English Nautical Glossary T


F: a rope used to confine the foremost lower corners of the courses and stay sails in a fixed position, when the wind crosses the ship's course obliquely. The same name is also given to the rope employed to pull out the lower corner of a studding sail or driver to the extremity of its boom. The mainsail and foresail of a ship are furnished with a tack on each side, which is formed of a thick rope tapering to the end, and having a knot wrought upon the largest end, by which it is firmly retained in the clue of the sail. By this means one tack is always fastened to windward, at the same time that the sheet extends the sail to leeward.

A ship is said to be on the starboard or larboard tack, when she is close-hauled, with the wind upon the starboard or larboard side; and in this sense the distance which the sails in that position is considered as the length of the tack; although this is more frequently called a board.

Tack is also applied, by analogy, to that part of any sail to which the tack is usually fastened.


W: The maneuver by which a sailing vessel turns its bow through the wind so that the wind changes from one side to the other.

F: changing the course from one board to another, or turn the ship about from the starboard to the larboard tack, in a contrary wind


W: A system of ropes and blocks used to increase the force applied to the free end of the rope.

F: a machine formed by the communication of a rope with an assemblage of blocks, and known in mechanics by the name of pulley. Tackles are used in a ship to raise, remove, or secure weighty bodies; to support the masts; or to extend the sails and rigging. They are either moveable, as communicating with a runner; or fixed, as being hooked in an immoveable station; and they are more or less complicated, in proportion to the effects which they are intended to produce.

ground tackle


W: 1. A carved panel 2. The flat upper part of a ship's stern above the transom, often decorated with carvings 3. The taffrail

F: the upper part of a ship's stern, being a curved piece of wood and usually ornamented, with sculpture.


W: 1. The curved wooden top of the stern of a sailing man-of-war or East Indiaman, usually carved or decorated. 2. The rail around the stern of a ship. 3. The deck area at the stern of a vessel.

taken aback

W: Of a ship: to catch it with the sails aback suddenly.

taking in

B: The act of furling the sails. Used in opposition to set.

F: the act of brailing up and furling the sails at sea, particularly when the wind increases. It is generally used in opposition to setting.


WN: large tropical seed pod with very tangy pulp that is eaten fresh or cooked with rice and fish or preserved for curries and chutneys


cloth made from the bark of the paper-mulberry tree, Broussonetia papyriferi


restricted, forbidden, set apart, sacred (taboo)


Please note that the tar used aboard ship was pine tar (from North Carolina), not coal tar.

W: A dark viscous substance obtained from the destructive distillation of pine wood.

F: a sort of liquid gum of a blackish hue, which distils from pines or fir trees, either naturally or by incision; and being prepared by boiling, is used to pay the sides of ships and boats, and their rigging, in order to preserve them from the effects of the weather, by which they would otherwise soon become cracked, split, or rotten.


tropical plant (Colocasia esculenta) of the arum family with tuberous root used as food, especially in the Pacific islands


W: Canvas waterproofed with tar, used as a cover.

F: a broad piece of canvas well daubed with tar, and used to cover the hatchways of a ship at sea, to prevent the penetration of the rain, or sea water, which may occasionally rush over the decks.


TFD: Unusually tall. Used of masts.

B: High or tall. Particularly applied to masts of extraordinary length.


TFD: A vessel attendant on other vessels, especially one that ferries supplies between ship and shore.

F: a small vessel employed in the King's service, on various occasions; as, to receive volunteers and impressed men, and convey them to a distant place; to attend on ships of war or squadrons; and to carry intelligence or orders from one place to another, &c.


TFD: A painfully urgent but ineffectual attempt to urinate or defecate.


W: A ring of metal or rope used in a ship's rigging; it is a protection against chafing.

F: a sort of iron ring, whose outer surface is hollowed throughout its whole circumference, in order to contain, in the channel or cavity, a rope which is spliced about it, and by which it may be hung in any particular station. It is used to guide the direction of some running rope, which passes through it, from one place to another.


TFD: To sew short bits of rope yarn into canvas to roughen the surface.

thrumb a sail

GB: a process by which canvas is turned into a mat


W: A seat across a boat on which a rower may sit.

F: the seat or bench of a boat whereon the rowers sit to manage the oars.


ST: Describing any feature that lies from side to side across the deck or rigging.

F: across the ship



B: A row; as a tier of guns, a tier of casks, a tier of ships, &c.

F: a name given to the range of cannon mounted on one tide of a ship's deck.

tier of the cable

W13: A coil of a cable.

F: is a range of the fakes or windings of the cable, which are laid within one another in an horizontal position, so as that the last becomes the innermost.


TFD: A measure of liquid capacity, equal to a third of a pipe, or 42 gallons (159 liters).

See table at puncheon.


TFD: A lever used to turn a rudder and steer a boat.

F: the bar or lever employed to turn the rudder in steering.


TFD: A rib in a ship's frame.

F: the ribs of a ship, or the incurvated pieces of wood, branching outward from the keel in a vertical direction, so as to give strength, figure, and solidity to the whole fabric.

to (too)

TFD: Into the wind.

to leeward

B: towards that part of the horizon to which the wind blows

toa tree

ironwood tree


adzan adz TFD: An axlike tool with a curved blade at right angles to the handle, used for shaping wood.


TFD: (tampion) A plug or cover for the muzzle of a cannon or gun to keep out dust and moisture.

F: a sort of bung or cork tiled to stop the mouth of a cannon. At sea this is carefully encircled with tallow or putty, to prevent the penetration of the water into the bore, whereby the powder contained in the chamber might be damaged. or rendered incapable of service.


W: A framework at the top of a ship's mast to which rigging is attached

F: a sort of platform, surrounding the lower masthead, from which it projects on all sides like a scaffold. The principal intention of the top is to extend the topmast shrouds, so as to form a greater angle with the mast, and thereby give additional support to the latter. It is sustained by certain timbers fixed across the hounds or shoulders of the mast, and called the trestle trees and crosstrees. Besides the use above mentioned, the top is otherwise extremely convenient to contain the materials necessary for extending the small sails, and for fixing or repairing the rigging and machinery, with more facility and expedition. In ships of war it is used as a kind of redoubt, and is accordingly fortified for attack or defence, being furnished with swivels, musketry, and other firearms; and guarded by a thick fence of corded hammocks. Finally, it is employed as a place for looking out, either in the day or night. The frame of the top is either close-planked like a platform, or open like a grating. The former kind is generally stronger and more convenient; but the latter is much better in tempestuous weather, as presenting a smaller surface to the wind when the ship leans over to one side, and by consequence being less exposed to its efforts. In all ships of war, and in the largest merchantmen, the top is fenced on the aft side by a rail of about three feet high, stretching across, and supported by stanchions, between which a netting is usually constructed. The outside of this netting is generally covered with red bayze or red painted canvas, which is extended from the rail down to the edge of the top, and called the top-armour. By this name it seems to have been considered as a sort of blind, behind which the men may conceal themselves from the aims of the enemy's firearms in time of action, whilst they are charging their own muskets, carabines, or swivels. The dimensions of tops in the royal navy are as follow. The breadth of the top athwart ships is one third of the length of its corresponding topmast. The length of all tops, from the foremost to the after edge equal to three fourths of their breadth athwart; and the square hole in the middle is five inches to a foot of those dimensions. The trestle trees and crosstrees extend nearly to the edge of the tops.


TFD: 1. Of, relating to, or being the mast above the topmast, its sails, or its rigging. 2. Raised above adjacent parts or structures.

topgallant mast

TFD: a mast fixed to the head of a topmast on a square-rigged vessel

topgallant sail

TFD: a sail set on a yard of a topgallant mast


TFD: (topmen) The man (men) stationed in the top.


D: the mast next above a lower mast, usually formed as a separate spar from the lower mast and used to support the yards or rigging of a topsail or topsails.

F: the second division of a mast; or that part which lands between the upper and lower pieces.


W: A sail or either of the two sails rigged just above the course sail and supported by the topmast on a square-rigged sailing ship.

F: (pl.) certain large sails extended across the topmasts, by the topsail yard above, and by the yard attached to the lower mast beneath; being fastened to the former by robands, and to the latter by means of two great blocks fixed on its extremities, through which the topsail sheets are inserted, passing from thence to two other blocks fixed on the inner part of the yard close by the mast; and from these latter the sheets lead downwards to the deck, where they may be slackened or extended at pleafure. N.B. The topgallant sails are expanded above the topsail yard, in the same manner as the latter are extended above the lower yard.

Torrid Zone

TFD: The central latitude zone of the earth, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.


D: the vent in the breech of an early firearm or cannon through which the charge was ignited.

touching at

F: implies the circumstance of stopping, or anchoring occasionally, at some intermediate port, in the course of a voyage.


B: To draw a ship in the water by a rope, fixed to a boat or other ship which is rowing or sailing on.

F: to draw a ship forward in the water, by means of a rope attached to another vessel or boat, which advances by the effort of rowing or sailing. Towing is either practised when a ship is disabled, and rendered incapable of carrying sail at sea; or when her sails are not fixed upon the masts, as in a harbour; or when they are deprived of their force of action by a cessation of the wind. When a ship of war is dismasted, or otherwise disabled from carrying sail at sea, she is usually towed by a cable reaching from her bow to another ship ahead. In a harbour towing is practiced by one or more boats, wherein all the force of the oars are exerted to make her advance.


A line used for connecting two boats for towing.

F: a small hawser generally used to remove a ship from one part of an harbour or road to another, by means of anchors, capstans, &c. It is also employed occasionally to moor a small vessel in a harbour, conveniently sheltered from the wind and sea.


TFD: The trade winds. Often used in the plural with the.

trade winds

TFD: Winds that blow steadily from east to west and toward the equator over most of the Torrid Zone. The trade winds are caused by hot air rising at the equator, with cool air moving in to take its place from the north and from the south. The winds are deflected westward because of the Earth's west-to-east rotation.

F: certain regular winds blowing within or near the tropics, and being either periodical or perpetual. Thus, in the Indian ocean, they blow alternately from different points of the compass, during a limited season; and, in the Atlantic ocean, continue almost without intermission in the same direction. They are accordingly called trade winds, from their great utility in navigation and commerce.


TFD: Any of several transverse beams affixed to the sternpost of a wooden ship and forming part of the stern.

F: certain beams or timbers extended across the sternpost of a ship, to fortify her after part and give it the figure most suitable to the service for which she is calculated. Transoms are here defined as beams or timbers, because they partake equally of the form and purpose of those pieces. Thus the deck transom is the aftmost or hindmost beam of the lower deck, whereon all the deck planks are rabbeted; and all the transoms are fixed athwart the sternpost, in the same manner as the floor timbers are laid upon the keel. As the floor timbers also, with regard to their general form and arrangement, have a rising, by which the bottom becomes narrower as it ascends towards the extremities; so the arms of the transoms, being gradually closer in proportion to their distance from the wing transom downwards, give a similar figure to that part of the ship, which accordingly becomes extremely narrow, from the counter towards the keel; and this general figure or curve is called the flight of the transoms. Although these pieces are therefore extremely different in their figures, according to the extent of the angles formed by their branches or horns, each of them has nevertheless a double curve, which is partly vertical, and partly horizontal, with regard to its situation in the ship. The former of these is called, by the artificers, the round-up, and the latter the round-aft. As the transoms fill up the whole space comprehended between the head of the sternpost above, and the aftmost floor timbers below, it is necessary to distinguish them by particular names. Thus the highest is called the wing transom the next, the deck transom; and afterwards follow the first, second, and third transoms; together with the intermediate ones.

traveller, travellings

TFD: a metal ring that moves freely back and forth on a rope, rod, or spar.

F: a sort of thimble, whole diameter is much longer, in proportion to the breadth of its surface, than the common ones. It is furnished with a tail formed of a piece of rope, about three feet in length, one end of which encircles the ring, to which it is spliced. These machines are principally intended to facilitate the hoisting or towering of the top gallant yards at sea: for which purpose two of them are fixed on each backstay, whereon they slide upwards and downwards, like the ring of a curtain upon its rod; being thus attached to the extremities of the top gallant yard, they prevent it from swinging backwards and forwards, by the agitation of the ship, whilst the yard is hoisting or lowering at sea.


TFD: A wooden peg that swells when wet and is used to fasten timbers, especially in shipbuilding.

B: Long wooden pins employed to connect the planks of the ship's side and bottom to the corresponding timbers.

F: certain long cylindrical wooden pins, employed to connect the planks of a ship's side and bottom to the corresponding timbers. The treenails are justly esteemed superior to spike-nails or bolts, which are liable to rust, and loosen, as well as to rot the timber; but it is necessary that the oak of which they are formed should be solid, close, and replete with gum, to prevent them from breaking and rotting in the ship's frame. They ought also to be well dried, so as to fill their holes when they are swelled with moisture. They have usually one inch in thickness to 100 feet in the vessel's length; so that the treenails of a ship of 100 feet long, are one inch in diameter; and one inch and a half for a ship of 150 feet.

trestle tree

W: A structure attached to a mast to support the top and the heel of a topmast.

F: two strong bars of timber fixed horizontally on the opposite sides of the lower masthead, to support the frame of the top, and the weight of the topmast.


TFD: A period or turn of duty, as at the helm of a ship.


W: The fore-and-aft angle of the vessel to the water, with reference to the cargo and ballast; the manner in which a vessel floats on the water, whether on an even keel or down by the head or stern


D: 1. to break out (an anchor) by turning over or lifting from the bottom by a line (tripping line) attached to the anchor's crown. 2. to tip or turn (a yard) from a horizontal to a vertical position. 3. to lift (an upper mast) before lowering.

F: the movement by which an anchor is loosened from the bottom by its cable or buoy ropes.


trim the ballast

B: spread it about and lay it even


F: a sort of loose breeches of canvas worn by common sailors.


W: On a wooden mast, a circular disc (or sometimes a rectangle) of wood near or at the top of the mast, usually with holes or sheaves to reeve signal halyards; also a temporary or emergency place for a lookout. "Main" refers to the mainmast, whereas a truck on another mast may be called (on the mizzenmast, for example) "mizzen-truck".

F: a piece of wood, which is either conical, cylindrical, spherical, or spheroidical. Thus the trucks fixed on the spindle of a masthead, and which are otherwise called acorns, are in the form of a cone; and those which are employed as wheels to the gun carriages are cylinders. The trucks of the parrels assume the figure of a globe; and, lastly, those of the flagstaffs resemble an oblate spheroid. Trucks of the shrouds are nearly similar to those of the parrels; they are fastened to the shrouds about twelve or fourteen feet above the deck, the hole in the middle being placed perpendicularly to contain some rope which passes through it. The intention of these is to guide the sailors to the particular rope, which might otherwise be easily mistaken for some other of the same size, especially in the night.




TFD: A pin or gudgeon, especially either of two small cylindrical projections on a cannon forming an axis on which it pivots.

F: the two knobs or arms which project from the opposite sides of a piece of artillery, and serve to support it in the carriage.


TFD: An iron fitting by which a lower yard is secured to a mast.

F: a machine employed to pull a yard home to its respective mast, and retain it firmly in that position. As the truss is generally used instead of a parrel, it is rarely employed, except in flying topgallant sails, which are never furnished with parrels. It is no other than a ring or traveller, which encircles the mast, and has a rope fastened to its after part, leading downward to the top or decks; by means of which the truss may be straitened or slackened at pleasure. The halyards of the topgallant sail being passed through this ring; and the sail being hoisted up to its utmost extent; it is evident, that the yard will be drawn close to the mast, by pulling down the truss close to the upper part of the sail. For, without the truss, the sail and its yard would be blown from the mast, so as to swing about, by the action of the wind, and the rolling of the vessel; unless the yard were hoisted close up to the pulley wherein the halyards run; which seldom is the case in flying topgallant sails, because they are usually much shallower than those which are fixed or standing.

trussel tree

trestle tree


W: To lie to in heavy weather under just sufficient sail to head into the wind.

F: (trying) the situation in which a ship lies nearly in the trough or hollow of the sea in a tempest, particularly when it blows contrary to her course. In trying, as well as in scudding, the sails are always reduced in proportion to the increase of the storm. Thus, in the former state, a ship may lie by the wind under a whole mainsail, a whole foresail, or a whole mizen; or under any of those sails, when diminished by the reef or balance. As the least possible quantity of sail used in scudding are the goosewings of the foresail; so in trying, the smallest portion is generally the mizen staysail or main staysail; and in either state, if the storm is excessive, she may lie with all the sails furled, or, according to the sea phrase, under bare poles. The intent of spreading a sail at this time is to keep the ship more steady, and, by pressing her side down in the water, to prevent her from rolling violently; and also to turn her bow towards the direction of the wind, so that the shock of the waves may fall more obliquely on her flank, than when she lies along the trough of the sea. While she remains in this situation, the helm is fastened close to the lee side, or, in the sea language, hard alee, to prevent her as much as possible from falling off. But as the ship is not then kept in equilibrium by the effort of her sails, which at other times counterbalance each other at the head and stern, she is moved by a slow but continual vibration, which turns her head alternately to windward and to leeward, forming an angle of three or four points in the interval. That part where she stops, in approaching the direction of the wind, is called her coming to, and the contrary excels of the angle to leeward is termed her falling off.


W: A small, strong 3-sided sail sometimes set in place of the mainsail in heavy weather.


WN: a detachable yoke of linen or lace worn over the breast of a low-cut dress.


TFD: A measure of liquid capacity, especially one equivalent to approximately 252 gallons (954 liters).

See table at puncheon.

turtle peg

W: A spike attached to a cord or rod, used for catching sea turtles.


guardian angel

W: A guardian or protector


TFD: A chain or rope, one end of which passes through the mast, and is made fast to the center of a yard; the other end is attached to a tackle, by means of which the yard is hoisted or lowered.

F: a sort of runner or thick rope, used to transmit the effort of a tackle to any yard or gaff, which extends the upper part of a sail. The tye is either passed through a block fixed to the masthead, and afterwards through another block moveable upon the yard or gaff intended to be hoisted; or the end of it is simply fastened to the said yard or gaff, after communicating with the block at the masthead.