English Nautical Glossary H


B: To call to another ship.

F: the salutation or accosting of a ship at a distance, either at sea or in a harbour.


TFD: (archaic) To pull, draw, drag, or hoist.


TFD: A rope used to raise or lower a sail, flag, or yard.

F: (pl.) the ropes or tackles usually employed to hoist or lower any sail upon it's respective masts or stay.


JOLC: The sailor's hammock was first introduced to the Old World by Christopher Columbus, who had discovered it in the West Indies in 1493. The recent name comes from the Spanish hamaca. The original English word was hamaco. The British first saw these at the Armada (1588) and they appeared in the English Navy in 1597. Hammocks were issued initially on a basis of one for every two sailors and for foreign service only. In 1693, they were noted as supplementary stores items for flagships only: 400 for the Admiral of the Red, 300 for the Blue and 200 for other flagships. They were listed under Boatswain's Stores as Hamacoes, swinging. Until well into the 19th century, bothe these and the sailors' trousers were made of heavy brown canvas from damaged sails. On clearing a ship for action, the lashed hammocks were placed in the netting along the upperdecdk bulwarks to protect exposed gun crews from musket fire.


TFD: a length of canvas, net, etc., suspended at the ends and used as a bed

F: a piece of canvas, six feet long and three feet wide, gathered or drawn together at the two ends, and hung horizontally under the deck, lengthways, for the sailors to sleep therein. There are usually from fourteen to twenty inches in breadth allowed between decks for every hammock in a ship of war; this space however must in some measure depend on the number of the crew, &c. in proportion to the room of the vessel.

See hamaco above.


TFD: Necessary but encumbering equipment on a ship.


to roll up and secure a sail; furl

hard (by)

near, close

hard alee

TFD: an order to put the helm to the lee side

F: the situation of the helm when it is pushed close to the lee side of the ship, either to tack or keep her head to the wind, when lying by or trying; also the order to put the helm in this position.

hard aweather

F: the order to put the helm close to the weather or windward side of the ship, in order to bear away. It is likewise the position of the helm, in consequence of that order; being in both senses opposed to hard alee.


W: The front part of the wales of a vessel, around the bow and fastened to the stem; used to provide protection from the seas.

D: any of several horizontal members at the ends of a vessel for holding cant frames in position until the shell planking or plating is attached.

F: (harpins) the fore parts of the wales which encompass the bow of a ship, and are fastened to the stem, being thicker than the after part of the wales, in order to reinforce the ship in this place, where she sustains the reatest shock of resistance in plunging into the sea, or dividing it, under great pressure of sail.

harslet (haslet)

heart and liver and other edible viscera especially of hogs; usually chopped and formed into a loaf and braised

hatch, hatchway

TFD: an opening in the deck of a vessel to provide access below

F: a square or oblong opening in the deck of a ship, of which there are several, forming the passages from one deck to another, and into the hold, or lower apartments. There are likewise hatches of a smaller kind, called scuttles. Hatch is also, although improperly, a name applied by sailors to the covers or lids of the hatchways.


B: pull

F: an expression peculiar to seamen, implying to pull a single rope, without the assistance of blocks, or other mechanical powers; when a rope is otherwise pulled, as by the application of tackles, or the connection with blocks, &c. the term is changed into bowsing. See also bowse, hoist, and rowse.

haul the wind

B: To direct the ship's course nearer to the point from which the wind blows.


TFD: 1. The part of a ship where the hawseholes are located. 2. A hawsehole. 3. The space between the bows and anchors of an anchored ship. 4. The arrangement of a ship's anchor cables when both starboard and port anchors are secured.

F: is generally understood to imply the situation of the cables before the ship's stem, when she is moored with two anchors out from forward, viz. one on the starboard, and the other on the larboard bow. Hence it is usual to say, she has a clear hawse, or a foul hawse. It also denotes any small distance ahead of a ship, or between her head and the anchors employed to ride her; as, "He has anchored in our hawse; the brig fell athwart our hawse," &c. A ship is said to ride with a clear hawse, when the cables are directed to their anchors, without lying athwart the stem; or crossing, or being twisted round each other, by the ship's winding about, according to the change of the wind, tide, or current. A foul hawse, on the contrary, implies that the cables lie across the stem, or bear upon each other, so as to be rubbed and chafed by the motion of the vessel. The hawse accordingly is foul, by having either a cross, an elbow, or a round turn. If the larboard cable, lying across the stem, points out on the starboard side, while the starboard cable at the same time grows out on the larboard side, there is a cross in the hawse. If, after this, the ship, without returning to her former position, continues to wind about the same way, so as to perform an entire revolution, each of the cables will be twisted round the other, and then directed out from the opposite bow, forming what is called a round turn. An elbow is produced when the ship stops in the middle of that revolution, after having had a cross; or, in other words, if the rides with her head northward with a clear hawse, and afterwards turns quite round so as to direct her head northward again, she will have an elbow.

athwart hawse

open hawse


TFD: An opening in the bow of a ship through which a cable or hawser is passed.

F: certain cylindrical holes cut through the bows of a ship on each side of the stem, through which the cables pass in order to be drawn into, or let out of the vessel, as occasion requires.


W: a cable or heavy rope used to tow or moor a ship

F: a large rope which holds the middle degree between the cable and towline, in any ship whereto it belongs, being a size smaller than the former, and as much larger than the latter.


W: 1. The top of a sail, 2. The bow of a nautical vessel

TFD: 1. The forward part of a vessel, b. The top part or upper edge of a sail

head sea

TFD: a sea in which the waves run directly against the course of a ship

B: When the waves meet the head of a ship in her course, they are called a head sea. It is likewise applied to a single wave coming in that direction.

head to wind

W: Having the bow of a boat facing directly into the wind

F: the situation of a ship or boat, when her head is turned to windward.


W: The direction into which a seagoing or airborne vessel's bow is pointing (apparent heading) and/or the direction into which it is actually moving relative to the ground (true heading)


TFD: A point of land, usually high and with a sheer drop, extending out into a body of water; a promontory.

F: a name frequently given to a cape, or promontory.


D: most advanced; foremost.

B: The situation of any ship or ships which are the most advanced in a fleet.


W: That part of older sailing ships forward of the forecastle and around the beakhead, used by the crew as their lavatory; still used as the word for toilets on a ship.


W: Any sail (of a sailing vessel) set forward of the foremost mast.

F: a general name for all those sails which are extended on the foremast and bowsprit, and employed to command the fore part of the ship; such are the foresail, fore topsail, fore topgallant sail, jib, fore staysail, and the spritsail with it's topsail. This term is used in opposition to aftersails.


D: a stay leading forward from the head of the foremost mast to the stem head or the end of the bowsprit.


TFD: Forward movement or the rate of forward movement, especially of a ship.

B: The motion of advancing, used in opposition to sternway.

F: the motion of advancing at sea. It is generally used when a ship first begins to advance; or in calm weather, when it is doubtful whether she is in a state of rest or motion. It is in both senses opposed to retreating, or moving with the stern foremost.


TFD: To push at a capstan bar or lever.

B: To turn about a capstan, or other machine of the like kind, by means of bars, handspikes, &c.

heave aback

GB: to get (a ship) in such a position, by putting the helm down or hauling in the weather-braces, or both, that the wind acts on the forward surface of the sails.

(Used at least once by Peter Heywood, in reference to the old family servant, Birket, tell her not to heave aback till God grants me the Pleasure of seeing her, i.e., not to die.

heave about

To change or cause to change direction or go or cause to go from one tack to another suddenly.

heave ahead

W13: To force from, or into, any position; to cause to move; also, to throw off; -- mostly used in certain nautical phrases; as, to heave the ship ahead.

B: to advance the ship by heaving in the cable or other rope fastened to an anchor at some distance before her.

F: is advancing the ship by heaving in the cable, or other rope, which is fastened to an anchor at some distance before her. To heave astern is therefore to draw the ship backwards by the same operation.

heave apeak

B: to heave in the cable, till the anchor is apeak.

heave astern

B: to move a ship backwards by an operation similar to that of heaving ahead

heave down

B: careen

heave in stays

B: to bring a ship's head to the wind, by a management of the sails and rudder, in order to get on the other tack.

heave out

B: to unfurl or loosen a sail; more particularly applied to the staysails; thus we say, loose the topsails and heave out the staysails.

F: the act of unfurling and throwing loose a sail from the place where it had been rolled and fastened. This phrase is more particularly applied to the staysails; thus we say, "Loose the topsails, and heave out the staysails!" which is accordingly done, either to set or dry them.

heave short

W13: to haul in cable till the ship is almost perpendicularly above the anchor.

B: to draw so much of the cable into the ship, as that she will be almost perpendicularly over her anchor.

F: is the drawing so much of the cable into the ship, by means of the capstan or windlass, as that by advancing, she will be almost perpendicularly above the anchor, and in a proper situation to set sail.

heave taut

B: to turn the capstan round till the rope or cable becomes straightened.

F: the act of heaving about the capstan, till the rope applied thereto becomes straight and ready for action.

heave the lead

The lead was cast out in the direction of the ship's course and when it became perpendicular the depth would be read from the markings on the line. The nature of the bottom would be determined from bits that adhered to the tallow which was applied to the lead.

W13: to take soundings with lead and line.

B: to throw the lead overboard, in order to find the depth of water

heave the log

W13: to cast the log chip into the water; also, the whole process of ascertaining a vessel's speed by the log.

B: to throw the log overboard, in order to calculate the velocity of the ship's way.

heave to

W: 1. To stop (a seagoing vessel). 2. To back-wind the jib and luff the main to hold a position especially in heavy seas.

TFD: To turn a sailing ship so that its bow heads into the wind and the ship lies motionless except for drifting, in order to meet a storm

heel (n)

TFD: 1. The lower end of a mast. 2. The after end of a ship's keel.

F: the lower end, which is diminished into the frustum of a pyramid, so as to sink immoveably into a hole of the same shape, cut in the step, which is attached to the ship's keel.

heel (v)

TFD: (of a vessel) to lean over; list

B: She heels to port, that is, inclines or lays down upon her larboard or left side.

F: to stoop or incline to either side. It is usually applied to a ship when she is forced into this position by the wind acting upon her sails, while braced obliquely across her; or by being ballasted so as to lean more to one side than the other.


Polynesian festival with singing and dancing


W: The steering apparatus of a ship, especially the tiller or wheel.

F: a long and flat piece of timber, or an assemblage of several pieces, suspended along the hind part of a ship's sternpost, where it turns upon hinges to the right or left, serving to direct the course of the vessel, as the tail of a fish guides the body. The helm is usually composed of three parts, viz. the rudder, the tiller, and the wheel, except in small vessels, where the wheel is unnecessary.


W: A member of a ship's crew who is responsible for steering.


See hogshead

high and dry

B: The situation when so far run aground as to be seen dry upon the strand.

high water

TFD: another name for high tide

F: the greatest height of the flood tide.


F: a sort of knot or noose, by which one rope is fastened to another, or to some other object, as a post, ring, timberhead, mast, &c. Hence we say an half hitch, a clove hitch, a rolling hitch, &c.


a hogshead was 63 wine gallons, or 54 gallons of ale or beer

(Note: In many definitions, you will see references to Imperial gallons, however, at the time of the Bounty both the United States and Great Britain used U. S. customary units, as the Imperial system was enacted in 1824.)


TFD: to raise or lift up, esp. by mechanical means

B: to haul , sway, or lift up.

F: (hoisting) the operation of drawing up any body by the assistance of one or more tackles, according to the weight intended to be raised. The act of pulling up any body, by the help of a single block only, is never expressed by the term hoisting, if we except the exercise of extending the sails, by drawing them upwards along the masts or stays, to which it is invariably applied.


W: The cargo area of a ship.

B: is the space between the lower deck and the bottom of the ship, where her stores, &c. lie.

F: the whole interior cavity or belly of a ship, or all that part of her inside, which is comprehended between the floor and the lower deck, throughout her whole length. This capacious apartment usually contains the ballast, provisions, and stores of a ship of war, and the principal part of the cargo in a merchantman. ... that the places where the ballast, water, provisions, and liquors are stowed, are known by the general name of the hold. The several storerooms are separated from each other by bulkheads, and are denominated according to the articles which they contain, the sailroom, the breadroom, the fishroom, the spiritroom, &c.

Hollands Geneva

Gin. In fact the English word Gin comes from the first syllable of the second word and is often capitalized because it was assumed Geneva referred to the city in Switzerland. Not so. It comes from the Dutch jenever or genever, from Old French genevre, from Latin iuniperus, juniper tree, because the brew was flavored with juniper berries.


B: implies the proper situation of any object

F: when spoken of the anchor, seems to imply the station of the ship with regard to her anchor; which is accordingly said to come home when it loosens from the ground, by the effort of the cable, and approaches the place where the ship floated, at the length of her moorings.

Honi soit qui mal y pense

'Evil be to him who evil thinks' is the motto of the English chivalric Order of the Garter. According to Bligh, James Morrison had it tattooed around his left leg, along with a garter.


F: a rope reaching from the middle of a yard to it's extremity, or what is called the yardarm, and depending about two or three feet under the yard, for the sailors to tread upon, whilst they are loofing [luffing], reefing or furling the sails, rigging out the studding sail booms, &c. In order therefore to keep the horse more parallel to the yard, it is usually suspended thereto, at proper distances, by certain ropes called stirrups, which hang about two feet under the yard, having an eye in their lower ends through which the horse passes. Horse is also a thick rope, extended in a perpendicular direction near the fore or after side of a mast, for the purpose of hoisting or extending some sail thereon. When it is fixed before a mast, it is calculated for the use of a sail called the square sail, whose yard being attached to the horse, by means of a traveller, or bull's-eye, which slides up and down occasionally, is retained in a steady position, either when the sail is set, or whilst it is hoisting or lowering. When the horse is placed abaft or behind a mast, it is intended for the trysail of a snow, and is accordingly very rarely fixed in this position, except in those sloops of war which occasionally assume the form of snows, in order to deceive the enemy.


E: wooden shoulders bolted below the masthead to either side of a wooden mast of a sailing vessel which originally supported the trestle-trees. In smaller vessels without trestle-trees hounds were used to support the shrouds by which the mast was stayed laterally. In the days of large sailing ships the hounds of the lower masts were more properly known as cheeks.

F: a name given to those parts of a masthead, which gradually project on the right and left side, beyond the cylindrical or conical surface, which it preserves from the partners upwards. The hounds, whole upper parts are also called cheeks, are used as shoulders to support the frame of the top, together with the topmast and the rigging of the lower mast.


past tense of heave


TFD: 1. A small sloop-rigged coasting ship. 2. A heavy barge used for freight.

F: a small vessel, chiefly used in coasting, or carrying goods to or from a ship, in a road or bay, where the ordinary lighters cannot be managed with safety or convenience.


a ship that is afloat, but incapable of going to sea. They were used for many purposes: as cranes, for hoisting masts in other ships; for accommodation, to house sailors when there was a lack of accommodation ashore; for receiving, to house newly recruited sailors until they were assigned to a crew; for storage, holding a ship's stores while it was being refitted, and as prisons.

hull down

describes the situation where a ship is so far off, that her hull is hidden by the horizon

hull up

describes the situation where a ship is near enough, that her hull is visible above the horizon