Glossary Tips

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When do I say aye, aye sir?

Aye Aye Sir

Aye, Aye, Sir - Required official acknowledgement of an order meaning I have received, understand, and will carry out the order or instructions.

what is Starboard ?


The Vikings called the side of their ship its board, and they placed the steering oar, the "star" on the right side of the ship, thus that side became known as the "star board." It's been that way ever since. And, because the oar was in the right side, the ship was tied to the dock at the left side. This was known as the loading side or "larboard". Later, it was decided that "larboard" and "starboard" were too similar, especially when trying to be heard over the roar of a heavy sea, so the phrase became the "side at which you tied up to in port" or the "port" side.

What does adrift mean?


The term, "adrift", means loose from towline or moorings, scattered about, not in proper stowage.

What is a brig?


Brig - a place of confinement, a prison

what are Watches ?


Traditionally, a 24-hour day is divided into seven watches. These are: midnight to 4 a.m. [0000-0400], the mid-watch; 4 to 8 a.m. [0400-0800], morning watch; 8 a.m. to noon [0800-1200], forenoon watch; noon to 4 p.m. [1200-1600], afternoon watch; 4 to 6 p.m. [1600-1800] first dog watch; 6 to 8 p.m. [1800-2000], second dog watch; and, 8 p.m. to midnight [2000-2400], evening watch. The half hours of the watch are marked by striking the bell an appropriate number of times.


Took the wind out of his sails

Often we use "took the wind out of his sails" to describe getting the best of an opponent in an argument. Originally it described a battle maneuver of sailing ships. One ship would pass close to its adversary and on its windward side. The ship and sails would block the wind from the second vessel, causing it to lose headway. Losing motion meant losing maneuverability and the ability to carry on a fight.

what is a Wardroom?


Wardroom - on board ship, the officer's living room and dining area; also used to signify all of the officers serving on the ship.

What does "ashore" refer to?


"Ashore" refers to any place outside of a naval or Marine Corps reservation.

what is a swab?


Swab - a mop

what is a ladder?


Ladder - stairs

what is a chit?


CHIT - a receipt or authorization; a piece of paper

what is PFPWD?


PFPWD stands for the Program for Persons with Disabilities ... it provides financial assistance to active duty family members with moderate to severe disabilities who cannot get specialized training or care through public programs.

what is Topside ?


Topside - upstairs; upper deck

what is turn to?

Turn To

Turn To - begin work; get started

what is a field day?

Field Day

Field Day - barracks cleanup

What does Mayday mean?


"Mayday" is the internationally recognized voice radio signal for ships and people in serious trouble at sea. Made official in 1948, it is an anglicizing of the French m'aidez, "help me".

what is a rate?


Rate - a sailor's occupational speciality

What does AD stand for?


"AD" stands for Active Duty.

what is a skipper?


Skipper - Commanding Officer

what is a passageway?


Passageway - a hallway

What is a bridge?


Bridge - the portion of a ship's structure from which it is controlled when underway.

what is scuttlebutt?


The origin of the word "scuttlebutt," which is nautical parlance for a rumor, comes from a combination of "scuttle" — to make a hole in the ship's hull and thereby causing her to sink —- and "butt" — a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water. The cask from which the ship's crew took their drinking water — like a water fountain — was the "scuttlebutt". Even in today's Navy a drinking fountain is referred to as such. But, since the crew used to congregate around the "scuttlebutt", that is where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Thus, then and now, rumors are talk from the "scuttlebutt" or just "scuttlebutt".

what is a forecastle?


The appropriate pronunciation for this word is fo'ksul. The forecastle is the forward part of the main deck. It derives its name from the days of Viking galleys when wooden castles were built on the forward and after parts of the main deck from which archers and other fighting men could shoot arrows and throw spears, rocks, etc.

what is a brow?


Brow - a portable walkway from the pier or jetty to the ship's quarterdeck

what is a fathom?


Fathom was originally a land measuring term derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "faetm," meaning 'to embrace.' In those days, most measurements were based on average size of parts of the body, such as the hand (horses are still measured this way) or the foot (that's why 12 inches are so named). A fathom is the average distance from fingertip to fingertip of the outstretched arms of a man --- about six feet. Since a man stretches out his arms to embrace his sweetheart, Britain's Parliament declared that distance be called a "fathom" and it be a unit of measure. A fathom remains six feet. The word was also used to describe taking the measure or "to fathom" something. Today, of course, when one is trying to figure something out, they are trying to "fathom" it.

what is Pogie Bait?

Pogie Bait

Pogie Bait - a piece of candy, cookies, etc.

what is a gangway?


Gangway - an opening in the rail giving access to the ship. A command announcement to stand aside to let someone through.

What is bupers?


BUPERS stands for the Bureau of Naval Personnel

What is below?


Below - downstairs, lower deck

What does "as you were" mean?

As You Were

"As You Were" refers to resuming former activity.

what is deers?


DEERS stands for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System

what is a fantail?


Fantail - the main deck of a ship at the stern

What is belay?


BELAY - to make fast or to secure, as in "belay the line," to cancel or to disregard a statement just made.

What does all hands refer to?

All Hands

"All Hands" refers to all members of a command.

what is a seabag?


Seabag - the bag used to stow personal gear

what is MTF?


MTF stands for Military Medical Treatment Facility

what is chewing the fat?

Chewing the Fat

"God made the vittles but the devil made the cook," was a popular saying used by seafaring men in the 19th century, when salted beef was staple diet aboard ship.

This tough cured beef, suitable only for long voyages when nothing else was cheap or would keep as well (remember, there was no refrigeration), required prolonged chewing to make it edible. Men often chewed one chunk for hours, just as if it were chewing gum, and they referred to this practice as "chewing the fat."

what is a field scarf?

Field Scarf

Field Scarf - regulation Marine Corps uniform neck tie

what is SOS?


Contrary to popular notion, the letters S.O.S. do not stand for "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls." They were selected to indicate a distress because, in Morse code, these letters and their combination create an unmistakable sound pattern.

Where can I find Navy acronyms?


A good website to find the definition of a lot of Navy acronyms is

what is an overhead?


Overhead - ceiling

what is Geedunk?


Geedunk - the place (aboard ship) where candy, ice cream, soda, and smokes can be purchased

what is a galley?


Galley - Shipboard kitchen; kitchen of a mess hall; mobile field mess

what is eight bells?

Eight Bells

Aboard Navy ships, bells are struck to designate the hours of being on watch. Each watch is four hours in length. One bell is struck after the first half-hour has passed, two bells after one hour has passed, three bells after an hour and a half, four bells after two hours, and so forth up to eight bells are struck at the completion of the four hours. Completing a watch with no incidents to report was "Eight bells and all is well."

The practice of using bells stems from the days of the sailing ships. Sailors couldn't afford to have their own time pieces and relied on the ship's bells to tell time. The ship's boy kept time by using a half-hour glass. Each time the sand ran out, he would turn the glass over and ring the appropriate number of bells.

what is FSG?


FSG stands for Family Support Group. These groups can be helpful to spouses and family members during short patrols, or long deployments ... but in order for it to work you need to become active.

what is RET?


RET stands for Retired

what is Square Away ?

Square Away

Square Away - to straighten, make ship-shape, or to get settled. To inform or admonish someone in an abrupt manner.

what is skylark?


Skylark - goof off; to loiter

Where does ahoy come from?


"Ahoy", referring to the traditional greeting for hailing other vessels, was originally a Viking battle cry.

what is a Petty Officer?

Petty Officer

Petty Officer - A Navy NCO, E-4 through E-9

what is NEX?


NEX stands for Navy Exchange. It is a great place to find lower and comparable prices on just about everything you could need. Larger bases have larger stores and sometimes NEX malls with food courts and entertainment. It depends on your area.

What is aft?


"AFT", referring to, or toward the stern (rear) of a vessel.

what is a smoking lamp?

Smoking Lamp

Smoking Lamp - when the smoking lamp is lit, smoking is authorized

what is a Quarterdeck?


The ceremonial location on board ship when the ship is moored or at anchor. It is located close to the brow or accommodation ladder and is the watch station for the Officer of the Deck.

what is a head?


The "head" aboard a Navy ship is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.

what are gun salutes?

Gun Salutes

Gun salutes were first fired as an act of good faith. In the days when it took so long to reload a gun, it was a proof of friendly intention when the ship's cannons were discharged upon entering port.

what is DFAS?


DFAS stands for Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

what is a brown bagger?

Brown Bagger

Brown Bagger - a married man

what is shipping over?

Shipping Over

Shipping Over - Reenlisting

what is a port hole?

Port Holes

The word "port hole" originated during the reign of Henry VI of England (1485). King Henry insisted on mounting guns too large for his ship and the traditional methods of securing these weapons on the forecastle and aftcastle could not be used.
A French shipbuilder named James Baker was commissioned to solve the problem. He put small doors in the side of the ship and mounted the cannon inside the ship. These doors protected the cannon from weather and were opened when the cannon were to be used. The French word for "door" is "porte" which was later Anglicized to "port" and later went on to mean any opening in the ship's side, whether for cannon or not.

what is sick bay?

Sick Bay

Sick Bay - hospital or dispensary

what is a holystone?


The last Navy ships with teak decks were the battleships, now since decommissioned. Teak, and other wooden decks, were scrubbed with a piece of sandstone, nicknamed at one time by an anonymous witty sailor as the "holystone." It was so named because since its use always brought a man to his knees, it must be holy!

What is a cup of joe?

Cup of Joe

Josephus Daniels (18 May 1862-15 January 1948) was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Among his reforms of the Navy were inaugurating the practice of making 100 Sailors from the Fleet eligible for entrance into the Naval Academy, the introduction of women into the service, and the abolishment of the officers' wine mess. From that time on, the strongest drink aboard Navy ships could only be coffee, and over the years, a cup of coffee became known as "a cup of Joe."

what is port?


Port - left

What is to breakout?


Breakout - take out of stock or storage, to prepare for use.

what is the Stern ?


Stern - the blunt end (rear) of a ship

what is PCM?


PCM stands for Primary Care Manager ... your main doctor / clinic that you would see through TriCare Health Services.

what is secure?


Secure - stop; finish; end; make fast; put away in storage

What is a bow?


Bow - front portion of a ship

What is carry on?

Carry On

Carry On - the order to resume previous activity

what is a pea coat?

Pea Coat

Sailors who have to endure pea-soup weather often don their pea coats...but the coat's name isn't derived from the weather.
The heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from pilot cloth — a heavy, course, stout kind of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. The cloth was sometimes called P-cloth for the initial letter of "pilot" and the garment made from it was called a p-jacket — later, a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth.

what is a crow´s nest?

Crow's Nest

The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings' navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried aboard to help the ship's navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird's flight path, because the crow invariably headed towards land.

The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name "crow's nest" was given to this tub. While today's Navy still uses lookouts in addition to radars, etc., the crow's nest is a thing of the past.

what is devil to pay?

Devil to Pay

Today the expression "devil to pay" is used primarily to describe having an unpleasant result from some action that has been taken, as in someone has done something they shouldn't have and, as a result, "there will be the devil to pay." Originally, this expression described one of the unpleasant tasks aboard a wooden ship.

The "devil" was the wooden ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with "pay" or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of "paying the devil" (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was despised by every seaman.

what is a log book?

Log Book

In the early days of sailing ships, the ship's records were written on shingles cut from logs. These shingles were hinged and opened like a book. The record was called the "log book." Later on, when paper was readily available and bound into books, the record maintained its name.

what does it mean to police?


Police - to straighten or to tidy up

What is a buttkit?


Buttkit - an ashtray

what is liberty?


Liberty - absence of enlisted from the ship or command for less that 06 hours for purpose of rest and recreation which is not charged as leave

what is JAG?


JAG stands for Judge Advocate General

What is Between the Devil and the Deep?

Between the Devil and the Deep

In wooden ships, the "devil" was the longest seam of the ship. It ran from the bow to the stern. When at sea and the "devil" had to be caulked, the sailor sat in a bo'sun's chair to do so. He was suspended between the "devil" and the sea — the "deep" — a very precarious position, especially when the ship was underway.

what is a gator?


Gator - an amphibious ship; one who serves in the amphibious Navy

What is a C.P.?


C.P. - Command Post in the field

what is EFMP?


EFMP stands for the Exceptional Family Members Program. This program is a mandatory enrollment program for Active Duty Service Members who have family members with exceptional medical, psychological, developmental, or educational needs.

what is a hatch?


Hatch - door or doorway

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