundings.
Pintle - the pins upon which a ship's rudder hangs.
Pipe down - an order to be quiet. Originally, a call on a boatswain's pipe to send the crew below.
Piping - boatswains and their mates have been in charge of the deck force since the days of sail. Setting sails, heaving lines, and hosting anchors required coordinated team effort and these men used whistle signals to order the coordinated actions. When visitors were hoisted aboard or over the side, the pipe was used to order "hoist away" or "avast heaving." In time, piping became a naval honor on shore as well as at sea. Piping is also the white trim on an enlisted man's dress blues, or the corresponding black trim on dress whites.
Piping hot -
originally, meals were announced aboard ship by piping a call on the boatswain's pipe
. If a meal is piping hot, it has just been served and is therefore hot.
Piping the side -
a ceremony at the gangway in which sideboys are drawn up and the boatswain's pipe
is blown; used when a distinguished visitor or high-ranking officer comes aboard.
Piss and pump - bread and water served to prisoners in the brig.
Pisscutter - garrison cap worn by officers and CPOs. Also called a cunt cap.
Pissing contest - A behavior similar to that displayed by two male dogs when they meet. A heated argument. "Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk."
Piss off - to anger. Seaman: "That Mr. Feeley sure pisses me off!" Boatswain's Mate: "It's better to be pissed off than pissed on."
Pitch - the front-to-back heaving and plunging motion of a ship at sea. On destroyers and other small ships, the whole ship can bang and shudder as the bow pitches in and out of the sea; if you live forward, this is not good for sleeping. Other movements are roll and yaw.
Pit log - short for pitometer log, a device for measuring the ship's speed through the water.
Pit sword - The part of the pit log which extends down into the water from the ship's hull and senses ship speed.
Plane guard - destroyer or helicopter responsible for rescuing air crews during air operations.
Plank owner - a member of the original commissioning crew of a ship. Traditionally, when a plankowner leaves, he is presented with a piece of the wooden decking. Since the advent of all-metal warships, however, a common plankowner memento is a plaque bearing a brass or bronze escutcheon constructed from the machining scraps of the propellers.
Plan of the Day - schedule of the day's routine and events ordered by the Executive Officer and published daily aboard ship or at a shore activity.
Plimsoll mark - a mark on the side of a ship's hull which indicates a certain level of loading and, therefore, draft.
PO - petty officer
; an enlisted man who has qualified for a rating such as Quartermaster, Electrician's Mate, etc.
POD - Plan Of the Day.
Pogey bait -
candy or other junk food. Also called gedunk
. Originally, a pogue
was a young boy or sailor, and pogey bait was candy or other sweet stuff used as inducement for homosexual play. Nobody ever asked or told.
Pogue - a man or sailor. "Who are those pogues standing on the fantail?"
Pointer - member of a gun crew who positions the gun up and down.
Police - to clean up, especially by picking up debris or gear adrift. To police the brass is to shine or clean brass fittings and/or fixtures or, on a firing range, to pick up expended cartridges.
Pollywog - one who has never crossed the Equator aboard ship and become a shellback. Aka wog. Frequently modified by the adjective slimy.
Pollywog Ceremony -
ceremony where pollywogs
More fully explained under line-crossing ceremony
Pooped - term used when a wave breaks over a ship's stern.
Pork chop - irreverent term for an officer in the Navy Supply Corps. So called because the Supply Corps sleeve and collar insignia, formed of three oak leaves with acorns, is vaguely shaped like a pork chop. Also because the Supply Corps is responsible for the rations served aboard ship (most of which are very, very good, in spite of some words in this glossary).
Port and starboard -
shipboard terms for left and right, respectively. In Old England, the starboard
was the steering paddle or rudder, and ships were always steered from the right side on the back of the vessel. Larboard
referred to the left side, the side on which the ship was loaded. So how did larboard become port? Shouted over the noise of the wind and the waves, larboard and starboard sounded too much alike. The word port means the opening in the "left" side of the ship from which cargo was unloaded. Sailors eventually started using the term to refer to that side of the ship. Use of the term "port" was officially adopted by the U.S. Navy by General Order, 18 February 1846.
Port and starboard watches - situation in which there are only two watch sections, instead of the usual three or four. Men serve one watch on, one watch off until regular watches are resumed. It is very tiring duty.
Port side - the left side of the ship as seen when facing forward. Memory aids: the words left and port both have four letters; the port running light, like port wine, is red. The right side of the ship is the starboard side. For more information, see port and starboard, above.
Potable - safely drinkable; said of shipboard fresh water, to differentiate it from sea water.
Prayer book - a small holystone, used in corners and other less-accessible places .
Pro word - radio procedure word. Used to standardize and expedite voice radio communications. Examples: over ("I am finished speaking now, and expect you to reply"), roger ("I understand you," or "yes"), out ("I am finished speaking and do not require an answer or acknowledgement"). The Hollywood term over and out would never be used.
Puke - a person. "Who is that puke standing on the forecastle?" Also, to vomit, as from seasickness.
Pussy - sissy or coward. Origin unknown.
Put to sea - to leave port.
Quadrantal spheres -
two iron balls secured at either side of the binnacle
; they help compensate for the ship's magnetic effect on the compass. Sometimes referred to as "the navigator's balls."
Quarantine - restricted or prohibited interaction due to the presence of contagious disease.
Quarter - that part of the ship's side near the stern. An object behind the ship and roughly 45º to the left (or right) is said to be off the port (or starboard) quarter.
the part of the main or other deck reserved for honors and ceremonies and as the station for the OOD
Quartermaster - enlisted rating specializing in navigation and related activities. Not to be confused with the Army version of the same word, which refers to supply and logistics specialists. Also, the protective coating on new belt buckles or other metallic items.
Quarters - living spaces. Also, an evolution where all hands are assembled at established stations for muster, drills, or inspection. "Now all hands fall in at quarters for captain's inspection."
Quay - wharf or landing place for receiving and discharging cargo. Pronounced "key."
Queer bread - food term: French toast
R & R -
Rest and Rehabilitation.
Rack - shipboard bunk.
Rack time - sleep.
Radar - RAdio Detection And Ranging. Electronic gear used to detect ships (surface search radar) and airborne threats (air search radar).
. So called because he wears the white cloth dixie cup
Rain locker - shower.
Ralph - to vomit. Also seen as looking for Ralph (as though calling his name). May result from seasickness or from having maximized a recreational opportunity ashore, or (often) a combination of the two.
Range - distance in yards from the ship to the target. Also two or more objects on shore, in line to indicate a direction.
Rank - the grade of official standing of commissioned officers and warrant officers. Ranks for commissioned officers extend from O-1 (Ensign) through O-11 (Fleet Admiral). Rate is the equivalent term for enlisted men.
Rank and file - The generic man in ranks. Comes from the terms for a military formation, where a rank is a row (crosswise) and a file is a column (front to back) within the formation.
Rate - the grade of official standing of enlisted men. Rates extend from E-1 (seaman recruit, fireman recruit, etc.) through E-9 (Master Chief Petty Officer). Rank is the equivalent term for officers.
Rat guard - conical metal plate attached to a ship's mooring lines to prevent rats getting aboard.
name given to an occupation which requires job specialization, e.g., Boatswain's Mate, Machinist's Mate, Yeoman, etc.
RCH - the smallest known unit of linear measurement.
Ready room - compartment aboard aircraft carriers where pilots assemble for flight orders.
Rec Fund - money set aside for all-hands parties, picnics, and so forth. Small donations, profits from the lucky bag, etc. are often put in the Recreation Fund. Short for Recreation Fund.
Redass - official flap about something of little consequence. Also, a pain in the ass. "Man, that gender sensitivity training was a real redass."
Reef - an underwater ledge rising abruptly from the ocean's floor.
Reeve - to pass the end of a line through any lead such as a sheave or fairlead.
Registered publications - publications, often highly classified and usually in the form of loose-leaf books, that must be inventoried and safeguarded page by page. Usually a junior officer is assigned duty as Registered Publications Custodian.
Relief - one who relieves another of the duties and responsibilities of a watch, command, etc. "My relief is LTJG Kennedy."
Relieve - to take over the duties and responsibilities of another on watch, in command, etc. "LTJG Kennedy will relieve me at 0345."
Replenishment - the resupply of a ship or station.
abbreviation for REQuest PERmission; often used in radio messages. See PERGRA
Request mast - mast held by the captain or executive officer to hear special requests for leave, liberty, etc.
Re-up - to reenlist. Also called ship over.
Reveille - the order to wake up in the morning, given to all hands.
Rhubarb - an argument or disagreement. Originally the codeword for a ground attack mission over Europe during WW II, carried out by fighter aircraft; not the favorite mission of the fighter pilots, as the missions suffered high loss rates.
Rhumb line -
a course following a constant compass direction. Longer than a great circle route
, but easier to lay out and navigate. The difference in distance is insignificant except on very long sailings.
Ride - to lie at anchor; to ride out; to safely weather a storm whether at anchor or underway.
Rig - to set up, fit out, or put together. "Harrison had no place to sleep, so he rigged a rack in the gyro room."
Rigging - general term for all ropes, wires, chains, and gear used for supporting and operating masts, yards, booms, etc. Rigging is of two kinds: standing rigging, or lines that support but do not move, and running rigging, or lines that move to operate equipment.
Right - to return to a normal position, as a vessel righting after heeling over.
Right arm rate - Until 1949, those deck-sourced petty officers (Boatswain's Mate, Gunner's Mate, Quartermaster, Signalman, Torpedoman, etc.) who wore their "crow" on the right sleeve, as opposed to the left sleeve for all other rates.
Ring knocker -
any graduate of the United States Naval Academy
. So called because they wear large class rings that they like to flash and show off.
Riser - a pipe running up and down between decks and having branch connections or offshoots.
Roach Coach - mobile canteen that visits pier areas one or more times daily selling candy, sandwiches, soft drinks,etc.
Rocks and Shoals - Articles for the Government of the Navy, the predecessor to today's Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Roll - the side-to-side rocking of a ship at sea. Usually the most prominent motion of the ship, and a great contributor to seasickness. Other movements are pitch and yaw.
RON - Remain OverNight.
Rope - cordage, natural or synthetic, woven, braided, or twisted; it is called rope as long as it is on the spool. Any piece unrolled and cut off becomes line.
Ropeyarn Sunday - a time for repairing clothing and other personal gear.
Rudder - a flat, mobile vertical structure underwater at the stern of a ship; used to control the ship's heading.
Ruffles and flourishes -
drum rolls and trumpet sounds used in rendering honors. Click Here
to hear some. (Scroll down to Honors Music, then click on what you want to hear.)
Rules of the road - regulations enacted to prevent collisions between watercraft.
Running lights - lights required by law to be shown by a ship when underway between sunset and sunrise. They are white lights, except for one colored light on each side; the port running light, like Port wine, is red; the starboard running light is green. See masthead light and sidelight.
Rustbucket - sailor's term for an old ship that needs a lot of paint or repairs.
Sailing directions - a book issued by the Navy Department to supplement charts of the world. It contains descriptions of coastlines, harbors, dangers, aids to navigation, and other data that cannot be conveniently shown on a chart.
Salt water shower - what you take to clean yourself when the ship is low on water. It removes a lot of the dirt and grease, but the rest gets mixed with a salt water residue to leave a nasty deposit on your skin.
Salty - very nautical. Said of one whose level of experience is extreme, or who is "in the know" regarding matters nautical. Salty language is the colorful and often off-color language typically used aboard ship.
Salvage - to save a ship or cargo from danger; to recover a ship or cargo from disaster or wreckage.
Salvo - One or more guns fired together, or the shells which have been fired.
Sandbag - to ask a question of someone to belittle or deride them, or to do something behind their back. Also to not give 100% of one's abilities; to hang back, or hold back. "Wolfram sandbagged it when told to swab the deck."
Sandcrab - a civilian dockworker employed to load or offload the ship.
Scope - the length of anchor cable out. Increasing the scope means to pay out or veer more anchor cable.
Scrambled eggs - gold braid found on the cap brim of a senior officer.
A burning human. See Class Alfa Fire
for more detail.
Screw - the rotating bladed device that propels a vessel through the water; the propeller.
Screw the pooch - to make a mistake, especially a serious one.
Screwed, blewed, and tattooed - a sailor's ideal liberty activities; the "blewed" is bad English / poetic license for what President Clinton liked to get. "In Naples, I plan to get screwed, blewed, and tattooed."
Scrounge - a sailor who is not current on his hygiene quals. Also the procurement of a needed item through irregular means. "Harrilak is a scrounge, but he can usually scrounge repair parts for the engine room."
SCUBA - Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Breathing gear for underwater swimmers.
Scullery - the compartment for washing and sterilizing dinnerware and eating utensils.
Scupper - opening in the side of the ship to carry off water from decks and waterways.
Scuttle - a water-tight opening set in a hatch or bulkhead. Also to intentionally sink a ship or other object.
Scuttlebutt - a drinking fountain. Also a rumor or rumors; from the habit of crewmembers of talking while at the scuttlebutt. In the days of sail, A butt was a wooden cask which held water or other liquids; to scuttle was to drill a hole, as for tapping a cask.
Sea bag - canvas bag which held all a sailor's worldly goods aboard ship. Carried over the shoulder by a strap.
Sea bat - a practical joke akin to a snipe hunt. The victim ends up getting batted in the ass.
Seabee - member of a Navy construction battalion, or C.B. (cee-bee, get it?)
Sea cabin - small cabin, very close to the bridge, where the captain or admiral can sleep while at sea; his other cabin, suitable for receiving visitors, etc., is usually farther from the bridge.
Sea chest - the cavity inside a sea suction from which pumps draw seawater, often for cooling purposes; also a sailor's trunk.
Sea daddy - one who takes a less-experienced crewmember under his or her wing and expert tutelage. Often, and traditionally, when a CPO takes care of and educates a boot Ensign.
Sea lawyer - Someone who professes to have significant knowledge of the fine points of the rules and regulations. This knowledge is often used for personal gain, or to claim why something cannot be done.
Sea legs - to "get your sea legs" is to gain experience aboard ship, especially underway.
Seaman - an E-3 enlisted man, on track to become rated in a deck rating.
Seaman apprentice - an E-2 enlisted man, on track to become rated in a deck rating.
Seaman deuce - a seaman apprentice.
Seamanship - the art of handling a vessel. Also, skill in the use of deck equipment, in boat handling, and in the care and use of line and wire.
Sea painter - a line leading from forward on the ship and secured to a forward inboard thwart of a boat in such a way as to permit quick release.
Sea state - the condition of the ocean waves and the height of their swells.
Sea story - A tale of nautical derring-do. Often differs from a fairy tale only in that while a fairy tale begins "Once upon a time," a sea story begins either "There I was," or "This is no shit."
Sea suction - Underwater opening in a ship's hull. May be several feet in diameter. Usually fitted with a grating to prevent the entry of large, unwanted objects such as divers and other sea life.
Seaward - toward the sea from the land. The opposite of shoreward and landward.
Seaworthy - capable of putting to sea and withstanding normal heavy weather.
SECNAV - the SECretary of the NAVy. SECNAV is responsible for conducting all the affairs of the Department of the Navy, including: recruiting, organizing, supplying, equipping, training, mobilizing, and demobilizing. The Secretary also oversees the construction, outfitting, and repair of naval ships, equipment and facilities. SECNAV is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies and programs that are consistent with the national security policies and objectives established by the President and the Secretary of Defense. The Department of the Navy consists of two uniformed Services: the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. Though SECNAV is an important civilian official, he is not part of the chain of command for the operating force.
Second class - best rate in the U. S. Navy. Too low to be responsible for screw-ups (the lot of first class and chiefs), but high enough to get out of grunt work. Normally the most technically qualified of all the rates, and worked directly on equipment.
Second deck - the first complete deck below the main deck. Decks below it are the third deck, fourth deck, and so on.
Secure - to close, make fast, lock tightly, etc. Also, an order given on completion of a drill or exercise, meaning to withdraw from drill stations and duties. "Now hear this. All hands secure from battle stations."
Secure for sea - prepare for going to sea, by lashing down or securing all moveable objects.
Security clearance -
an administrative determination by competent authority that an individual is eligible, from a security standpoint, for access to classified matter
a visual signalling system based on a signalman's waving of a pair of hand-held flags. Click here
to see more.
Semper Fidelis - often heard as "Semper Fi". Latin for "Always Faithful". The motto of the United States Marine Corps.
Semper Paratus - Latin for "Always Prepared". The motto of the United States Coast Guard.
Service force - the ships and organization providing logistic support to combatant forces.
Service stripes - diagonal stripes on the lower left sleeve of an enlisted man's uniform denoting periods of enlistment completed. See hash marks for details.
Shackle - a U-shaped piece of iron or steel with eyes in the end closed by a shackle pin.
Shaft alley - engineering space aft of the engine room(s), where propeller shafts run until they pierce the hull.
Shake a leg - an order to make haste.
Shakedown cruise - cruise of a newly-commissioned ship to test and adjust all equipment and machinery and to train the crew as a working unit.
She - the ship. Ships are traditionally spoken of as feminine beings.
Sheave - the wheel of a block over which the fall of the block is rove; in other words, a pulley.
Shellback - one who has crossed the Equator. Frequently modified with the adjective "trusty".
Shellback ceremony -
ceremony where pollywogs
. More fully explained under line-crossing ceremony
Shift colors - When a ship moors, the national colors are broken on the stern, the Jack is broken on the bow, and the steaming colors are hauled down at the masthead, all at the instant the first line goes over. When the ship gets underway, as soon as the last line is cast off the dock, the Jack and colors are struck at bow and stern while the steaming colors are broken at the masthead. Typically, at the moment colors are to be shifted, a Boatswain's Mate will use the 1MC to pass the word that "The ship is underway."
Ship - general term for a large seagoing vessel.
Ship driver - a surface warfare officer.
Shipmate - one who serves on the same ship as you, usually, but not necessarily, at the same time.
Ship over - to re-enlist. Also called re-up.
Ship's company - all the officers and men regularly assigned to the ship. If others are aboard, such as embarked Marines or an air wing, they are usually not considered as part of the ship's company.
also seen as shipshape and Bristol fashion
. The desired condition of any ship or unit; the maintenance of seamanlike appearance. Every piece of gear stowed neatly, with a place for everything, and everything in its place.
Ship's store - retail outlet aboard ship for buying personal items. On larger ships, a wider range of merchandise is carried.
a place used for shipbuilding and/or as a repair depot; often shortened to yard. Click Here
to see some facts about one.
Shipyard shit - a head call of extra-long duration. Used as in "Where's Jones?" "He's takin' a shipyard shit." With frequent usage, shortened simply to shipyard, as in "He's takin' a shipyard."
Shit - what you say before you sink.
Shitbag - A lazy person, or someone who does not bathe regularly.
Shitbird - a screwed-up person.
Shitcan - trash can, or when used as a verb, to throw something away.
Shitfaced - drunk.
Shit locker - your ass. "Shut up, or I'll kick you in the shit locker."
Shitters - the toilets, as opposed to the pissers (urinals).
Shitting - lying to someone, or attempting to con them. "Are you shitting me?"
Shoal - a natural formation similar to a reef, but more gradual in its rise from the ocean floor.
Shore - land, usually that part adjacent to the water.
Shore Patrol - naval personnel detailed to maintain discipline, to aid local police in handling naval personnel on liberty or leave, and to assist naval personnel in difficulty ashore. Exciting temporary duty for those selected.
Shore up - to prop up.
Shoreward - toward the land from the sea; also seen as landward. The opposite of seaward.
Shoring - heavy timbers used to shore up damaged bulkheads, etc. aboard ship.
Shoreline - where the water meets the land. Also something you send a new guy to bring from the boatswain's locker.
said of one whose discharge or transfer date is rapidly approaching. Can lead to usage of the term
Short-arm inspection - VD check. The sailors lined up after a port call and the doc took a look. Really.
Short timer - one whose enlistment is nearly up.
Short-timer's chain - a length of chain carried by a short-timer, where the number of links equals the number of days remaining before discharge. Each day, the short-timer cuts off another link.
Shot - in gunnery, a radio call that a round has been fired; when the round lands, the call is splash. Also, a unit of measure for anchor chain; a shot of chain is 15 fathoms (90 feet).
Shot line -
The line fired from a line throwing gun; used to put lines over for UNREP
or when coming alongside the pier. The shot line is small-diameter line to which successively heavier lines are attached so that they may be hauled over to the receiving ship or pier.
Shove off - to leave; an order to a boat to leave a landing or a ship's side, or to a person to leave the local premises. "I don't have the duty today, so I'm going to shove off for home."
Sickbay - ship's hospital or dispensary.
Sideboys - non-rated men manning the side when senior officers or distinguished visitors come aboard. Tending the side with side boys originated in the days of sail, when it was customary to hold conferences on the flagships both when at sea and in open roadstead. Also, officers were invited to dinner on other ships while at sea, weather permitting. Sometimes the sea was such that visitors were hoisted aboard in boatswain's chairs. Members of the crew did the hoisting, and it is from the aid they rendered in tending the side that the custom originated of having a certain number of men always in attendance. Some have reported the higher the officer's rank, the heavier the officer's weight; therefore, more side boys were used for senior officers.
Sidelight - a running light showing green to starboard and red to port, showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 112.5 degrees, fixed to show the light from right ahead to 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on the respective sides.
Sierra Hotel - Shit Hot; extremely capable. "The Rankin was always a Sierra Hotel ship."
Sight - to see for the first time, as to sight a ship on the horizon. Also, a celestial observation.
Signal bridge - weather deck, usually just above the bridge, where signal flags are stored and hoisted, and where signal lights are mounted.
Signal halyard - line used to hoist signal flagsfrom the signal bridge.
Signal light -
searchlight with a movable shutter mechanism to facilitate sending flashing light messages in Morse code
; usually mounted on the signal bridge
. Additional signal lights, very large and powerful, are often mounted higher up in the superstructure.
SITREP - SITuation REPort; a brief report of the important aspects of an operation.
Skate - A sailor who avoids work while not being detected. Example: one who can avoid work while assigned to a ten-man working party. Also "super skate", a man superior to a skate. A super skate can avoid work while assigned to a four-man working party.
Skinny - information. "The exec gave us the skinny on the upcoming operation." Correct information is straight skinny; incorrect information is bum skinny.
Skipper - Commanding Officer. Apparently from the Dutch "Schipper,", which means, essentially, "he who ships."
Skivvies - underwear. Sometimes the individual items are seen as skivvy shirt and skivvy shorts.
Skivvy waver - signalman.
Skosh - quickly, as in "We need to get this job done most skosh." Also, a small amount, as in "They better get that foul deck cleared; Dave's coming in skosh fuel." From the Japanese sukoshi, literally "small" or "little". Pronounced with a long "o."
Skunk - label used for surface radar contacts. Skunk Alfa refers to the first new radar contact of the day, Skunk Bravo the second, etc.
Sky pilot - a chaplain.
Skylarking - horsing around, goofing off, etc. Also known as grab-assing.
Slack - to allow a line to run out. Also, undisciplined, as "a slack ship."
Sliders - food term: hamburgers. So greasy, they "slide."
Sliders with lids - food term: cheeseburgers.
Smallboy - a destroyer, frigate, or similar small combatant.
Small craft - any vessel smaller than a ship.
Smartly - snappily; in a seamanlike fashion.
Smoker - traditional boxing event held aboard ships and shore stations; provides physical outlet for the participants, and emotional outlets for the spectators.
Smoking lamp - imaginary lamp used in a figure of speech. If the smoking lamp is lit, smoking is permitted; if the smoking lamp is out, smoking is forbidden. The term probably came into use during the 16th Century when seamen began smoking on board vessels. The smoking lamp was a safety measure, devised mainly to keep the fire hazard away from highly combustible woodwork and gunpowder. Most navies established regulations restricting smoking to certain areas. Usually, the lamp was located in the forecastle or the area directly surrounding the galley indicting that smoking was permitted in this area. Even after the invention of matches in the 1830s, the lamp was an item of convenience to the smoker. When particularly hazardous operations or work required that smoking be curtailed, the unlighted lamp relayed the message.
SNAFU - Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.
SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare
personnel; so called because of their ability to live off the land ashore.
Snake ranch - a house rented by a group of bachelors.
Snatch block - a single block fitted so that the shell or hook hinges to permit the bight of a rope to be passed through.
crew member in the engineering rates; someone who works in the engineering spaces and seldom is seen topside when underway. Machinist's Mates and Gas Turbine Specialists are ultimate snipes. It is believed that true snipes cannot stand direct sunlight or fresh air, must have machine oil in their coffee in order to survive, and get nosebleeds at altitudes above the waterline. It is also firmly believed that fresh-air sailors who venture into snipe country
are never seen again.
Snipe country - the engineering spaces, bilges, and voids where the snipes dwell. Considered to be extremely dangerous territory for non-snipes. "The snipes will get you" is commonly used to deter sailors from going too far below decks.
Snot locker - your nose. "Shut up or I'll hit you in the snot locker."
Sonar - Sound Navigation And Ranging. Underwater echo-ranging equipment, originally for detecting submarines by small warships. Now used by helicopters as well as ships.
Son of a gun - traditionally, a male child born or conceived afloat. An archaic term from the days of sail, when crewmen were typically not let ashore for fear of desertion. Women were let aboard (the regulation said "wives", but this was widely ignored, or at least winked at), and even carried at sea at times.
SOP - Standard Operating Procedure.
SOPA - Senior Officer Present Afloat
distress signal with origins in Morse code. Also a food term: creamed chipped beef on toast; acronym for Shit On a Shingle. See FOT.
SOSUS - SOund SUrveillance System. A land-based system of seabed hydrophones and sophisticated analysis equipment, used to monitor worldwide movements of ships and submarines.
to measure depth of water by means of a lead line
Sound-powered phone - shipboard telephone powered by voice alone. Batteries not required.
Space - room or compartment aboard ship. The plural, spaces, can also mean compartments devoted to the same general purpose; engineering spaces, berthing spaces, etc.
Spanner - tool for coupling hoses.
the nautical equivalent of a pole; can be of steel or wood, and often serves as a mast, boom, gaff, piling, etc.
Sparks - nickname for a radio operator.
Speaking tube - hollow pipe running from the bridge to other spaces, notably the engine room, through which verbal commuications can take place.
Special court martial -
the second most serious of three courts authorized by the UCMJ
Special operations - VERY secret stuff. If we told you about it, we'd have to kill you.
Special sea detail -
group of highly skilled men assigned to key jobs when mooring, anchoring, getting underway, etc. Also seen as special sea and anchor detail,
or simply sea detail.
Special warfare -
that which is done by SEAL teams, UDT, Beach Jumpers and such. For details, see Naval Special Warfare
Spit kit - an ashtray, especially a can-shaped one mounted on a bulkhead. Sometimes called a butt kit.
Spit shine - an extreme form of polishing shoes. Named for the use of saliva and a cloth or nylon stocking in creating it.
Splice - to join two lines by tucking the strands of each into the other.
Splice the mainbrace - have an alcoholic drink. Originated in the days of the sailing navies.
Spring lay - wire rope composed of six wire and fiber strands laid around a fiber core. The fiber provides a cushion for the wire strands and results in a rope having great flexibility and elasticity. The term has nothing to do with liberty after the vernal equinox.
Squall - a sudden and violent storm or gust of wind.
Square away - to organize or get ready for something such as an inspection, a drill, etc. In the days of sail, the term referred to putting a ship before the wind, to get way on.
Squared away - said of a ship or sailor who looks good, maneuvers smartly, performs well, etc.
Stack - a ship's smokestack or funnel.
Staff officer - as opposed to line officer, an officer of the Supply Corps, Medical Corps, Dental Corps, JAG Corps, etc. whose duties are primarily within his specialty and not of a military character. Also, a line officer when assigned to the staff, or group of assistants, of a high-ranking officer.
Stanchion - wood or metal upright used as a support.
Stand by - preparatory order meaning "get ready" or "prepare." "Now all hands stand by for heavy weather." Also to substitute for another's watch or duty. "Peterson agreed to stand by for me so I could go to the ball game."
Standard rudder - predetermined rudder setting that will turn the ship in a circle of predetermined size.
Standard speed - speed set as a basic speed by the officer in command of a unit.
Standing rigging - that part of a ship's rigging which is permanently secured and not movable.
Starboard side -
the right side of a ship as seen when facing forward. The left side is the port
side. For more, see port and starboard
Stateroom - an officer's berthing space. Most staterooms are shared by two to four officers. The executive officer has a private stateroom, as do other high-ranking officers when space is available.
a ship's assigned position in a formation of ships. "Our station is 2000 yards dead astern of the guide
." Also the location of people and equipment with a specific purpose, as a gun-control station.
Station keeping - the art of keeping a ship in its proper position in a formation of ships.
Stay - any piece of standing rigging providing support only.
Steady as she goes - order to the helmsman to hold the ship on the present course.
Steaming as before - the beginning of a log entry made at when changing the watch. If at the beginning of the day (i.e. midnight, at the start of the midwatch), it is followed with a detailed narrative of ship, system, and machinery status.
Steerage way - the slowest speed at which a ship can be steered.
the extreme forward line of the bow.
the aftermost part of a ship.
Stern anchor - an anchor carried at the stern.
Stern hook - boat crew member whose main responsibility is caring for lines in the stern.
Stevedore - a professional cargo loader and unloader.
Steward - enlisted man assigned to prepare officers' meals, care for their staterooms, etc.
Stew burner - a cook.
STFB - Stand The Fuck By, i.e. get ready for trouble.
Storeroom - space provided for stowage of provisions or other materials.
Stores - almost anything which is handled or consumed aboard ship, e.g. food, spare parts, etc.
Stow - to store or pack articles in a space.
Straddle - in gunnery, when one round or salvo is over, and the next is short, or vice versa. A hit is often soon to come, as the firing ship is getting the target's range (prior to the advent of radar, the most difficult aspect of the fire control puzzle).
to attempt to qualify for a new rating
, or enlisted specialty.
enlisted man in training for a particular rating
. "Seaman Romano is a Quartermaster striker."
Striking for Chief - said of a brown-noser, or of someone really good at his job.
Striking the colors - lowering the national flag, or ensign; was and is the universally recognized indication of surrender at sea.
Suit - term dating from at least the early 1600s, meaning the outfit of sails used by a ship. The term was revived after World War II, when a Navy ship's complement of electronics could be referred to as its electronics suit, and its total armament might be called its weapons suit. The word is sometimes incorrectly spelled "suite."
Summary court martial -
the least serious judicial court prescribed by the UCMJ.
The court consists of one officer.
Superstructure - all equipment and fittings, except armament, extending above the main deck. The bridge and the masts are part of the superstructure, as is the island on an aircraft carrier.
Survey - examination by authorized personnel to determine whether a piece of gear should be discarded or retained. Also, to discard something no longer regarded as useful. "My CD player wasn't working very well, so I surveyed it."
Swab - a rope or yarn mop. Also, to use a swab, typically to clean or clear water from a deck.
outsider's derisive term for a Navy man, especially a bluejacket
; from his presumed frequent duty of swabbing decks. They intend it to appear derogatory, but really it's a term of jealousy.
Swab jockey - swabbie
Swamp - to sink by filling with water.
Sweat - to worry about something or to be overly conscientious, or one who worries excessively. "LT Ross is such a sweat. If he were a boatswain's mate, he'd even sweat the small stuff."
Swell - a large wave
Swim call - recreational event; the ship stops dead in the water and all hands are invited to go for a swim. Lifeguards are posted in boats, usually armed to ward off shark attacks. Lots of fun, and you can tell your grandchildren about swimming in the middle of the ocean.
Swinging dick - man, as in "I want every swinging dick in Deck Division working on the problem!"
Tack - a piece of line used as a blank in a signal flag hoist, used for punctuation or to set aside a part of the message. Also a punctuation mark in a written or voice message, written as a dash.
Tacking on -
"tacking on the crow" refers to the practice of punching the arm of a newly-promoted Petty Officer, a practice now in disfavor due to past abuses. See crow
. May have originated in the tradition of having one's shipmates each take a stitch in attaching a new crow.
Tactical diameter -
the diameter of the circle first described by a ship's turn. See also advance and transfer
TAD - Temporary Additional Duty, as when attending a school. Generally less than 6 months. Facetiously, "Traveling Around Drunk." See also TDY, below.
Taffrail - a rail at the stern of a ship.
Taffrail log - a device to indicate the speed of a ship through the water; it is trailed from the taffrail and consists of a rotator and a recording instrument.
Take a turn - to pass a turn around a belaying pin or cleat.
Tallyho - call signifying visual contact.
Tampion - the plug that goes into the end of a gun barrel; often decorated with a star. Pronounced "tompkin."
Tanker - a ship designed to carry various types of liquid cargo, from oil and gasoline to molasses, water, and vegetable oil.
Taps - bugle call or other call for lights out at night.
slang term for a sailor, in use since at least 1676. The term "Jack tar" was used by the 1780s. Early Sailors wore overalls and broad-brimmed hats made of tar-impregnated fabric called tarpaulin cloth. The hats, and the sailors who wore them, were called tarpaulins, which may have been shortened to tars.
Tarpaulin - heavy canvas sheet used as covering.
Task Force - temporary grouping of ships and other units under one commander; formed to carry out a specific operation or mission.
Taut - with no slack. Also, strict as to discipline. "A taut ship is a happy ship."
TDY - Temporary Duty, usually in place of one's normal duty. See also TAD, above. "While the ship was in drydock, the Medical Officer was sent on TDY to Portsmouth Naval Hospital."
Telephone talker - a man assigned to the sound-powered phones. He relays verbal questions, reports and orders to and from others on his circuit.
Tender - one who serves as a precautionary standby, such as a line tender for a diver. Also a support vessel for other ships, such as a destroyer tender.
The Old Navy - the Navy as it was in an unspecified previous time; thought to have been tougher, more disciplined, more effective, and better in every way. "This isn't the Old Navy (and of course it never was)."
This is a drill - words used on the 1MC or other public address system to indicate that what follows is not real, but only for practice. "This is a drill, this is a drill. General Quarters, General Quarters. All hands man your battle stations."
Three sheets to the wind - intoxicated with alcohol. Literally, when the lines to the sails (sheets) have come adrift and fly in the wind.
Throw a fish - to salute.
Tie-Tie - short strip of cloth, one or more pairs of which are sewn to an item and used for tying it together. Found on the front kapok life preservers and elsewhere.
common nickname for a destroyer; also seen as tin can
. The nickname arose because in previous times the hull plating of this ship type was so thin the sailors claimed they were made from tin cans. In fact, a .45 pistol bullet would penetrate it. Modern destroyers have much thicker hull plating, but the nickname persists. This nickname is sometimes abbreviated as can.
clean up, or make shipshape
. "Titivate the wardroom—the captain's coming for dinner."
Titless WAVE - A (male) Yeoman. Can also be used to refer to Personnelmen.
Tits up - inoperative, or broken. "It's dead, Jim." Polite form: belly up.
Toe rail - on weather decks, the raised lip at the deck edge. An aid to keeping one's feet inboard, and therefore staying safely on deck.
Toe the line - once a week, usually on Sunday, a warship's crew was ordered to fall in at quarters—each group of men into which the crew was divided would line up in formation in a given area of the wooden deck. To insure a neat alignment of each row, the sailors were directed to stand with their toes just touching a particular seam between planks. Also, the youngsters in a ship, be they ship's boys or student officers, might be required to stand with their toes just touching a designated seam for a length of time as punishment for some minor infraction of discipline, such as talking or fidgeting at the wrong time. A tough captain might require the miscreant to stand there, not talking to anyone, in fair weather or foul, for hours at a time. Hopefully, he would learn it was easier and more pleasant to conduct himself in the required manner rather than suffer the punishment. From these two uses of deck seams comes our cautionary word to obstreperous youngsters to "toe the line."
Tompkin - see Tampion.
Topside - above decks.
Tough shit - too bad; often said when nothing can be done about the bad situation. "You don't like the CO's liberty policy? Tough shit."
Track - the path of a vessel.
Trainer - member of a gun crew who controls the gun's motion from side to side.
Trice up - to hitch up or hook up, such as to trice up a shipboard bunk.
Trim - the angle to the horizontal at which a vessel rides.
Trim Party – in submarines, a prank often perpetrated on a newly-qualled Dive Officer or Chief of the Watch, where men and other weights are shifted fore and aft to affect the trim of the boat.
Trolling - fishing by dragging a baited line behind the vessel. Also walking around with one's fly open. Usually said as a joke to inform someone that his fly is open. "Hey, Smith, are you trolling?" Sometimes seen as trolling for queers.
Truck - the uppermost part of a mast.
True colors - early warships often carried flags from many nations on board in order to elude or deceive the enemy. The rules of civilized warfare called for all ships to hoist their true national ensigns before firing a shot. Someone who finally "shows his true colors" is acting like a man-of-war which hailed another ship flying one flag, but then hoisted their own when they got in firing range.
True north - the direction of the actual position of the earth's north pole, as separate from magnetic north and compass north.
Tube steak - food term: a hot dog or other sausage.
Tug - a small vessel fitted for towing; also seen as tugboat.
Turbine - high speed rotor turned by steam or other gases.
Turd herders – Personnel assigned to the ship’s sewage handling plant.
a movement of a formation of ships; all turn in unison from one course to another. See also corpen.
Turn in - to retire to bed. Also to return articles to their place of issue.
Turn out - to get out of bed. Also to order out a working party or other group, as in "turn out the guard."
Turn to - an order to begin working.
Turn turtle - capsize.
Turtle - covers the hawsepipe.
Twelve O'clock Reports - reports on fuel and water, magazine temperature, position, and so forth. Just before 1200 (noon) each day, these reports are made to the Officer of the Deck by the engineering officer, the weapons officer, and the navigator. The OOD then reports to the CO.
Two-block - to reach the maximum limit of something. Can also mean just right, or perfect. The term originates in the use of block and tackle for hoisting. When the two blocks touch, lifting can proceed no further.
the Uniform Code of Military Justice, see full definition below.
UDT - Underwater Demolition Team. See full definition below.
Uncovered - without a hat. Naval personnel do not salute while uncovered.
Underwater Demolition Team -
WWII Navy frogmen, merged into the SEAL organization in 1983; Special Forces personnel especially trained and equipped for making hydrographic reconnaissance of approaches to prospective landing beaches; for effecting demolition of obstacles, clearing mines in certain areas; locating, improving, and marking of usable channels; channel and harbor clearance; acquisition of pertinent data during pre-assault operations, including military information; and visual observation of the hinterland to gain information useful to the landing force; and for performing miscellaneous underwater and surface tasks within their capabilities. Don't fuck with them.
sometimes seen as under weigh
. The term refers to a ship which is not physically connected to solid ground, i.e. neither moored, anchored, nor aground. Often confused with making way
. A ship which is moving under her own power is underway with way on.
Uniform Code of Military Justice -
the Congressional code of military criminal law, applicable to all members of the U.S. military worldwide. Click here to see a copy
. The Code's most famous words are from Article 120(c): "Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense."
Universal adjective -
a coarse word extensively used by seafaring men.
to see it.
UNderway REPlenishment. The transfer of supplies, fuel, and munitions from one ship to another while at sea.
Unsat - unsatisfactory.
Unship - to take apart or to remove from its place.
Up all hammocks - admonishment to get out of bed, given to those entitled to sleep in after reveille.
Upper deck - any partial deck amidships above the main deck.
Vampire liberty - liberty awarded for donating blood during blood drives.
Variation - the difference between true north and the direction of the magnetic lines of force which affect the compass. Variation is caused by the earth, and it changes over time. The amount of variation for any given locality, together with the amount of yearly increase or decrease is shown on the compass rose of the chart for that locality.
Veer - to pay out line or chain, as in increasing the scope of the anchor. Also, a clockwise change of wind direction.
Vertical envelopment - the process of landing troops ashore via helicopter.
VertRep - VERTical REPlenishment. Bringing stores aboard ship by use of a helicopter.
Very pistol - special pistol used to fire flares; sometimes seen as Very's pistol. Named after Edward Wilson Very (1847–1910), an American naval officer.
Very well - reply of a senior (or officer) to a junior (or enlisted man) to indicate that the information given is understood, or that permission is granted. OOD: "Captain, the anchor is aweigh." Captain: "Very well."
Void - an empty space inside the hull, present for protection and for control of list and trim.
Wake - the track left in the water behind the ship.
Wardroom - dining room and lounge used by all officers except the Captain, who eats and sleeps in his cabin; the Executive Officer is in charge of the wardroom. Also a collective term used to signify all the officers of a ship, except for the Captain.
Wardroom mess - the dining room aspects of the wardroom. While enlisted crew members eat at the expense of the ship, officers pay for their food in the wardroom mess.
Warning Red (Yellow, White) - reports the threat status. Red signifies attack imminent, or ongoing. Yellow means attack is likely. White signifies attack unlikely.
Waste heat boiler - a boiler which uses the waste heat of an engine system to make steam for hotel or other usage. Often associated with a gas turbine or diesel propulsion plant.
a period of duty, usually of four hours' duration, into which the day is divided. Also applied collectively to the men who stand the watch. The Navy watch rotation is shown in the table below; the dog watches
permit the watchstanders to eat the evening meal, and rotate from day to day the watches stood by each section.
Name of Watch
Midnight - 4:00 AM
4:00 AM - 8:00 AM
8:00 AM - Noon
Noon - 4:00 PM
First Dog Watch
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Second Dog Watch
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
8:00 PM - Midnight
knitted wool cap worn by bluejackets
in cool or cold weather.
Watch officer - the officer in charge of a watch or portion thereof; for example, the Officer of the Deck, the CIC watch officer, or the Engineering Officer of the Watch.
Watch, quarter and station bill - a chart showing, specifically by name and duty, every man's location in the ship's organization and his station for shipboard drills.
Watchstander - one who stands a watch.
Water Hours - times of restricted use of fresh water. During water hours, fresh water is available only for cooking and the needs of the ship.
Water king - the petty officer in charge of the ship's fresh water supply. When in port, there is a duty water king, who excercises this responsibility in the water king's temporary absence.
Waterline - the point to which a ship sinks in the water; a line painted on the hull showing the point to which the ship sinks when properly trimmed.
Waterlogged - filled with water, but afloat.
Watertight - capable of keeping out water.
Watertight integrity - the system of keeping the ship afloat, even when damaged, by maintaining water-tightness.
Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service; a renowned WWII organization of females in the Navy. Click Here
to learn more. Not to be confused with waves,
which are the familiar undulations in the surface of the sea. Q: "How do you find the temperature of the water?" A: "Stick your finger in a wave."
Weather deck - any deck of a ship which is exposed to the weather.
Weather eye - to "keep a weather eye" is to be on the alert.
Weigh anchor - To lift the anchor off the bottom.
Well done -
Navy term of approval for a job well done, an assignment excellently completed, etc. See Bravo Zulu
WESTPAC - the Western Pacific ocean. A cruise to WESTPAC is a long and arduous one. Well, maybe not so arduous when you're on liberty, but aboard the ship, it's a bitch.
WETSU - We Eat This Shit Up. A derisive statement, usually regarding working or living conditions.
WFW - "Waaah Fucking Waaah". Used to tell someone to quit whining.
Wharf - harbor structure alongside which vessels moor. A wharf is generally built along the water's edge, and is sometimes called a dock; a pier extends out into the harbor.
Wheel book - small notebook used by Division Officers to keep track of daily events and reminders.
Wheelhouse - the topside compartment containing the ship's main controls, and where on most ships the OOD, helmsman, quartermaster of the watch, etc. stand their watches; also called the pilot house.
Where away? - call requesting location of an object sighted by a lookout.
Whipping - binding on the end of a line or wire, applied to prevent unraveling.
Whitecaps - waves with white froth on their crests.
Wide berth - to give a wide berth is to keep at a considerable distance.
. So called because he wears the traditional white sailor's hat.
WILCO - WILL COmply. May only be used by unit commanders (ship COs, aircraft commanders, etc.)
Wildcat - sprocket wheel on the anchor windlass for taking the links of the chain cable.
Willy Pete - ordnance which contains White Phosphorus for illumination. From the old phonetic alphabet, William Peter.
Winch - a hoisting engine secured to the deck; used to haul lines by turns around a horizontally driven drum or windlass.
Windlass - the engine used for heaving in the anchor.
Windward - into the wind, or toward the direction from which the wind is blowing. The opposite of leeward.
Wire - nautical term for what a civilian would call a cable or wire rope.
Word, the - an order or information that is intended to be disseminated to all hands. "The word is that there will be no liberty in Naples." When it is desired to announce that expected news has not arrived, it is sometimes said that "the word is that there is no word." See pass the word.
Working party - a group of men, often from different divisions, assigned to a common task. "Now the working party lay ashore to clean up after the softball game."
Wire rope - wire strands wound around a core of rope. Not as strong as cable, but more flexible.
Wop slop - food term: spaghetti with meat sauce.
Womb broom - a beard.
WTD - Water Tight Door.
WTF - "What/who/where the fuck?" An inquiry. Sometimes spoken as "What the fuck, over?" or "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."
XO - abbreviation for Executive Officer.
Yard - spar
attached at its middle to a mast
and running athwartships
; used as a support for signal halyards
or yardarm blinkers
. Also, a shortened form of shipyard
, a place used for shipbuilding and/or as a repair depot. "The ship went into the yard for a six-week repair period."
Yardarm - either side of a yard.
Yardarm blinkers -
signal lights mounted above the end of a yardarm
and flashed on and off to send messages in Morse code
Yardbird - shipyard worker; a shore-based repairman. "After the ship scraped the pier, the yardbirds came aboard and replaced ten feet of her rail."
Yaw - side to side movement of the heading of a ship. Other movements are pitch and roll.
Yeoman - enlisted rating primarily concerned with administrative duties.
Z's - sleep, or snoring. "Let's go bag some Z's."
Zero Dark Thirty - Very late at night, or very early in the morning. Aka oh dark thirty.
ZULU Time - Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Used in radio traffic when the origin of a dispatch is expressed in GMT, i.e. "1700 ZULU".