English Nautical Glossary G



TFD: A spar attached to the mast and used to extend the upper edge of a fore-and-aft sail.

F: a sort of boom or pole, frequently used in small ships, to extend the upper edge of the mizen; and always employed for the same purpose on those sails whose foremost edges are joined to the mast by hoops or laceings, and which are usually extended by a boom below. Such are the mainsails of all sloops, brigs, and schooners. The foremost, or inner extremity of the gaff, is furnished with two cheeks forming a semicircle, which inclose the after part of the mast so as to confine the gaff close to its respective mast whilst the sail is hoisting or lowering. It is further secured in this situation by a rope passing from one of the cheeks to the other on the foreside of the mast; and to prevent the friction of this rope upon the mast, by hoisting or lowering, several little wooden balls, called trucks, are hung upon it, in the same manner as the holy beads are hung upon a catholic's rosary.

gaff rig

W: a sailing rig that has a fore-and-aft sail supported by a spar called a gaff

gage of the ship

B: Her depth of water, or what water she draws.

gain the wind

B: To arrive on the weather side, or to windward of some ship or fleet in sight, when both are sailing as near the wind as possible.


W: A very strong wind, more than a breeze, less than a storm See Beaufort scale.


Variant of topgallant


F: the state of a mast, yard, cable, or other rope, when it is deprived of the surface, and chafed by friction. To preserve those articles from being damaged by this effect, it is therefore usual to cover them with skins, mats, canvas, or such materials, in the places where they are the most exposed to it by the rolling of the vessel.


W: A large, three masted, square-rigged sailing ship with at least two decks.

TFD: A large three-masted sailing ship with a square rig and usually two or more decks, used from the 15th to the 17th century especially by Spain as a merchant ship or warship.

F: a name formerly given to ships of war, furnished with three or four batteries of cannon. It is now retained only by the Spaniards, and applied to the largest size of their merchant ships, employed on West Indian voyages, and usually furnished with four decks. They likewise bestow the same name on those vessels, whether great or small, which proceed annually to La Vera Cruz. The Portugueze also have several ships which they send to India and the Brazils, nearly resembling the galleons, and by them called caragues.


TFD: A platform or balcony at the stern or quarters of some early sailing ships.

F: a balcony projecting from the stern or quarter of a ship of war, or large merchantmen. In the former, the stern gallery is usually decorated with a balustrade, extending from one side of the ship to the other; the forepart is limited by a partition called the screen bulkhead, in which are framed the cabin windows; and the roof of it is formed by a sort of vault, termed the cove, which is frequently ornamented with sculpture.

quarter gallery


W: 1. A ship propelled primarily by oars, whether having masts and sails or not. 2. (British) A light, open boat used on the Thames by customhouse officers, press gangs, and also for pleasure. 3. One of the small boats carried by a man-of-war. 4. The cookroom or kitchen and cooking apparatus of a vessel.


w: on men-of-war, a pair of strong frames of oak made in the form of a gallows, fixed between the fore and main hatchways, with concave cross-beams called gallows-tops tenoned on to the uprights, to support spare topmasts, yards, booms, boats, etc. Also called gallows-bitts, gallows-frame, gallows-stanchions.


TFD: To fasten (a bowsprit) to the stem of a ship. (The rope used to do this.)

B: Secure the bowsprit by turns of a strong rope passed round it, and into the cutwater, to prevent it from having too much motion.

F: a rope used to bind the inner quarter of the bowsprit close down to the ship's stem, in order to enable it the better to support the stays of the foremast, and carry sail in the fore part of the vessel. Seven or eight turns of this rope are passed over the bowsprit, and through a large hole in the stem or knee of the head alternately; after all the turns are drawn as firm as possible, the opposite ones are braced together under the bowsprit by a fraping.

gammon ring

GB: The ring that secures a bowsprit to the stemhead.


F: a select number of a ship's crew appointed on any particular service, and commanded by an officer suitable to the occasion.


TFD: a temporary bridge for getting on and off a vessel at dockside.

F: a board or plank with several cleats or steps nailed upon it for the convenience of walking into, or out of, a boat upon the shore, where the water is not deep enough to float the boat close to the landing place.


W: 1. A passage along either side of a ship's upper deck. 2. A passage through the side of a ship or though a railing through which the ship may be boarded.

F: a narrow platform, or range of planks, laid horizontally along the upper part of a ship's side, from the quarterdeck to the forecastle, for the convenience of walking more expeditiously fore and aft, than by descending into the waist. This platform is therefore peculiar to ships which are deep waisted. It is fenced on the outside by several small iron pillars, and a rope extended from one to the other; and sometimes by a netting, to prevent any one from falling off into the sea when the ship is in motion. This is frequently called the gangboard in merchant vessels. Gangway is also that part of a ship's side, both within and without, by which the passengers enter and depart. It is for this purpose provided with a sufficient number of steps, or cleats, nailed upon the ship's side, nearly as low as the surface of the water; and sometimes furnished with a railed accommodation ladder, whose lower end projects from the ship's hide, being secured in this position by iron braces, so as to render the ascent and descent extremely convenient. Gangway is likewise used to signify a passage left in the hold, when a ship is laden, in order to arrive at any particular place therein, occasionally; as to examine the situation of the provisions or cargo; to discover and stop a leak; or to bring out any article required for service; &c. similarly, a gangway implies a thoroughfare, or narrow passage of any kind.


F: a sort of net, whose opening is extended by a wooden hoop of sufficient size to admit a bowl or platter within it. It is accordingly used by the sailors as a locker or cupboard to contain their provisions, being hung up to the deck within the birth, where they commonly mess between decks.


TFD: A cord or canvas strap used to secure a furled sail to a yard boom or gaff.

B: The rope which is passed round the sail to bind it to the yard when it is furled.


F: a race which a criminal is sentenced to run in a vessel of war, as a punishment for felony, or some other heinous offence. It is executed in the following manner: the whole ship's crew is disposed in two rows, landing face to face on both hides of the deck, so as to form a lane, whereby to go forward on one side, and return aft on the other; each person being furnished with a small twisted cord, called a knittle, having two or three knots upon it. The delinquent is then stripped naked above the waist, and ordered to pass forward between the two rows of men, and aft on the other hide, a certain number of times, rarely exceeding three; during which every person gives him a stripe as he runs along. In his passage through this painful ordeal he is sometimes tripped up, and very severely handled while incapable of proceeding. This punishment, which is called running the gauntlet, is seldom inflicted except for such crimes as will naturally excite a general antipathy amongst the seamen; as on some occasions the culprit would pass without receiving a single blow, particularly in cases of mutiny or sedition, to the punishment of which our common sailors seem to have a constitutional aversion.

ghee, gee

butter made clear by heating and removing the sediment of milk solids, used in Indian cooking

gill, jill

TFD: A unit of volume or capacity in the U.S. Customary System, used in liquid measure, equal to 1/4 of a pint or four ounces (118 milliliters).


TFD: A device consisting of two rings mounted on axes at right angles to each other so that an object, such as a ship's compass, will remain suspended in a horizontal plane between them regardless of any motion of its support. Often used in the plural. Also called gimbal ring.

F: the brass rings by which a sea compass is suspended in it's box that usually stands in the binacle.


F: a term particularly applied to the anchor, to denote the action of turning it round by the stock, so that the motion of the lock appears similar to that of the handle of a gimblet, when it is employed to turn the wire.

gimlet, gimblet

small auger turned with one hand that makes a round hole in wood

TFD: A small hand tool having a spiraled shank, a screw tip, and a cross handle and used for boring holes.


F: the situation of a ship which is moored so strait by her cables, extending from the hawse to two distant anchors, as to be prevented from swinging or turning about, according to any change of the wind or tide, to the current of which her head would otherwise be directed.


TFD: a pivot between the forward end of a boom and a mast, to allow the boom to swing freely

F: a sort of iron hook fitted on the inner end of a boom, and introduced into a clamp of iron, or eye-bolt, which encircles the mast, or is fitted to some other place in the ship, so that it may be unhooked at pleasure.


D: 1. the weather clew of a square sail, held taut when the lee side of the sail is furled. 2. either of the triangular areas of a square sail left exposed to the wind when the middle part is lashed to the yard during a gale. 3. a triangular studdingsail.

F: the clues or lower corners of a ship's mainsail, or foresail, when the middle part is furled or tied up to the yard. The goosewings are only used in a great storm to scud before the wind, when the sail at large, or even diminished by a reef, would be too great a pressure on the ship, in that situation.


TFD: A triangular or tapering piece of cloth forming a part of something, as in a skirt or sail.


D: the triangular area along a leech of a square sail, created by the presence of a gore.

F: that part of the skirts of a sail, where it gradually widens from the upper part or head, towards the bottom; the goring cloths are therefore those, which are cut obliquely, and added to the breadth.


An iron fish spear with a number of points half-barbed inwardly


Could refer either to Risso's dolphin or the orca (killer whale), which is actually a member of the dolphin family.


TFD: A small anchor with three or more flukes, especially one used for anchoring a small vessel. Also called grapple, grappling.


TFD: An iron shaft with claws at one end, usually thrown by a rope and used for grasping and holding, especially one for drawing and holding an enemy ship alongside. Also called grapnel, grappling,


D: a fixed frame of bars or the like covering an opening to exclude persons, animals, coarse material, or objects while admitting light, air, or fine material.

F: a sort of open covers for the hatches, formed by several small laths or battens of wood, which cross each other at right angles, leaving a square interval between. They are formed to admit the air and light from above into the lower apartments of the ship, particularly when the turbulence of the sea or weather renders it necessary to shut the ports between decks; and also to let the smoke escape from the lower decks in the time of battle.

great guns



TFD: To have sharp pains in the bowels.


W: an alcoholic beverage made with rum and water, especially that once issued to sailors of the Royal Navy

From Wikipedia

"Sailors require significant quantities of fresh water on extended voyages. Since distilling sea water was too slow and fuel intensive, fresh water was taken on board in casks but quickly developed algae and became slimy. Stagnant water was sweetened with beer or wine to make it palatable which involved more casks and was subject to spoilage. As longer voyages became more common, the task of stowage became more and more difficult and the sailors' then-daily ration of a gallon of beer began to add up.

"Following Britain's conquest of Jamaica in 1655, a half pint or "2 gills" of rum gradually replaced beer and brandy as the drink of choice. Given to the sailor straight, this caused additional problems, as some sailors would save up the rum rations for several days, then drink them all at once. Due to the subsequent illness and disciplinary problems, the rum was mixed with water. This both diluted its effects, and delayed its spoilage. A half pint (current American measurement; the larger British "Imperial" pint was not introduced until 1824), of rum mixed with one quart of water and issued in two servings, before noon and after the end of the working day, became part of the official regulations of the Royal Navy in 1756 and lasted for more than two centuries. This gives a ratio of 4:1 (water:rum).

"Citrus juice (usually lime or lemon juice) was added to the recipe to cut down on the water's foulness. Although they did not know the reason at the time, Admiral Edward Vernon's sailors were healthier than the rest of the navy, due to the daily doses of vitamin C that prevented disease (mainly scurvy). This custom, in time, got the British the nickname limeys for the limes they consumed.

"The name "grog" probably came from the nickname of Admiral Vernon, who was known as 'Old Grog' because he wore a grogram cloak. American Dialect Society member Stephen Goranson has shown that the term was in use by 1749, when Vernon was still alive. A biographer of Daniel Defoe has suggested that the derivation from 'Old Grog' is wrong because Defoe used the term in 1718, but this is based on a miscitation of Defoe's work, which actually used the word 'ginger.'"


TFD: A loop of rope or metal used for securing the edge of a sail to its stay.

B: A piece of rope laid into a circular form, and used for large boat's oars instead of rowlocks, and also for many other purposes.

F: a sort of small wreath, formed of a strand of rope, and used to fasten the upper edge of a staysail to its respective stay, in different places. By means of the grommets, the sail is accordingly hoisted or lowered, i.e. drawn up or down upon its stay, in the same manner as a curtain is extended or drawn along upon it's rod, by the assistance of rings.


TFD: To run (a vessel) aground.

F: (grounding) the act of laying a ship ashore, in order to bream or repair her. It is also applied to running aground accidentally when under sail, or driving in a tempest.

ground tackle

W: equipment, such as anchors, cables, or windlasses, for mooring a vessel away from a pier or other fixed moorings.

F: a general name given to all sorts of ropes and furniture which belong to the anchors, or which are employed in mooring, or otherwise securing a ship in a road or harbour; as cables, hawsers, towlines, warps, and buoy ropes.


W: A broad undulation of the open ocean, often as the result of a distant disturbance

ground tier

B: The tier of water casks which is lowest in the hold, and is among the shingle ballast.


socket for the pivot bolt of a rudder

W: Specifically, in a vessel with a stern-mounted rudder, the fitting into which the pintle of the rudder fits to allow the rudder to swing freely.


TFD: (formerly) a warrant officer responsible for the training of gun crews, their performance in action, and accounting for ammunition

F: an officer appointed to take charge of the artillery and ammunition aboard, to observe that the former are always kept in order, and properly fitted with tackles and other furniture, and to teach the sailors the exercise of the cannon.

quarter gunner


W: Living quarters for junior officers and midshipmen on a warship (hence gunroom officers). In the past it was usually set in the forecastle.

B: A division of the lower deck abaft, enclosed with network, for the use of the gunner and his stores.

F: an appartment on the after end of the lower, or gun-deck, of a ship of war; generally defined for the use of the gunner in large ships, but in small ones, it is used by the lieutenants as a dining room, &c.

gunwale, gunnel

D: The upper edge of the side of a vessel. (So called because guns were mounted on it.)

W: the top edge of the hull of a nautical vessel, where it meets the deck.


TFD: A narrow passage or channel.


(measure) a drop


TFD: A rope, cord, or cable used to steady, guide, or secure something.

F: a rope used to keep steady any weighty body whilst it is hoisting or lowering, particularly when the ship is shaken by a tempestuous sea. Guy is likewise a large slack rope, extending from the head of the mainmast to the head of the foremast, and having two or three large blocks fastened to the middle of it. This is chiefly employed to sustain the tackle used to hoist in and out the cargo of a merchant ship, and is accordingly removed from the mastheads as soon as the vessel is laden or delivered.


W: To shift a fore-and-aft sail suddenly and forcefully from one side to the other, while sailing before the wind. (also jibe.)

TFD: to shift suddenly from one side of the vessel to the other when running before the wind, as the result of allowing the wind to catch the leech

F: (gybing) the act of shifting any boom sail from one side of the mast to the other. In order to understand this operation more clearly, it is necessary to remark, that by a boom sail is meant any sail whose bottom is extended by a boom, the foreend of which is hooked to it's respective mast, so as to swing occasionally on either side of the vessel, describing an arch, of which the mast will be the center. As the wind or the course changes, it also becomes frequently necessary to change the position of the boom, together with it's sail, which is accordingly shifted to the other side of the vessel as a door turns upon it's hinges. The boom is pushed out by the effort of the wind upon the sail, and is resrained in a proper situation by a strong tackle communicating with the vessel's stern, and called the sheet. It is also confined on the fore-part by another tackle, called the guy.