The History of Leith

April 18, 2007

Nautical Terms and Phrases… Their Meaning and Origin

Before the mast
Literally, the position of the crew whose living quarters on board were in the forecastle (the section of a ship forward of the foremast). The term is also used more generally to describe seamen as compared with officers, in phrases such as “he sailed before the mast.”

Binnacle List
A ship’s sick-list. A binnacle was the stand on which the ship’s compass was mounted. In the eighteenth century and probably before, a list was given to the officer or mate of the watch, containing the names of men unable to report for duty. The list was kept at the binnacle.

Boot camp
During the Spanish-American War, Sailors wore leggings called boots, which came to mean a Navy (or Marine) recruit. These recruits trained in “boot” camps

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