Strange names of maritime etymology

Cleats and fairleads. “Strange names of maritime etymology”. Let’s see what they are

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Strange Names of Maritime Etymology: Discover 10 Unique Nautical Terms, The world of maritime language is filled with fascinating and unusual words, many of which have origins dating back centuries. In this article, we’ll explore 10 unique names of maritime etymology that you may not have heard before. From drag anchors to knightheads, these terms offer a glimpse into the rich history and culture of seafaring.

List of Strange names of maritime etymology

Dead Man’s Chest

The term “Dead Man’s Chest” is a nautical term that refers to an emergency container used by sailors to store important documents, such as maps and navigational charts. The chest would be locked and secured to prevent unauthorized access and would only be opened in the event of an emergency or the captain’s death.


Knightheads are vertical posts located on the bow of a ship that are used to secure ropes and cables. They get their name from their resemblance to the heads of medieval knights, with their helmets resting atop the posts.


The term “fathom” originated from Old English and refers to a unit of depth measurement (equal to six feet) that was commonly used by sailors to measure the depth of the water. Today, the term is still used to describe the depth of water, as well as to describe a person’s understanding or comprehension of a subject.

Anchoring in the Open Sea


A cathead is a wooden beam attached to the bow of a ship that is used to secure the anchor. It gets its name from its resemblance to a cat’s head, with its ears and whiskers jutting out from the side of the ship.


A monkey is a small, portable grappling tool used by sailors to climb masts and rigging. The term is likely derived from the similar-looking monkey-shaped figure that was often placed on the bowsprit of a ship.


To “sound” a depth is to measure the depth of the water using a weighted line or sounder. The term comes from the Old English “sund,” meaning “swimming.” Sounding was an important part of navigation, as understanding the depth of the water was crucial for avoiding underwater hazards.

Drag Anchor

A drag anchor is an anchor that is used to slow down or stop a ship’s movement. It gets its name from the fact that it “drags” along the bottom of the sea floor, creating enough friction to slow down the ship.

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weather and seamanship


Swashbuckling refers to a style of adventurous behavior often seen in pirates movies, characterized by daring feats of swordplay and flamboyant dress. The term comes from the sound that a buckler, or small shield, would make when struck with a sword.

Heave ho

The nautical phrase “heave ho” is used as a command to lift or push, often used during the loading or unloading of cargo. It is thought to have originated from the sound of sailors pushing or pulling on ropes


The term “booty” usually refers to treasure, loot, or stolen goods obtained through piracy or other means. Its etymological roots can be traced back to the word “butin,” which means plunder in Old French.


A siren is a warning signal commonly used on ships and boats to alert other vessels of their presence. They are typically loud and can be heard from a distance. It takes its name from the mythological siren, a creature with the ability to lure sailors to their doom with its enchanting singing voice.

Davy Jones’ Locker

Davy Jones’ Locker is a phrase used to describe the bottom of the ocean, particularly where sailors who have expired at sea are said to be buried. It is also sometimes used to refer to a shipwreck. The origins of the phrase are uncertain, but it is thought to have derived from the French term “enfer de la mer,” which translates to “hell of the sea.”

Advanced Navigation Techniques


The term “groggy” is often used to describe someone who is unsteady or dizzy, but it was originally used to describe a mixture of rum and water given to sailors in the British Navy to reduce drunkenness and dehydration. It was named after Admiral Edward Vernon, who was known as “Old Grog” for wearing a grogram, a type of silk and wool fabric coat.


A chantey is a type of work song that was traditionally sung by sailors to accompany certain tasks, such as hauling ropes or raising sails. The word comes from the French word “chanter,” meaning “to sing,” and was used to help coordinate the work and provide a rhythm.


A fathom is a unit of length used to measure the depth of the ocean, equal to six feet or 1.83 meters. The word comes from the Old English word “faethm,” which means “to embrace” or “outstretched arms,” reflecting how sailors used to measure depth by lowering a rope with knots tied at regular intervals to the seabed.

Nautical Mile

A nautical mile is a unit of length used in navigation, equivalent to about 1.15 land miles or 1.85 kilometers. It is based on the circumference of the Earth and is used to measure distances on the ocean. This term dates back to the 15th century, when sailors used to measure their progress by counting how many knots their ship’s speed log dragged through the water in a given amount of time.

Sea Dog

The term “sea dog” refers to an experienced sailor who has spent years at sea, gaining valuable knowledge and skills. It is thought to have originated in the 16th century, when sailors would often bring their pet dogs on long voyages to keep them company and assist with hunting. A sea dog was considered to be a trusted companion and valuable asset on board.

What is the sailor term for no wind?

Sailing is a beloved pastime for many enthusiasts, offering an escape from the mundane routine of daily life. However, knowledge of sailing terminology is essential to navigating the open seas safely and successfully. One of the most important aspects of sailing is wind, and those who love the sport are often looking for the perfect gusts to carry them to their destination. But what happens when there is no wind? In this article, we’ll explore the strange names of maritime etymology for no wind.

Dead Calm

Dead calm is a common term used by sailors to describe the complete absence of wind, causing the water to become flat and motionless. This phrase dates back to the 16th century when sailors believed that a calm sea signaled an ominous future. They believed that it might be an indication that death was nearby, hence the term ‘dead calm.’

Glass Calm

The second term that sailors use for the lack of wind is glass calm. It describes the state of a mirror-flat surface of the water with no ripples or waves observable. This phrase has been in use since the 15th century. The term is derived from the appearance of the sea, where the surface becomes so smooth and shiny, resembling glass.


Sailors sometimes refer to a situation with no wind as ‘stalled’ when the boat is no longer making way through the water. This phrase comes from the word ‘stall,’ which means to stop, stand still, or bring something to a halt. In sailing, it often means the boat’s forward momentum stopping due to a lack of wind.

On the Doldrums

The doldrums is a region around the equator of the Earth known for its calm winds. When a ship entered this region, it would often have to endure days or even weeks with no wind at all. Interestingly, the phrase “on the doldrums” has come to mean being in a state of inactivity or listlessness. The term origins from the old Spanish word, ‘doldra,’ meaning dull.


Sailing is a fantastic way to enjoy the vast, endless expanse of the sea, but understanding the terminology is crucial to this enjoyable pastime. From ‘dead calm’ to ‘glass calm,’ ‘stalled’ to ‘on the doldrums,’ sailors have many strange names of maritime etymology for the lack of wind available to describe this state. It’s always

Write an informative article about What did sailors call the Ocean?

Throughout history, the ocean has been a mystery waiting to be explored by brave sailors. But have you ever wondered what sailors called the ocean? The answer is not straightforward since sailors from different regions and eras address the ocean in diverse ways.

In ancient times, sailors referred to the ocean as “Okeanos,” a name taken from Greek mythology. According to Greek mythology, the Titan Okeanos fathered all the rivers, oceans, and seas in the world.

Therefore, Greek sailors named the vast body of water that surrounded their landmass “Okeanos.”

Oceanis 461 Pitter

On the opposite side of the world, Chinese sailors referred to the ocean as “Haiyang,” which means “sea” or “ocean.” They considered the ocean a dangerous and unpredictable force that required respect and caution.

  • During the medieval era, European sailors referred to the ocean as “Mare Nostrum,” which means “our sea.” This name was common amongst Roman sailors since Rome was built around the Mediterranean Sea. The name indicated the pride Romans had in dominating the sea, which they believed was an integral part of their identity.
  • In contrast, Viking sailors from Scandinavia referred to the ocean as “haf,” which means “sea.” The Vikings saw the ocean as a vast, open space that could provide both exhilarating adventures and great danger.
  • Sailors from the Islamic world referred to the ocean as “Bahr,” which means “sea.” The Islamic sailors were some of the first to map the ocean’s routes across vast distances and some of the most skilled navigators of their time.
  • In modern times, sailors refer to the ocean as the “ocean,” as we know it today. This name is a universal description of the vast body of water that covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface.

If you liked our article, you may be interested in: Use the dinghy responsibly: 4 navigation tips

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