English Nautical Glossary L


D: to roll or pitch heavily, as a ship.

F: s a sea term, implies to roll or pitch heavily in a turbulent sea; an effect, by which the masts and hull of the ship are greatly endangered, because by the rolling motion the masts strain upon their shrouds with an effort, which increases as the sine of their obliquity: and the continual agitation of the vessel gradually loosens her joints, and often makes her extremely leaky.


there are no stairways aboard ship, everything is a ladder

WN: steps consisting of two parallel members connected by rungs; for climbing up or down

F: a well-known convenience, of which there are a great number in a ship, formed of two pieces of plank joined together by cross pieces, which serve as steps, whereby to mount or descend from one deck to another. The ladders derive their names from the several hatchways, or other parts of a ship, wherein they are situated.


TFD: Weighed down with a load; heavy

F: the state of a ship when she is charged with a weight or quantity of any sort of merchandizes, or other materials, equal to her tonnage or burthen. If the cargo with which she is laden is extremely heavy, her burthen is determined by the weight of the goods; and if it is light, she carries as much as she can stow, to be fit for the purposes of navigation. As a ton in measure is generally estimated at 2000 lb. in weight, a vessel of 200 tons ought accordingly to carry a weight equal to 400,000 lb. when the matter of which the cargo is composed is specifically heavier than the water in which she floats; or, in other words, when the cargo is so heavy that she cannot float high enough, with so great a quantity of it, as her hold will contain.


TFD: A person unfamiliar with the sea or seamanship.


a lantern

F: a well-known machine, of which there are many used in a ship, particularly for the purpose of directing the course of other ships in a fleet or convoy; such are the poop and top-lanthorns, &c.

lanyard, laniard

TFD: a line used for extending or fastening rigging on ships

B: of the shrouds, are the small ropes at the ends of them, by which they are hove taut or tight.

F: a short piece of cord or line, fastened to several machines in a ship, and serving to secure them in a particular place, or to manage them more conveniently. Such are the lanyards of the gun-ports, the lanyard of the buoy, the lanyard of the cathook, &c. The principal lanyards used in a ship, however, are those employed to extend the shrouds and stays of the masts, by their communication with the dead-eyes, so as to form a sort of mechanical power, resembling that of a tackle. These lanyards, are fixed in the dead-eyes as follows: One end of the lanyard is thrust through one of the holes in the upper dead-eye, and then knotted, to prevent it from drawing out; the other end is then passed through one of the holes in the lower dead-eye, whence, returning upward, it is inserted through the second hole in the upper dead-eye, and next through the second in the lower dead-eye, and smally through the third holes in both dead-eyes. The end of the lanyard, being then directed upwards from the lowest dead-eye, is stretched as stiff as possible by the application of tackles and that the several parts of it may slide with more facility through the holes in the dead-eyes, it is well smeared with hog's lard or tallow, so that the strain is immediately communicated to all the turns at once.


the left hand side of the ship, facing forward toward the bow

F: a name given by seamen to the left side of a ship, wherein the right and left are apparently determined by the analogy of a ship's position, on the water, to that of a fish.

larboard watch

The name was a convenience, it could just as well been 'north'. See watch and bells.


D: 1. (of a wind) nearly on the quarter, so that a sailing vessel may sail free. 2. with the wind free or abaft the beam so that all sails draw fully.

F: a phrase applied to the wind, when it crosses the line of a ship's course in a favourable direction, particularly on the beam or quarter; for instance, if a ship is steering west, the wind, in any point of the compass to the eastward of the south or north, may be called large, unless it is direct east, and then it is said to be right aft. To sail large is therefore to advance with a large wind, so as that the sheets are slackened and flowing, and the bowlines entirely disused. This phrase is generally opposed to sailing close-hauled, or with a scant wind, in which situation the sheets and bowlines are extended as much as possible.

lase on the bonnet

B: fasten the bonnet to the sail


TFD: To secure or bind, as with a rope

F: the act of fastening or securing any thing by means of the rope used for this purpose.


TFD: rope, cord, etc., used for binding or securing

F: a piece of rope employed to fallen or secure any moveable body in a ship, or about her masts, sails, and rigging


TFD: Being, relating to, or rigged with a triangular sail hung on a long yard that is attached at an angle to the top of a short mast.


W: The boat of the largest size and/or of most importance belonging to a ship of war

lay the land

B: A ship which increases her distance from the coast, so as to make it appear lower and smaller, is said to lay the land.

F: in navigation, the state of motion which increases the distance from the coast, so as to make it appear lower and smaller; a circumstance which evidently arises from the intervening convexity of the surface of the lea. It is used in contradistinction to raising the land, which is produced by the opposite motion of approach towards it.


a lead weight fitted with tallow and a line with markings for determining the depth of water under a vessel.

heave the lead


TFD: The side away from the direction from which the wind blows.

B: That part of the hemisphere to which the wind is directed, to distinguish it from the other part which is called to windward.

F: an epithet used by seamen to distinguish that part of the hemisphere to which the wind is directed, from the other part whence it arises; which latter is accordingly called to windward. This expression is chiefly used when the wind crosses the line of a ship's course, so that all on one side of her is called to windward, and all on the opposite side, to leeward.

lee shore

W: a shore, towards which the wind is blowing, and to which there is the danger of being driven

B: that shore upon which the wind blows.

lee side

TFD: the side of something that is sheltered from the wind

B: that half of a ship lengthwise, which lies between a line drawn through the middle of her length and the side which is farthest from the point of wind.

F: all that part of a ship or boat which lies between the mast, and the side furthest from the direction of the wind; or otherwise, the half of a ship, which is pressed down towards the water by the effort of the sails, as separated from the other half, by a line drawn through the middle of her length. That part of the ship, which lies to windward of this line, is accordingly called the weather side. Thus admit a ship to be sailing southward, with the wind at east, then is her starboard, or right side, the lee side; and the larboard, or left, the weather side.


Parts of SailTFD: 1. Either vertical edge of a square sail. 2. The after edge of a fore-and-aft sail.

F: (pl.) the borders or edges of a sail, which are either sloping or perpendicular. The leeches of all sails, whose tops and bottoms are parallel to the deck, or at right angles with them all, are denominated from the ship's side, and the sail to which they belong; as the starboard leech of the mainsail, the lee leech of the fore topsail, &c. but the sails which are fixed obliquely upon the masts, have their leeches named from their situation with respect to the Ship's length; as the fore leech of the mizen, the after leech of the jib, or fore staysail, &c.


TFD: On or toward the side to which the wind is blowing.

F: towards that part of the horizon which lies under the lee, or whither the wind bloweth.

to leeward


TFD: The drift of a ship or an aircraft to leeward of the course being steered.

B: The lateral movement of a ship to leeward of her course; or the angle which the line of her way makes with a line in the direction of her keel.

F: is the lateral movement of a ship to leeward of her course, or the angle which the line of her way makes with the keel when the is close-hauled. This movement is produced by the mutual effort of the wind and sea upon her side, forcing her to leeward of the line upon which She appears to sail; and in this situation her course is necessarily a compound of the two motions by which she is impelled, of which the one presses forward, according to the line of her keel, whilst the other pushes her to leeward of the course, with a motion which is usually in proportion to the force of the wind, and the rate of her velocity.

length overall

W: length of a ship from bow to stern

lie along

F: the state of being pressed down sideways by a weight of sail in a fresh wind that crosses the Ship's course either directly or obliquely.

lie to, lie by

TFD: To remain stationary while facing the wind.

F: the situation of a ship when she is retarded in her course, by arranging the sails in such a manner as to counteract each other with nearly an equal effort, and render the ship almost immoveable, with respect to her progressive motion, or headway. A ship is usually brought to by the main and fore topsails, one of which is laid aback, whilst the other is full; so that the latter pushes the ship forward, whilst the former resists this impulse, by forcing her astern. This is particularly practised in a general engagement, when the hostile fleets are drawn up in two lines of battle opposite each other. It is also used to wait for some other ship, either approaching or expected; or to avoid pursuing a dangerous course, especially in dark or foggy weather, &c.


F: of a ship of war, the officer next in rank and power to the captain, in whose absence he is accordingly charged with the command of the ship; as also the execution of whatever orders he may have received from the commander relating to the king's service. The lieutenant, who commands the watch at sea, keeps a list of all the officers and men thereto belonging, in order to muster them, when he judges it expedient, and report to the captain the names of those who are absent from their duty. During the night watch, he occasionally visits the lower decks or sends thither a careful officer, to see that the proper centinels are at their their duty, and that there is no disorder amongst the men; no tobacco smoked between decks, nor any fire or candles burning there, except the lights which are in lanthorns, under the care of a proper watch, for particular purposes. He is expected to be always upon deck in his watch, as well to give the necessary orders, with regard to trimming the sails and superintending the navigation, as to prevent any noise or confusion; but he is never to change the ship's course without the captain's directions, unless to avoid an immediate danger. The lieutenant, in time of battle, is particularly to see that all the men are present at their quarters, where they have been previously stationed according to the regulations made by the captain. He orders and exhorts them every where to perform their duty, and acquaints the captain at all other times of the misbehaviour of any persons in the ship, and of whatever else concerns the service or discipline. The youngest lieutenant of the ship, who is also styled lieutenant at arms, besides his common duty, is particularly ordered, by his instructions, to train the seamen to the use of small arms, and frequently to exercise and discipline them therein. Accordingly his office, in time of battle, is chiefly to direct and attend them, and at all other times to have a due regard to the preservation of the small arms, that they be not lost or embezzled, and that they are kept clean and in good condition for service.


d: A rope leading from the masthead to the extremity of a yard below; -- used for raising or supporting the end of the yard.

B: (pl.) the ropes which come to the ends of the yards from the mastheads, and by which they are suspended when lowered down.

F: (pl.) certain ropes, descending from the cap and masthead, to the opposite extremities of the yard immediately under; where, passing through a block or pulley, they become double. They are used to keep the yard in equilibrio; or to pull one of its extremities higher than the other as occasion requires; but particularly to support the weight of it, when a number of seamen are employed thereon, to furl or reef the sail. The lifts of the topsail yards, called the topsail lifts, are also used as sheets to extend the bottom of the topgallant sail above. The yards are said to be squared by the lifts, when they hang at right angles with the mast; that is to say, parallel to the horizon, when the vessel is upright upon the water.


TFD: A large flatbottom barge, especially one used to deliver or unload goods to or from a cargo ship or transport goods over short distances.


TFD: A small room from which the magazine of a naval vessel is lighted, being separated from the magazine by heavy glass windows.

F: a small apartment, inclosed with glass windows, near the magazine of a ship of war. It is used to contain the lights by which the gunner, and his assistants, are enabled to fill the cartridges with powder, to be ready for action.


TFD: A rope used aboard a ship.


TFD: A device trailed from a ship to determine its speed through the water.

F: a machine used to measure the ship's headway, or the rate of her velocity as she advances through the sea. It is composed of a reel and line, to which is fixed a small piece of wood, forming the quadrant of a circle. The term log however is more particularly applied to the latter.

log board

TFD: a board consisting of two parts shutting together like a book, with columns in which are entered the direction of the wind, course of the ship, etc., during each hour of the day and night. These entries are transferred to the log book.

F: a sort of table, divided into several columns, containing the hours of the day and night, the direction of the winds, the course of the ship, and all the material occurrences that happen during the twenty-four hours, or from noon to noon; together with the latitude by observation. From this table the different officers of the ship are furnished with materials to compile their journals, wherein they likewise insert whatever may have been omitted; or reject what may appear superfluous in the log board.

log line

TFD: The line by which the log is trailed from a ship to determine its speed.


d: a book in which is entered the daily progress of a ship at sea, as indicated by the log, with notes on the weather and incidents of the voyage; the contents of the log board.

F: a book into which the contents of the log board is daily copied at noon, together with every circumstance deserving notice, that may happen to the ship, or within her cognizance, either at sea or in a harbour, &c. The intermediate divisions or watches of the logbook, containing four hours each, are usually signed by the commanding officer thereof, in ships of war or East Indiamen.

[Falconer's description of a journal better fits the description of logbook, and explains why it ran from noon to noon.]


D: to set free from fastening or attachment

F: to unfurl or cast loose any sail, in order to be set, or dried, after rainy weather.

Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty

TFD: The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were the members of the Board of Admiralty, which exercised command over the Royal Navy. Officially known as the Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland &c. (or of England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, depending on the period), the Lords Commissioners only existed when the office of Lord High Admiral was in commission, i.e. not held by a single person. During the periods when an individual Lord High Admiral was appointed, there was a Council of the Lord High Admiral which assisted the Lord High Admiral and effectively performed many of the duties of the Board of Admiralty.

Lord High Admiral

The title of the person in command of the Royal Navy, when that command was held by a single person.


See landlubber


an old name for syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that has been around for centuries


W: The vertical edge of a sail that is closest to the direction of the wind.

B: The order to the steersmam to put the helm towards the lee side of the ship in order to sail nearer to the wind.


WP: refers to when a sailing vessel is steered far enough toward the direction of the wind ("windward"), or the sheet controlling a sail is eased so far past optimal trim, that airflow over the surfaces of the sail is disrupted and the sail begins to "flap" or "luff" (the luff of the sail is usually where this first becomes evident). This is not always done in error; for example, the sails will luff when the bow of the boat passes through the direction of the wind as the sailboat is tacked.


TFD: A quadrilateral sail that lacks a boom, has the foot larger than the head, and is bent to a yard hanging obliquely on the mast.

F: a square sail, hoisted occasionally on the mast of a boat, or small vessel, upon a yard which hangs nearly at right angles with the mast.