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Many of these definitions are taken from William Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine published in 1780 and available on-line

A termsBrief description

The situation of the sails when their surfaces are slated against the masts by the force of the wind.


The hinder part of a ship, or all those parts both within and without, which lie towards the stern, in opposition to afore


The inside of a ship: hence any person who enters a ship is said to go aboard: but when an enemy enters in the time of battle, he is said to board. A phrase which always, implies hostility


the situation of a ship immediately after she has tacked or changed her course by going about, and standing on the other tack


A little ornamental piece of wood, fashioned like a cone, and fixed on the uppermost point of the spindle, above the vane, on the mast-head. It is used to keep the vane from being blown off from the spindle in a whirlwind, or when the ship leans much to one side under sail


an officer of the first rank and command in the fleet, and who is distinguished by a flag displayed at his main-top-mast-head. Also an officer who superintends the naval forces of a nation, and who is authorised to determine in all maritime causes

Admiral of the Fleet

The highest officer under the admiralty of Great-Britain: when he embarks on any expedition, he is distinguished by the union flag at the main-top-mast-head


The office of lord-high-admiral, whether discharged by one single person, or by joint-commissioners, called Lords of the Admiralty (this important and high office has seldom been entrusted to any single person, except princes of the blood; or to some nobleman meriting such distinction for his eminent services. In general the crown appoints five or seven commissioners, under the title of " Lords Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord-High-Admiral of Great-Britain," &c. All maritime affairs are entrusted to their jurisdiction. They govern and direct the whole royal navy, with power decisive in all marine cases, civil, military, and criminal, transacted upon or beyond sea, in harbors, on coasts, and upon all rivers below the first bridge sea-ward.


The state of a ship or vessel broke loose from her moorings, and driven without control at the mercy of the wind, seas, or current, or all of them together

Advice boat

A small vessel employed to carry expresses or orders with all possible dispatch


Floating on the surface of the water: a ship is laid to be afloat when there is a volume of water under her bottom of sufficient depth to buoy her up from the ground


All that part of a ship which lies forward, or near the stem


As a preposition, likewise implies further forward, or nearer the prow; as, the manger stands afore the fore-mast, i. e. further forward, or nearer the stem. In both these senses afore is used in contradistinction to abaft


Behind, or near the stern of the ship; being opposed to fore; as, run out the guns fore and aft! i. e. from one end of the ship to the other; and whence


An officer stationed at a royal port, to regulate the victualing of the king's ships, under the direction of the commissioners for victualing the navy. He receives all the provisions from the victualing-office in London, and distributes them to the ships in the harbor. He also receives into his store-houses such as may be returned by ships after the expiration of their cruise or voyage, and renders an account thereof to the said commissioners


The situation of a ship whose bottom, or any part of it, hangs or rests upon the ground, so as to render her immoveable till a greater quantity of water shall float her off; or till she shall be drawn out into the stream, by the application of mechanical powers


Further onward than the ship, or at any distance before her, lying immediately on that point of the compass to which her stem is directed. It is used in opposition to astern, which expresses the situation of any object behind the ship


The situation of the helm when it is pushed down to the lee side of the ship, in order to put the Ship about, or to lay her head to the windward

All bands high

The call or order by which all the ship's company are summoned upon deck by the boatswain.

All's Well

An acclamation of safety or security pronounced by a centinel, and repeated by all the others who are stationed in different places of a ship of war, at the time of striking the bell each half-hour during the period of the night watch


The middle of the ship, either with regard to her length or breadth. Example in the first sense; The enemy boarded us amidships, i. e. in the middle, between the stem and stern. Example in the second sense; Put the helm amidships, i. e. in the middle, between the two sides


A heavy, strong, crooked instrument of iron, dropped from a ship into the bottom of the water, to retain her in a convenient station in a harbor, road, or river

Apron (1)

A platform, or flooring of plank, raised at the entrance of a dock, a little higher than the bottom, against which the dock gates are shut

Apron (2)

In ship-building, a piece of curved timber fixed behind the lower part of the stem, immediately above the foremost end of the keel.

Apron (3)

Is a square piece of lead fastened over the touch-hole of the cannon, to keep the charge dry at sea, or in rainy weather

Armed ship

A vessel occasionally taken into the service of the government in time of war, and employed to guard some particular coast, or attend on a fleet. She is therefore armed and equipped in all respects like a ship of war, and commanded by an officer of the navy, who has the rank of master and commander. All ships of this sort are upon the establishment of the King's sloops, having a lieutenant, master, purser, Surgeon, &c.


Any distance behind a ship, as opposed to a-head, which is before her. Thus, when south is a-head, or on the line to which the stem is directed, north will be astern


When used in navigation, implies across the line of the course; as, we discovered a fleet at day-break standing athwart us, i. e. steering across our way


The order to stop, or pause, in any exercise


An Advice Boat (q.v.)


A canopy of canvass extending over the decks of a ship in hot weather, for the convenience of the officers and crew, and to preserve the decks from being cracked or Split, ebaroui, by the heat of the sun. The awning is supported by a range of light posts, called stanchions, which are erected along the ship's side on the right and kit; it is also suspended in the middle by a complication of Small cords, called a crowfoot

B termsBrief description
Back stays

from back and stay, long ropes reaching from the topmast-heads to the starboard and larboard sides of the ship, where they are extended to the channels: they are used to support the top-masts, and second the efforts of the shrouds, when the mast is strained by a weight of sail in a fresh wind. They are usually distinguished into breast-back-stays and after-back-stays; the intent of the former being to sustain the top-mast when the font of the wind acts upon the ship sidewise, or, according to the sea-phrase, when the ship sails upon a wind; and the purpose of the latter is to enable it to carry sail when the wind is further aft. There are also back-stays for the top-gallant-masts, in large ships, which are fixed in the same manner with those of the top-masts. A pair of back-stays is usually formed of one rope, which is doubled in the middle, and fastened there so as to form an eye, which passes over the mast-head, from whence the two ends hang down, and are stretched to the channels by dead-eyes and laniards

Back the sails

To back the sails, is to arrange them in a situation that will occasion the ship to retreat or move astern. This operation is particularly necessary in narrow channels, when a ship is carried along sidewise by the strength of the tide or current, and it becomes requisite to avoid any object that may intercept her course, as shoals, or vessels under sail or at anchor: it is also necessary in a naval engagement, to bring a ship back, so as to lie opposite to her adversary, when the is too far advanced in the line


A type of small, sea-going vessel in use in the 15th and 16th centuries. They were distinguished by their lack of a forecastle, and by carrying either a square sail, or a sail extended on a sprit on a single mast. They were generally less than 100 tons, with a shallow draught, and the earlier vessels at least carried 30 or more oars for use in sheltered areas or for close fighting. They were mainly used for coastal trade, but could also be used as transports, carrying around forty soldiers

Barca Longa

A large Spanish tithing-boat, navigated with lug-sails, and having two or three masts: these are very common in the Mediterranean


A vessel or boat of state, furnished with elegant apartments, canopies, and cushions; equipped with a band of rowers, and decorated with flags and streamers: they are generally used for processions on the water, by noblemen, officers of state, or magistrates of great cities


A general name given to small ships: it is however peculiarly appropriated by seamen to those which carry three masts without a mizen top-sail. Our northern mariners, who are trained in the coal-trade, apply this distinction to a broad-sterned ship, which carries no ornamental figure on the stem or prow


A name given to a ship's head whose forecastle is square or oblong, a circumstance common to all vessels of war which have two or more decks of guns. In smaller ships, the forecastle is nearly shaped like a parabola, whose vertex, or angular point, lies immediately over the stem


Strong thick pieces of timber, stretching across the ship from side to side, to support the decks, and retain the sides at their proper distance


An arch of the horizon intercepted between the nearest meridian and any distinct object, either discovered by the eye, or resulting from the sinical proportion; as in the first case, at 4 P. M. Cape Spado, in the isle of Candia, bore S by W. by the compass


In navigation, the operation of making a progress at sea against the direction of the wind, in a zig-zag line, or traverse, like that in which we ascend a steep hill. As this method of sailing will be particularly explained under the term TACKING, the reader is referred to that article


That part of the floor of a ship, on either side of the keel, which approaches nearer to an horizontal than to a perpendicular direction, and on which the ship would rest if laid on the ground: or more particularly, those parts of the bottom which are opposite to the heads of the floor-timbers amidships on each side of the keel. Hence when a ship receives a fracture in this place, she is said to be bilged

Bomb vessel

a small ship particularly calculated to throw shells into a fortress. They are said to be invented by M. Reyneau, and to have been first put in action at the bombardment of Algiers. Till then it had been judged impraticable to bombard a place from the sea


A cannon situated in the fore-part of a ship to fire upon any object a-head of her


A large boom or mast, which projects over the stem, to carry sail forward, in order to govern the fore-part of a ship, and counteract the force of the sails extended behind, or, in the after part. It is otherwise of great use, as being the principal support of the fore-mast, by confining the stays whereby it is secured and enabled to carry sail: these are great ropes stretching from the mast-head to the middle of the bowsprit, where they are drawn tight


The measure of a ship from side to side in any particular place: it is usually distinguished into extreme-breadth, main-breadth, and top-timber-breadth

Brig / Brigandine

a merchant-ship with two masts. This term is not universally confined to vessels of a particular construction, or which are masted and rigged in a method different from all others. It is variously applied, by the mariners of different European nations, to a peculiar sort of vessel of their, own marine.
Amongst English seamen, this vessel is distinguished by having her main-sail set nearly in the plane of her keel; whereas the main-sails of larger ships are hung athwart, or at right angles with the ship's length, and fastened to a yard which hangs parallel to the deck: but in a brig, the foremost edge of the main-sail is fastened in different places to hoops which encircle the main-mast, and slide up and down it as the sail is hoisted or lowered: it is extended by a gaff above, and by a boom below


A name given to certain piratical rovers of various European nations, who formerly infested the Spanish coasts in America, and, under pretence of traffic with the inhabitants, frequently seized their treasure, plundered their houses, and committed many other depredations


A small boat used to sell vegetables, &c. to ships lying at a distance from the shore

Bumkin or Boomkin

a short boom or bar of timber, projecting from each bow of a ship, to extend the lower-edge of the foresail to windward, for which purpose there is a large block fixed on it's outer end, through which the rope is passed that is fastened to the lower-corner of the sail to windward, called the tack, and this being drawn tight down brings the corner of the sail close to the block, which being performed, the tack is said to be aboard. The bumkin is secured by a strong rope which confines it downward to the ship's bow, to counter-act the strain it bears from the fore-sail above, dragging it upwards

Burthen or Burden

Burthen in Three Decks is used to indicate a volume measuement given in any of the various measures used and for different countries. Where the correct measure is not clear from the source the word 'ton' is used as a default. Burthen should not be confused with displacment, which is a measure of mass.

The weight or measure of any species of merchandise that a ship will carry when fit for sea. To determine the burthen, or, in other words, the tonnage, of a ship, it is usual to multiply the length of the keel into the extreme breadth of the ship within-board, taken along the midship-beam, and multiply the product by the depth in the hold from the plank joining to the kelson upwards, to the main-deck, and divide the last product by 94, then will the quotient be the burden required, in tons

C termsBrief description

The officer who commands a ship of the line of battle, or a frigate carrying twenty or more cannon. The charge of a captain in his Majesty's navy is very comprehensive, inasmuch as he is not only answerable for any bad conduct in the military government, navigation, and equipment of the ship he commands; but also for any neglect of duty, or ill management in his inferior officers, whose several charges he is appointed to superintend and regulate


The operation of heaving the ship down on one side, by the application of a strong purchase to her masts, which are properly supported for the occasion, to prevent them from breaking with so great a strain

Carpenter (warrant officer)

An officer appointed to examine and keep in order the frame of the ship, together with her masts, yards, boats, and all other wooden machinery, and stores committed to him by indenture from the surveyor of the dock-yard. It is his duty in particular to keep the Ship tight; for which purpose he ought frequently to review the decks and sides, and to caulk them when it is found necessary. In the time of battle he is to examine up and down, with all possible attention, in the lower apartments of the ship, to stop any holes that may have been made in the sides by shot, with wooden plugs provided, of several sizes, for that purpose

Carriage Guns

A term to cover guns of unknown weight, generally carried by privateers and merchantmen. Guns of this type have arbitrarily been assigned a shot weight of 3lbs, although they actually varied from 2lbs to 6lbs and sometimes more.


A ship commissioned in time of war to exchange the prisoners of any two hostile powers; also to carry any particular request or proposal from one to another: for this reason the officer who commands her is particularly ordered to carry no cargo, ammunition, or implements of war, except a single gun for the purpose of firing signals

Cat heads

Two strong short beams of timber, which project almost horizontally over the ship's bows, on each side of the bow-sprit, being like two radii which extend from a center taken in the direction of the bow-sprit


A vessel pursued by some other, which she apprehends or knows to be an enemy


A large conurbation. In Threedecks terminology a city is specifically inland and does not provide ship building or harbour facilities. Cities that do have these capablities are refered to as 'Ports'. E.g. London is a port and not a city.

Coach or Couch

A sort of chamber or apartment in a large ship of war near the stern. The floor of it is formed by the aftmost part of the quarter-deck, and the roof of it by the poop: it is generally the habitation of the captain


Certain vessels employed to carry coals from one port to another, chiefly from the northern parts of England to the capital, and more southerly parts, as well as to foreign markets. This trade is known to be an excellent nursery for seamen, although they are often found, from the constitution of their climate, to be not so well calculated for southern navigation


The flags or banners which distinguish the ships of different nations

Commissioners of the Navy

certain officers appointed to superintend the affairs of the marine, under the direction of the lord-high-admiral, or lords commissioners of the admiralty. The duty of these officers does not extend to the internal government of ships invested with a military command, either at sea or in the port. It is more immediately concerned in the building, docking, repairing, and cleaning of ships in the dock-yards. In consideration of this, all ships of war are commissioned from a report of their qualities presented to the Admiralty by the Navy-board. They have also the appointment of some of the inferior sea-officers, as surgeons and masters of ships. The principal officers and commissioners residing at the board, are, 1. The comptroler. 2. Two surveyors, who are shipwrights. 3. Clerk of the acts. 4. Comptroler of the treasurer's accounts. 5. Comptroler of the victualing accounts. 6. Comptroler of the store-keeper's accounts. 7. An extraordinary commissioner. Besides these, there are three resident commissioners, who manage the affairs of the dock-yards at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, under the direction of the board at the Navy-office


A general officer in the British marine, invested with the command of a detachment of ships of war destined on any particular enterprise; during which time he bears the rank of brigadier-general in the army, and is distinguished from the inferior ships of his squadron by a broad red pendent tapering towards the outer-end, and sometimes forked


A name given to some select ship in a fleet of merchantmen, who leads the van in time of war, and carries a light in his top, to conduct the rest and keep them together


The whole crew of any ship, including her officers

Comptroller of the Navy

One of the principal officers of the Navy-board, at which he presides, to direct the interior and civil department of the marine, as the admiralty superintends the superior and military operations of it


A name commonly given to the piratical cruisers of Barbary, who frequently plunder the merchant-ships of European nations with whom they are at peace


A county is a geographical region or sub-division of a country, generally used for administrative purposes.

Coxswain of Coxen

The officer who manages and steers a boat, and has the command of the boat's crew. It is evidently compounded of the words cock and swain, the former of which was anciently used for a yawl or small boat, as appears by several authors; but it has now become obsolete, and is never used by our mariners


A small vessel commonly navigated in the channel of England; it is furnished with one mast, and rigged as a sloop. Many of these vessels are used on an illicit trade, and others employed by the government to seize them; the latter of which are either under the direction of the Admiralty or Custom-house


A small boat used by ships of war

D termsBrief description
Dolphin striker

A spar mounted downward under the bowsprit over the end of which the bobstay is fastened in order to increase its bearing angle on the end of the bowsprit. The purpose of the dolphin striker is exactly the same as the spreaders in the mast rigging. The name is derived from the dolphin’s habit of leaping under the bows of a vessel under way.


See Don.


From Latin dominus, roughly 'Lord'), abbreviated as D., is an honorific prefix primarily used in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Latin America, Croatia, Goa, and the Philippines.

From Wikipedia

E termsBrief description

A form of artillery piece utilised only by the Russians. Edinorogs have conical gun chambers, were easy to load and could fire three to four rounds a minute with better than normal accuracy In addition they had the ability to fire exploding shell as well as solid shot and cannister or grape.

They began to be used, in limited numbers, on Russian ships from 1769 and later became a standard addition to a ship armament, replacing one or two pairs of guns on each deck

These weapons came in a variety of sizes ranging from 1/4 Pood to 1 Pood.

A ½-pood edinorog would have had a 6.1 in bore and would have fired either a 29 lb (Russian trade pound) solid ball very roughly equivalent to a British 24pdr, or a 22 lb (19.8 pounds British) explosive shell at a greater range and with greater accuracy than its British equivalent, which of course, could not fire explosive ammunition.

Most edinorogs fired hollow-core explosive ordnance as well as heavier solid ordnance. The guns were rated in terms of ‘poods’ rather than pounds and their effectiveness in combat is difficult to compare with more traditional long guns. A Russian ‘pood’ was a traditional commercial measure of weight consisting of 40 Russian ‘trade pounds’. The earliest 1767 model 1-pood guns had a barrel diameter of 7.2 inches and actually fired a 40-pound explosive (bomb) shell, or a 48-pound solid shot, although the early models were too fragile to handle the solid ordnance reliably. These guns were fragile in service and had fearsome recoils. The improved version, introduced in 1780, moved up to 7.7 inches diameter and fired a 44-pound bomb shell and a much heavier 63-pound solid shot.

The improved 1-pood guns introduced in 1780 fired hollow shells weighing 44 trade pounds, which converts into 39.6 English pounds or 36.77 artillery pounds; while 1-pood solid shot weighed 63 trade pounds, which converts into 56.7 English pounds and 52.5 artillery pounds.



F termsBrief description
Fall aboard

To fall aboard of, to strike or encounter another ship, when one or both are in motion; to be driven upon a ship by the force of the wind or current

Fire arrow

A small iron or steel dart, used by privateers and pirates, to set fire to the sails of an enemy in battle. It is furnished with springs and bars, together with a match, impregnated with powder and sulphur, wound about its shaft, and then fired from a swivel gun or musketoon. The match, being kindled by the explosion, communicates the flame to the sail against which it is aimed, where the arrow is fastened by means of its bars and springs. As it is used in  hot climates, particularly the West Indies, the sails, being extremely dry, catch fire instantly and spread the fire to the masts and rigging, and finally to the vessel itself.


Square-rigged ships with all their main guns on a single continuous upper deck.

G termsBrief description
General at Sea

A rank equivalent to an Admiral used officialy by the English Navy during the Commonwealth period (1649-1660) and occasionally later as an unofficial title.

Gregorian Calendar

See here for more information

Gun Deck

The primary armed deck of a warship. Usually the lowest armed deck in a multiple decked ship.

Also used in Threedecks to indicate that the guns were carried on a single deck (e.g. in a frigate or sloop) differentiating them from those carried on the quarterdeck of forecastle or to indicate that they were on-board in no specific location.

H termsBrief description

A place on the coast where ships may moor in shelter, especially one protected from rough water by piers, jetties, and other artificial structures.


Old English for Harbour


The situation of the great guns of a ship, 'when they are secured at sea by their tackles and breechings.

I termsBrief description

A general name for all the pieces of iron, of whatsoever figure or size, which are used in the construction of a ship: as bolts, boom-irons, nails, spikes, chains and chain-plates, block-strops, cranks, pintles, and googings.

J termsBrief description
Julian Calendar

See here for more information

K termsBrief description

The Ottoman naval arsenal had a peculiar and highly unusual weapon at its disposal: the kantar guns.

 Kantar is an old Ottoman unit of weight which equals to 112 pounds and, while it seems not credible at first sight, indicates the weight of shot for these weapons as in other, more standard artillery. Kantar guns were the culmination of the renaissance era «basilisk» guns, and like their predecessors threw marble cannonballs. The design was however reversed: whereas the  basilisk had an extremely long barrel, kantar guns were by contrast very short and consequently useless in anything but point blank range. As the marble cannonball had only a fraction of the den-sity compared to iron ammunition, kantar guns used much less propellant powder when firing and consequently their barrels could be produced with very thin walls. Short and thin barrels meant they were not much heavier than the usual lower deck guns, where kantar guns were also mounted.  Venetian sources attribute the invention of the kantar gun to the famous reformist Kapudan Pasha of the 17th Century, Mezzo Morto Hüseyn. This weapon had initially two types: 1 and 3-kantar bar-rels, resulting in a 112-pdr stone thrower and a 336-pdr monster weapon. The first recorded use of the 1-kantar gun in battle was in 1697 and the 3-kantar guns was first deployed in 1717, when a kalyon armed with two of them almost sank the Venetian flagship at the battle of Imbros. In his detailed report about the Ottoman navy, ambassador Pyotr Tolstoy described kantar guns but de-rided them for producing «much noise but little else».

Nevertheless, Gazavat-ı Gazi Hasan Paşa (the semi-autobiography of Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha, the operational commander in 1770), hints to the possibility that a 3-kantar marble might have played an instrumental role in the sinking of the Russian flagship Sv. Evstafii in close combat during the daytime phase of the battle of Chesma. 1 and 3-kantar guns apparently fell out of favor after Chesma as there is no recorded use of them in the 1787-92 War. However in that conflict, each of the 86-gunport class Ottoman flagships still car-ried four 66-pdr guns which threw marble balls and were usually referred to as half-kantar guns. The employement of kantar guns demonsrate they were analogus to the later carronades; highly suitable for the Ottomans’ preferred point blank range tactics. But when confronted by Russian fleets which were trained for engagements in Atlantic standards, the Ottoman special weapons  were rendered largely useless.


(Swedish) Captain of a privateer q.v.


The principal piece of timber in a ship, which is usually first laid on the blocks in building.

L termsBrief description
Letter of Marque

A commission issued to a privately owned ship of war to allow it to legally take enemy vessels.


See Edinorog

Lieutenant's Examination

First introduced on 18th December 1677 in an attempt to improve the quality of Royal Navy officers, it initially required at least three years sea service, one of which had to be as a midshipman. In 1703 the requirements changed to 4 years sea service, and from 1728 to 6 years, with 2 as a midshipman.

Candidates were required to produce good certificates from their captains to confirm their 'sobriety, diligence, obedience to order' and 'application to the study and practice of the art of navigation'.


Russian four-oared row-boats, used largely on lake Peipus against the Swedes in the eraly 18th century

M termsBrief description

A close room or store-house, built in the fore, or after-part of a ship's hold, to contain the gunpowder used in battle, &c. This apartment is strongly secured against fire, and no person is suffered to enter it with a lamp or candle: it is therefore lighted, as occasion requires, by means of the candles or lamps which are fixed in the light-room contiguous to it.

Make Sail

To increase the quantity of sail already extended, either by letting out the reefs, and by hoisting an additional number of small sails, or by performing either of those exercises separately.

Make Sternway

To retreat or move with the stern foremost.

Master Attendant

MASTER-attendant, an officer in the royal dock-yards, appointed to hasten, and. assist at, the fitting-out or dismantling, removing or securing vessels of war, &c. at the port where he resides. He is particularly to observe, that his Majesty's ships are securely moored; and for this purpose he is expected frequently to review the moorings which are sunk in the harbour, and observe that they are kept in proper repair to be always ready when occasion requires. It is also his duty to visit all the ships in ordinary, and see that they are frequently cleaned and kept in order; and to attend at the general musters in the dock-yards, taking care that all the officers, artificers, and labourers, registered in the navy-books, are present at their duty.

Masters-Mate or Mate

An officer under the direction of the master, by whose choice he is generally appointed, to assist him in the several branches 'of his duty. Accordingly he is to be particularly attentive to the navigation in his watch, &c. to keep the log regularly, and examine the line and glasses by which the ship's course is measured, and to adjust the sails to the wind in the fore-part of the ship. He is also to have a diligent attention to the cables, seeing that they are well coiled and kept clean when laid in the tier, and sufficiently served when employed to ride the ship. Finally, he is to superintend and assist at the stowage of the hold, taking especial care that all the ballast and provisions are properly stowed therein.


A particular company of the officers or crew of a ship, who eat, drink, and associate together.


A sort of naval cadet, appointed by the captain of a ship of war, to second the orders of the superior officers, and assist in the necessary business of the vessel, either aboard or ashore. The number of midshipmen, like that of several other officers, is always in proportion to the size of the ship to which they belong. Thus a first-rate man of war has twenty-four, and the inferior, rates a suitable number in proportion. No person can be appointed lieutenant, without having previously served two years in the royal navy in this capacity, or in that of mate, besides having been at least four years in actual service at sea, either in merchant-ships, or in the royal navy. Midshipman is accordingly the station in which a young volunteer is trained in the several exercises, necessary to attain a sufficient knowledge of the machinery, discipline, movements, and military operations of a ship, to qualify him for a sea-officer.

Midshipman Extra

A midshipman extra, or midshipman extraordinary, was an officer ranked master, lieutenant, or captain, whose ship had been paid off but who would be paid as a midshipman until he could find another ship.

N termsBrief description
Naval archetecture

The science of ship-building, comprehends the theory of delineating marine vessels upon a plane; and the art of framing them upon the stocks, according to the proportions exhibited in a regular design

Naval Dockyard

Naval Dockyards are state owned and run harbour facilities where vessels of the state's navy were either built or based, or where vessels were overhauled and refitted.

O termsBrief description

The establishment of the persons employed by the government to take charge of the ships of war, which are laid-up in the several harbours adjacent to the royal dock-yards. These are principally composed of the warrant-officers of the said ships, as the gunner, boatswain, carpenter, deputy-purser and cook, and their servants. There is besides a crew of labourers enrolled in the list of the ordinary, who pass from ship to ship occasionally to pump, moor, remove, or clean them, whenever it is necessary.

P termsBrief description

Russian unit of weight of 40 Russian Pounds (фунт). Equivalent to approximately 16kg or 36 Pounds.

Poop deck

See Roundhouse


A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land. They often also have a role in the ship building industry,

Private Shipyard

Privately owned facilities where vessels were either built or overhauled and refitted. Many men-of-war would be built or repaired under contract at such facilities although their main business was generally merchant vessels.


A privately owned ship, sailing with a letter of marque, who's main purpose is the capture of enemy vessels for profit.

A person sailing in such a vessel.

Also 'private ship of war', Corsair (French) or Caper (Dutch).


A province is a geographical region or sub-division of a country, generally used for administrative purposes. A province is often made up of multiple smaller sub-divisions.

Q termsBrief description

An inferior officer under the direction of the gunner of a Royal Navy ship of war. There was one quarter-gunner for every four guns.


An inferior officer appointed by the master of a Royal Navy ship of war to assist the mates in their several duties.


A name given, at sea, to the several stations where the officers and crew of a ship of war are posted in action.

R termsBrief description

The officer next in rank and command to the vice-admiral, and who carries his flag at the mizen-top-mast-head


A protected place near shore, not so enclosed as a harbour, where ships can ride at anchor.


A cabin on the after part of the quarterdeck of a ship. It's roof is sometimes referred to as the 'poop deck'.

S termsBrief description
Sailing Master

The Master was the senior warrant officer on any ship, appointed by the Navy Board for each voyage. To qualify for the position, master candidates were examined by Trinity House for fitness in controlling specific ratings of ships. On this basis they were then appointed to take charge of a ship of their rated rank.

Promotion was awarded if a master passed the examination for a larger rate and took the form of an appointment to a larger vessel.

Ship of the Line

A vessel capable of standing in the line of battle


A person who designs, builds and repairs ships, especially wooden ones

Snow (ship rig)

The sails and rigging on the main-mast and fore-mast of a snow, are exactly similar to those on the same masts in a ship only that there is a final mast behind the main-mast, of the former, which carries a sail nearly resembling the mizen of a ship The foot of this mast is fixed in a block of wood on the quarter-deck abaft the main-mast; and the head of it is attached to the after-part of the main-top. The sail, which is called the try sail, is extended from its mast towards the stern of the vessel.


The cannons which are placed in the after-part of a ship's gun-room, pointing a-stern, and intended to strike any ship which chases her, or other object in her rear

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See Edinorog

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The officer next in rank and command to the admiral; his flag is displayed at the fore-top-mast-head.
Vice-admiral is also a civil officer appointed by the lords-commissioners of the admiralty. There are several of these officers established in different parts of Great-Britain, with judges and marshals under them, for executing jurisdiction within their respective districts. Their decisions, however, are not final, an appeal lying to the court of admiralty in London

Volunteer per Order

Volunteer-per-order was a name for a rating for young boys in the Royal Navy for young gentlemen who were training to become officers. The rating was introduced by Samuel Pepys in 1676 and the recipient received £24 a year and a letter from the crown which virtually guaranteed him promotion after the spending two years at sea and passing the examination for lieutenant. The letter instructed the admirals and captains that the bearer was to be shown "such kindness as you shall judge fit for a gentleman, both in accommodating him in your ship and in furthering his improvement".

From Wikipedia - 24th Oct 2017

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