Nautical phrases, sayings and terms

Nautical phrases and sayings explained | SailingQuiz

Nautical phrases, sayings and sailing terms with their meaning.

The sailors jargon buster

Have you ever wondered where some of our everyday phrases and sayings come from and what they mean? There are hundreds in common use in UK and around the world and we have been looking high and low to find them and their meaning. Here are 424 of them where we have cracked the sailors jargon for you. Enjoy!

 
  • Natical Phrases
  • Sailing Terms
  • Trivia
  • Folklore
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What does "A clean slate" mean?

Today it means: Start again, a new beginning.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A clean slate

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "A clean sweep" mean?

Today it means: Start again, everything re-newed.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A clean sweep

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "A cock up" mean?

Today it means: Made a mess of things. Mistake.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A cock up

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What does "A fathom" mean?

Meaning: A fathom is 6 feet.

More about: A fathom

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What does "A lash up" mean?

Today it means: A bad job, disorganised, rushed task, poorly done.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A lash up

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What does "A leading light" mean?

Today it means: A well respected person or someone really good at what they do.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A leading light

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Nautical Saying


   

What is "A nautical mile" ?

Meaning: A nautical mile is one minute of latitude.

More about: A nautical mile

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What does "A powder monkey" mean?

Today it means: A boy in the Navy used to carry gunpowder to the guns

Nautical origin of the phrase: A powder monkey

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "A shot across the bows" mean?

Today it means: A warning or a shot not intended to hit its target.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A shot across the bows

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What does "A square meal" mean?

Today it means: A good nutritional meal

Nautical origin of the phrase: A square meal

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "A.1." mean?

Today it means: Highest quality, the best.

Nautical origin of the phrase: A.1.

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What does "Abaft" mean?

Meaning: Abaft simply means behind.

More about: Abaft

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What does "Abaft the beam" mean?

Meaning: Behind the centre point (beam) of the boat.

More about: Abaft the beam

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What does "Abeam" mean?

Meaning: At right angles to your boat.

More about: Abeam

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What does "Above board" mean?

Today it means: Honest, legal, not hidden, out in the open

Nautical origin of the phrase: Above board

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What does "All at sea" mean?

Today it means: Confused, muddled or dis-orderly

Nautical origin of the phrase: All at sea

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "All sewn up" mean?

Today it means: A task is completed

Nautical origin of the phrase: All sewn up

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "Aloof" mean?

Today it means: Stands apart, better than others.

Nautical origin of the phrase: Aloof

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "Anchors aweigh" mean?

Today it means: The achor is lifting and no longer working.

Nautical origin of the phrase: Anchors aweigh

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What does "Apparent wind" mean?

Meaning: True wind modified by your boats movement equals apparent wind.

More about: Apparent wind

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What does "As the crow flies" mean?

Today it means: In a straight line, most direct route

Nautical origin of the phrase: As the crow flies

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "Astern" mean?

Meaning: Behind or moving backwards.

More about: Astern

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What does "At a loose end" mean?

Today it means: Nothing to do, no plans, bored.

Nautical origin of the phrase: At a loose end

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "At a low ebb" mean?

Today it means: Not feeling good, feeling empty.

Nautical origin of the phrase: At a low ebb

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "At a rate of knots" mean?

Today it means: Doing something at speed

Nautical origin of the phrase: At a rate of knots

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Nautical Saying


   

What does "Athwartships" mean?

Meaning: At right angles to the centreline of a ship.

More about: Athwartships

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What does "Backing" mean?

Meaning: To stop a sail working or a change of wind direction.

More about: Backing

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What is "Backstay" ?

Meaning: Stay supporting the mast from aft.

More about: Backstay

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What is "Ballast" ?

Meaning: Weight used to add stability.

More about: Ballast

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What does "Bamboozle" mean?

Today it means: Confuse, mis-lead, decieve.

Nautical origin of the phrase: Bamboozle

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Nautical Saying


   


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