sailing terms

Did you know how many phrases and words that we use in everyday English have their roots in nautical teminology? Here is a selection of them but if you know of any more, then email

Jack - 1) The Jack is a replica of the blue, star-studded field of the National Ensign that is flown by ships at anchor from 8 a.m. to sunset. The Jack is hoisted at a yardarm when a general court-martial or a court of inquiry is in session. It is half-masted if the Ensign is half-masted, but it is not dipped when the Ensign is dipped. 2) Sailor (Nick-name for 'John', which was a very common name in England, and thus came to be used for anyone) In the days of sail, it referred to a bar of iron at topgallant masthead to support a royal mast and spread the royal shrouds.

Jibe - 'Jibe' is the maneuver used when a sailing jib is utilized to turn the ship sharply back and forth, causing enemy gunners to throw off their aim or to gain a maneuvering advantage. It was also used to bring a ship's mainsails into the wind. Thus, the term, "That jibes with what I heard," refers to confirming a belief. Conversely, "I've had enough of your jibes," means the speaker is tired of the other person's joking or erratic behavior.

Jury Rig - A temporary fix. Jury-rig is based on one word "jury" which is a nautical sense meaning 'makeshift; temporary' and one word "rig" referring to a ship's sails and masts. The first known example of this "jury" is the compound jury-mast, 'a temporary mast put up to replace one that has been broken or lost', attested since the early seventeenth century. A jury-rig, then, is 'a temporary or makeshift rigging', and the verb is used figuratively in the sense 'to assemble or arrange hastily in a makeshift manner'. The origin of this word "jury" is not certain, but some scholars identify it with iuwere, a late Middle English word meaning 'help; aid', borrowed from the Old French ajurie.

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