Above Board | Ahoy! | Between the Devil and the Deep | Chewing the Fat | Crow's Nest | Cup of Joe 
Devil to Pay |  Eight Bells | Fathom | Feeling Blue | Forecastle | Galley | Gun Salutes | Head 
He Knows the Ropes | Holystone | Hunky-Dory |  Listless | Log Book | Long Shot Mayday   
No Quarter
 | Pea Coat  | Port Holes | Scuttlebutt | S.O.S.  |  Splice the Mainbrace 
Starboard | Taken Aback | Three-Mile Limit | Three Sheets to the Wind
Took the Wind Out of His Sails | Wallop | Watches


Today it means to be dull or without pep. It comes from the days of sail when a ship was becalmed and rode on an even keel... without the port or starboard list experienced under a good breeze. No wind, no list; no list, lifeless.

Log Book

In the early days of sailing ships, the ship's records were written on shingles cut from logs. These shingles were hinged and opened like a book. The record was called the "log book." Later on, when paper was readily available and bound into books, the record maintained its name.

Long Shot

Today it's a gambling term for an event that would take an inordinate amount of luck. Its origins are nautical. Because ships' guns in early days were very inaccurate except at close quarters, it was an extremely lucky shot that would find its target from any great distance.


"Mayday" is the internationally recognized voice radio signal for ships and people in serious trouble at sea. Made official in 1948, it is an anglicizing of the French m'aidez, "help me".

No Quarter

"No quarter given" means that one gives his opponent no opportunity to surrender. It stems from the old custom by which officers, upon surrender, could ransom themselves by paying one quarter of a year's pay.

Pea Coat

Sailors who have to endure pea-soup weather often don their pea coats but the coat's name isn't derived from the weather. The heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from pilot cloth -- a heavy, course, stout kind of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. The cloth was sometimes called P-cloth for the initial letter of "pilot" and the garment made from it was called a p-jacket -- later, a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth.


The word "porthole" originated during the reign of Henry VI of England (1485). King Henry insisted on mounting guns too large for his ship and the traditional methods of securing these weapon on the forecastle and aftcastle could not be use. A French shipbuilder name James Baker was commissioned to solve the problem. He put small doors in the side of the ship and mounted the cannon inside the ship. These doors protected the cannon from weather and were opened when the cannon were to be used. The French word for "door" is "porte" which was later Anglicized to "port" and later went on to mean any opening in the ship's side, whether for cannon or not.


The origin of the word "scuttlebutt," which is nautical parlance for a rumor, comes from a combination of "scuttle" -- to make a hole in the ship's hull and thereby causing her to sink -- and "butt" -- a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water. The cask from which the ship's crew took their drinking water -- like a water fountain -- was the "scuttlebutt". Even in today's Navy a drinking fountain is referred to as such. But, since the crew used to congregate around the "scuttlebutt," that is where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Thus, then and now, rumors are talk from the "scuttlebutt" or just "scuttlebutt".


Contrary to popular notion, the letters "S.O.S." do not stand for "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls". They were selected to indicate a distress because, in Morse code, these letters and their combination create an unmistakable sound pattern.