English Nautical Glossary E



W: A line used to fasten the upper corners of a sail to the yard or gaff

F: certain small cords employed to fasten the upper corners of a sail to its respective yard; for which purpose one end of the earing is spliced to the cringle, fixed in that part of the sail; and the other end of it is passed six or seven times round the yardarm and through the cringle, thereby fastening the latter to the former. Two of the turns are intended to stretch the upper edge of the sail tight along the yard; and the rest to draw it close up to it. The former are therefore called outer, and the latter inner turns, as being passed without, or within the rigging, on the yardarms.

ease, ease away, ease off

F: to slacken gradually any single rope, or complication of ropes, formed into a tackle.

ease the ship

F: the command given by the pilot to the steersman, to put the helm close to the lee side, or, in the sea phrase, hard alee, when the ship is expected to pitch or plunge her fore part deep in the water, while close-hauled. The reason usually given for this practice is, that the sudden movement of the helm prevents the ship's head from falling with so much weight and rapidity into the hollow of the sea, as it would do otherwise; which is presuming that the flow and uncertain effect of the helm is sufficient to retard the certain and violent action of gravity; a position that necessarily infers a very singular theory of mechanics. We shall not endeavour to advance any argument in favour of this practice; only to remark, that it is most religiously observed, both in merchant ships and his Majesty's navy.


W: A distance traveled eastward.


W: The receding movement of the tide.

F: the reflux of the tide, or the return of it into the sea after the highest of the flood, usually termed full sea, or high water.

ebb tide

W: The period between high tide and the next low tide in which the sea is receding.


TFD: A current, as of water or air, moving contrary to the direction of the main current, especially in a circular motion.

F: the water that, by some interruption in its course, runs contrary to the direction of any river, or current, and appears like the motion of a whirlpool.

edge away

B: To decline gradually from the shore or from the line of the course which the ship formerly held in order to go more large.

F: in navigation, to decline gradually from the shore, or from the line of the course which the ship formerly steered; it is particularly applied when a ship changes her course, by sailing nearer the direction of the wind; or, in the sea language, by sailing larger, or more afore the wind, than she had done before that operation.

edge in with

B: To advance gradually towards the shore, or any other object.


a species of tern, esp. the sooty tern (Sterna fuliginosa) of the West Indies. In the Bahama Islands the name is applied to the tropic bird, Phaethon flavirostris.

elbow in the hawse

TFD: the twisting together of two cables by which a vessel rides at anchor, caused by swinging completely round once.

B: Is when a ship, being moored, has gone round upon the shifting of the tides twice the wrong way, so as to lay the cables one over the other; having gone once wrong, she makes a cross in the hawse, and going three times wrong, she makes a round turn.

elixir vitriol

aromatic sulphuric acid, believed at the time to prevent/cure scurvy

Its use is thus described in The Family Doctor of 1909:

"Aromatic sulphuric acid is another name for this, which is often prescribed as an appetizer; sometimes also for diarrhoea, and occasionally for hemorrhages. Dose, ten to fifteen drops, in water; best taken through a glass tube, to prevent its touching the teeth; also, for the same reason, washing the mouth out well with water after it."


TFD: 1. A government order prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports. 2. A prohibition by a government on certain or all trade with a foreign nation.

F: in commerce, an arrest laid on ships or merchandise by public authority, or a prohibition of state, commonly issued on foreign ships, to prevent their putting to sea in time of war; and sometimes to prevent their coming in, and otherwise both to prevent their entrance and departure.


Pertaining to a vessel in a bay unable to put to sea or to put to sea safely because of wind, current, or sea.

F: the situation of a ship when she is inclosed between two capes or promontories. It is particularly applied when the wind, by blowing strongly into any bay or gulf, makes it extremely difficult, and perhaps impracticable for the vessel, thus enclosed, to claw off from the shore, so as to weather the capes and gain the offing.

end for end

B: A term used when a rope runs all out of a block, and is unreeved; or in coming to an anchor, if the stoppers are not well put on and the cable runs all out, it is said to have gone out end for end.

end on

B: When a ship advances to a shore, rock, &c. without an apparent possibility of preventing her, she is said go go end on for the shore, &c.


W: The principal flag or banner flown by a ship to indicate nationality.

B: the flag worn at the stern of the ship.

F: a large standard, or banner, hoisted on a long pole erected over the poop, and called the ensign staff. The ensign is used to distinguish the ships of different nations from each other, as also to characterise the different squadrons of the navy. The British ensign in ships of war is known by a double cross, viz. that of St. George and St. Andrew, formed into an union, upon a field which is either red, white, or blue.


TFD: A table giving the coordinates of a celestial body at a number of specific times during a given period.


TFD: The plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's name.

F: a name sometimes given to the compartment for the name, or arms, of the owner, or of the person whose title the vessel assumes; it is usually fixed on the middle of the ship's stern, and is more peculiar to the French and other foreigners, than to English built vessels.

even keel

B: When the keel is parallel with the horizon, a ship is said to be upon an even keel.


See king's evil


F: is the preparatory practice of managing the artillery and small arms, in order to make the ship's crew perfectly skilled therein, so as to direct its execution successfully in the time of battle. The exercise of the great guns has, till the late war, been very complicated, and abounding with superfluities, in our navy, as well as all others. The following method was then successfully introduced by an officer of distinguished abilities.

EXERCISE of the great guns.

1st. Silence.

2d. Cast loose your guns.

3d. Level your guns.

4th. Take out your tompions.

5th. Run out your guns.

6th. Prime.

7th. Point your guns.

8th. Fire.

eye of a stay

F: that part of a stay which is formed into a sort of collar to go round a masthead.

eyes of a ship

F: a name frequently given to those parts which lie near the hawse holes, particularly in the lower apartments within the vessel.