Abeam – At a right angle to
the ship’s length; off the side of the ship.
Adrift – Drifting or floating without power.
Afloat – At sea; on board ship.
Aft – Toward or in the back of a ship.
Ahead – Something ahead of a ship’s bow.
Ahoy – Greeting between sailors, a call used for hailing.
Alleyway – A corridor, hallway, or passageway.
Alongside – Used when a ship is beside a pier or another vessel.
Amidships – Halfway between the bow (front) and the stern (back)
of a ship.
Anchor – A heavy metal weight used to moor a ship
Anchorage – The place where a ship is anchored or lying at
Anchor Ball – The black ball hoisted above a ship’s bow to
indicate the vessel is anchored.
Ashore – On the shore or land.
Astern – Aft or toward the stern (back) of a ship.
Athwartships -- From side to side, across the ship.
Atoll – A ring shaped coral reef enclosing a lagoon.
Aye-Aye – Yes; to agree or see 'eye-to-eye' on a matter.
Backwash – Receding waves created by movement of a ship.
Bail – To scoop water out of a boat.
Ballast – Heavy material placed in a ship’s hold for
Bar – An obstruction, usually a sandbar caused by tidal currents
or wave action near shore.
Bay – Broad inlet of the sea where the land curves inward.
Beam – A ship’s breadth at its widest point.
Bearing – A compass direction relative to a fixed point, usually
measured in degrees.
Beaufort Scale – Scale of wind speed ranging from 0 (calm) to 12
Belowdeck – Downstairs; anything beneath a ship’s main deck.
Bells – Audible sounding of the ship's time. One bell sounds
each half hour progressively for a total of eight, beginning at
half past the hours of 4:00, 8:00 and 12:00.
Berth – A ship’s place at a wharf, dock, pier, or quay; a
Bilge – The almost flat part of the ship’s hull below the
Boat – The tenders and lifeboats carried by a ship.
Boat Stations – The space allotted for each passenger during
lifeboat drill or any emergency
when lifeboats are lowered.
Bow – The forward (front) end of a ship.
Breeze – A hurricane.
Bridge – The operational superstructure of a ship; the
navigational and command center.
Bright Work – The polished metal fittings of a ship.
Bulkhead – A wall or upright partition separating a ship’s
Bunkers – The space where a ship’s fuel is stored.
Bulwark – A ship’s side above deck.
Cabin – A room or compartment on a ship.
Cable Length – One-tenth of a sea mile or 608 ft.
Captain – The highest-ranking officer on a ship.
Cargo – Goods or baggage carried on a ship.
Cat – Catamaran or boat with parallel twin hulls.
Chart – A nautical map used for navigating a ship.
Colors – The national flag or emblem flown by a ship.
Companionway – An interior stairway.
Course – Measured in degrees, the direction in which a ship is
Crew – Those people manning a ship, except the captain or
Davit – A device used to raise and lower lifeboats.
Deadlight – A ventilated porthole cover that prevents light from
Debark – To leave a ship.
Deck – The flooring on a ship.
Disembark (also Debark) - To leave a ship.
Dispensary – The medical clinic, from where medications are
Dock – A pier or jetty where a ship is berthed.
Draft – The depth of water needed to float a ship; the
measurement from a ship’s waterline to the lowest point of it
Embark – To
go on board a ship.
Fathom – A measure of six feet.
Fantail – The rear overhang of a ship.
Flagstaff – The pole at a ship’s stern where the flag of the
vessel’s country of registry is flown.
Flare – The upward and outward curve of a ship's hull at the
Flotsam – Wreckage floating at sea.
Foghorn – The signaling device used to warn ships in fog.
Fore – The front of a ship.
Forward – The front of a ship.
Freeboard – The part of a ship’s hull or weatherdecks above
Free Port – A port that is free of customs duty and regulations.
Funnel – The metal chimney on a ship for exhausting smoke and
combustible gases into the atmosphere.
Galley – A ship’s kitchen; where food is prepared.
Gangplank – A moveable ramp or stairs for boarding or
disembarking from a ship.
Gangway – Opening in a ship’s bulwark; a bridge laid from ship
Guest – A ship’s passenger.
Gulf – A deep ocean inlet with a narrow mouth.
Gunwale – The upper edge of the side of a ship.
Hatch – An opening or door on a ship, either vertical or
Hatchway – The opening in a ship’s deck for cargo.
Hawser – Thick rope or cable for mooring or towing a ship.
Head – A bathroom on a ship or the bow of a ship.
Helm – The apparatus for steering a ship.
Hold – The cargo storage area of a ship.
House Flag – The flag designating the company that owns a ship.
Hull – The frame and body of a ship exclusive of the masts or
Infirmary – The ship’s clinic for medical treatment.
Jetsam – Discarded material thrown overboard to lighten a
Keel – The main lengthwise member along the base of a ship.
Keelhauling – Punishment by dragging an offender under the keel
of a ship and up the other side.
Kit – Personal belongings; luggage.
Knot – A unit of ship’s speed equal to one nautical mile per
Leeward – Toward the side sheltered from the wind.
Lifeboat – A small boat used for emergency evacuation of a ship.
Life Jacket – A personal flotation device.
Life Raft - A collapsible lifeboat, usually stored in containers
on weather decks.
Line – A length of rope.
Locker – A closet or compartment for storage of clothing and
The list of a ship’s passengers, crew, and cargo.
Mist – Fog, haze, or drizzle.
Monkey's Fist – A knot at the end of a line thrown to line
handlers on the dock. The smaller line is used to bring the hawser
Muster – To assemble the passengers and/or crew on a
Nautical Mile – One-sixtieth of a degree of the earth’s
international nautical mile equals 6076.1 feet; the British
nautical mile equals 6080 British imperial feet (6 feet = 1
Fathom, 100 fathoms = 1 cable, 10 cables = 1 mile, 3 miles = 1
league); the US nautical mile equals 6080.2 US feet; the French
nautical mile equals 1852 meters.
Officers – The persons holding positions of authority or trust
on board a ship.
Overboard – From a ship into the water.
Overhead – The ceiling on a ship.
Passageway – A corridor or hallway.
Passenger – A traveler on a ship.
Pitch – Plunging in a longitudinal direction; the up and down
motion of a ship.
Pilot – Person licensed to navigate ships into or out of harbors
or through difficult waters.
Port – The left side of a ship when facing forward.
Portal – An opening.
Ports-of-call – The places a ship stops during a journey.
Portholes – The round windows in a ship’s hull.
Posh – Smart, upscale, plush, superior.
From the abbreviation, "Port Out, Starboard
Home," indicating which cabins were cooler and thus more
desirable on the journey from England to the Far East.
Promenade – Usually outside, a deck that fully or partially
encircles the ship, popular for walking and jogging.
Punt – A flat-bottomed boat or raft used by the side party for
work about the ship's water line. Also serves as a floating dock
for passengers using tenders to shuttle to and from shore.
Purser – The chief financial officer of a ship.
Purser's Desk – A ship’s banking and accounting center,
usually located in the lobby.
Living accommodations on a ship.
Quay – A berth, dock, or pier.
Radio Room – A ship’s communication center where messages can
be sent and received.
Rat Guard – A large round object positioned on hawsers securing
the ship to the shore that prevents rats from climbing the hawsers
and gaining entry to the ship.
Roll – Side-to-side movement of the ship.
Rudder – A finlike device astern and below the water for
steering a ship.
Salon – A meeting room or lounge on a ship.
Screw – A ship’s propeller.
Scupper – A hole at the edge of a ship’s deck that allows
water to run off.
Sick Bay – The ship’s clinic for medical treatment.
SOLAS – Safety Of Life At Sea.
The international rules and laws to protect passengers,
ships, companies, countries, and the environment.
Squall - brief rain shower.
Stabilizers – Operated by gyroscope, retractable finlike devices
below the waterline that extend from a ship’s hull to reduce
roll and provide stability.
– The ship’s smokestack or funnel for exhausting smoke and
Staff – People responsible for passenger services on ships.
Starboard – The right side of a ship when facing forward.
Stern – The rear (back) end of a ship.
Stow – To put away belongings and other objects.
Suite – A set of rooms.
Tender – A vessel attending a larger one; used to ferry
passengers to and from shore at ports-of-call.
Thrusters – Fan-like propulsion devices under the waterline that
move a ship sideways.
Underway – Moving through the water.
Vacuum Toilet – Efficient waste evacuation system using vacuum
suction for flushing.
Wake – The track left on the water’s surface by a moving ship.
Waterline – The line along which the surface of water touches a
Weather – A storm.
Weatherdeck – An outer deck exposed to the weather.
Windward – On the side from which the wind is blowing.
Yaw – The horizontal movement of a ship from left to right that
deviates from the course as set, usually the result of heavy seas.
The west wind; a gentle breeze.