Words or terminology used in the Canadian Navy
Thanks to a contributor retired from the Canadian
280 Lady - Someone who's done all their sailing on the Tribals
A & A - An alteration or addition to a ship.
A’Cock Bill - Anchor clear of the hawse, up and down and ready for letting
Abaft - Further aft than; never use the term “Aft of"’.
Able Seaman - The rank of Able Seaman is the equivalent of Private in the
Army or Air Force, with rank insignia of a single chevron.
Acting Sub-lieutenant - The most junior of the commissioned officers, and is
equivalent to Second Lieutenant in the Army and Air Force. The rank insignia
of an Acting Sub-lieutenant is a single standard stripe.
Admiral - The rank of admiral indicates the commander-in-chief of the navy,
a senior officer in command of a fleet or squadron, or of a command ashore.
Adrift - Absent, late.
AFFF - Aqueous Film Forming Foam. A fire-fighting agent which is mixed with
water and sprayed on flammable liquids fires. Pronounced "A triple-F". Aka
'Light Water' for the foam's ability to float on oil or gasoline.
Aft - In the direction of the stern.
Ahoy - A seaman’s way of attracting attention.
Aldis - A handheld signaling lamp.
All about - To be clever, snappy and efficient.
All for George - One who holds by his duties and carries them out to the
letter is said to be "all for George." Common during World War II, but since
King George VI's death in 1952, the phrase has fallen out of use; no
subsequent variation for Queen Elizabeth II seems to have evolved.
All gate and gaiters - Gate as a slang term for talk and gaiters being the
lower leggings worn by sailors. The phrase means it's only show with no real
All Standing - To bring to a sudden or unexpected halt.
Aloft - Above.
Alongside - In harbour.
Amidship(s) - The middle third of a ship, or on the centerline of the ship.
Amp Tramp - Slang for Electrician.
Ansings - Pieces of material or metal left over from a job.
Artificer - Engineering technician.
As the crow flies - When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters,
ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the
nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The
tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be known as the crow's nest.
Astern - Abaft of the ship or if the ship is moving it means in reverse, or
stern end first.
Athwart - Running from side to side.
Avast - An order to stop.
Awash - Level with the surface of the sea.
Back up - To assist in holding.
Banyan - A barbecue or party, usually with steaks and beer. The term is
derived from ‘banian’, a garment worn by an East Indian sect which neither
kills nor eats meat (‘Banyan’ is a species of tree). In the 18th century, the
British navy denied its sailors meat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays;
these days were known as ‘banian (or Banyan) days.’ The term has now come to
mean just the opposite.
Barge - A flag officer’s boat.
Barrack Stanchion - A person who has spent much time ashore.
Bash - A party.
Batten Down - To secure closed or shut.
Beach - Shore or ashore.
Beam - The width of a ship from side to side at her widest point.
Beam Ends - When a ship is completely on her sides; confusion.
Bear A Hand - An order to assist.
Beating up - A person putting in extra effort when an officer is in the area
is said to be "beating up"; derives from the sailing terminology where a ship
under sail beats upwind; that is, is sailing against the wind, which requires
Beef bandit - A supply rating. Also applies to a person who is thought to be
of a lecherous nature.
Belay - To make fast a rope; also to cancel an order.
Below - Down.
Bend - A turn in a length of rope or meaning to take a turn of line around a
bollard, cleat or other fitting.
Bender - A drinking spree.
Berth - A place to sleep or for a ship to secure to.
Between Decks - Any space below the upper deck.
Bilge - The very bottom of a ship’s hull, also nonsense.
Bilge Diving - Working in the bilges of a ship.
Bin Rat - Slang for Storesman.
Binnacle - The stand or housing for the ship's compass, usually located on
Birds - Slang for being confined to the ship or base.
Bitter End - Inboard end of ships cable.
Bloggins - The catch-all name. "Ordinary Seaman Bloggins screwed up again."
Blue Force - Friendly forces in a war-game exercise.
Board - To go alongside and enter a ship.
Boatswain (also Bosun or Bos'n) - This term comes from the Old English batswegen, meaning the boat's swain, or husband. Today it refers to the
professional seaman trade.
Boatswain call - The bos'ns whistle.
Boatswain's Mate - In harbour, this person is part of the gangway staff,
under the command of the officer of the day. He makes all pipes and assists
the quartermaster. At sea, his post is on the bridge, under the command of the
officer of the watch.
Bollard - A squat cylindrical fixture attached to a jetty or deck. Used to
secure berthing lines.
Bolo - A weighted pouch, which is connected to a slender line, which when
slung underhand or overhead may be thrown to another vessel.
Bonnie (the) - HMCS BONAVENTURE and aircraft carrier that served in the
Canadian Navy in the 1960s.
Boot Topping - The black paint used at the waterline of many warships.
Separates the hull paint from the anti-fouling underwater paint.
Bow - The forward end of the ship.
Bravo Zulu - Phonetic pronunciation of 'BZ' from the NATO signals codes.
Signifies 'Good Job' or 'Well Done.'
Breakwater - A harbour breakwater is used to prevent the roughness of the
sea outside the harbour from affecting the waters within, and as a part of a
ship's structure is used to divert a breaking sea.
Brick - A shell (in gunnery).
Brightwork - Polished metal fittings.
Bring up with a round turn - To be stopped in your tracks or put in your
Broach - To unintentionally swing around broadside to a wave.
Broadside - The full side of a ship.
Brow - A gangway between two ships or from ship to shore.
Bubbly - Slang for rum.
Buffer - This is a slang term for the chief boatswain’s mate, usually the
Bulkhead - A wall.
Bullring - The large fairlead at the bows for passing out hawsers or cable.
Bumboat = A civilian boat that comes alongside to sell merchandise.
Bunts; Bunting tosser - A signalman. The nickname derives from the material
(bunting) of which signal flags were once made.
Buoy Jumper - The sailor who climbs up onto a mooring buoy to attach or
remove mooring lines.
Burma Road - Main passageway in a Canadian destroyer.
Butt End - The largest end.
Buzz - A rumour.
Cable - A measure of 200 yards.
Cake and Ass party - Derogatory term for an officers’ cocktail party.
Cant - To incline away from the uptight position.
Capsize - To overturn.
Captain - Captain is both a rank and an appointment. In the Canadian Navy
today, the commanding officer of a ship, though usually of the rank of
Commander, is nevertheless referred to and addressed as "Captain". The rank of
Captain (N) is equivalent to the army's Colonel, and is denoted by four bands
of gold braid on the sleeves of the uniform jacket. Captain derives from the
Latin caput, meaning 'head'.
Captain's Rounds - Rounds that the Commanding Officer does, normally on a
Friday, or prior to entering a foreign port.
Captain's Table - A disciplinary hearing.
Carry Away - Removed or lost due to sea or wind.
Cart - A sailor's bunk
Cast Off - To let go.
CERA - Chief Engine Room Artificer.
Channel Fever - Anxious to get home, or reach port.
Charlie Oscar - Commanding Officer.
Check Away - To ease out a rope or wire under control.
CHEMOX - Stands for Chemical Oxygen; it is the breathing apparatus that is
used for shipboard fire-fighting in the Canadian Navy.
Chock-A-Block - Full up.
Chummy - Generic slang for an object which has no official nautical name
Cinderella Leave - Leave where one must be back aboard by midnight.
Civvy Street - Civilian life.
Clean - To change from one type of dress to another.
Clear - Free; unobstructed; to make free.
Cleat - A piece of metal or wood with two horns around which ropes are made
Clew up - Referring to being married.
Coaming - The raised lip around a hatch. Designed to prevent, or at least
limit, water entry.
Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey - In the days of sailing
ships, cannon balls were often stacked in what was called a "monkey", usually
made of brass. When the weather got really cold the monkeys, being brass,
would contract at a different rate than the iron of the cannonballs, forcing
the cannon balls to fall to the ship's deck.
Commander - The rank of commander evolved in smaller types of early
warships. In the larger warships of the sixteenth century, the captain would
have a master as his chief navigator, while he commanded the firing of the
guns, but in smaller ships the two offices were combined, as "master and
commander". The "master and" part was dropped in the mid-eighteenth century,
but it was not until 1794 that the rank officially existed in the Royal Navy.
Commodore - This rank was established in the Royal Navy in 1622, by King
William II, and derives from the Dutch Commandeur. Traditionally, the
commodore was in command of a squadron detached from the main body of the
fleet. Unlike the Royal Navy, commodore is a permanent rank in the Canadian
Common Dog (CDF) - Refers to the term 'Common Dog F--k', but it actually
means 'common sense'.
Companionway - A ladder leading from one deck to another.
Conning - Giving orders regarding the maneuvers of a ship.
Coxswain (also Cox'n) - The coxswain is the senior non-commissioned officer
on board. He is the link between the officers and the enlisted men, other than
that provided by the divisional system. He is responsible for routine and
discipline. Coxswain may also refer to the seaman in charge of a ship's boat
when it is away from the ship.
Crabfat - Aircrew on board a ship.
Crashed - Slang for a sailor sleeping.
Crashed (Crashed out) - Asleep
Crest - The highest point of a wave.
Cripple - A helping piece when creating a shoring.
Crusher - The Regulating Petty Officer in charge of administration and
Dead ends - Rope ends hanging from masts and yardarms aloft.
Dead Marine - An empty beverage bottle or can.
Dead Men - Rope ends hanging from aloft.
Deck - The floor.
Deck Ape - A boatswain.
Deckhead - The ceiling.
Deep Six - The ocean or, to throw overboard.
Defaulters - A summary court-martial, presided over by the executive officer
or commanding officer.
Derelict - A ship, abandoned by her crew, but still afloat.
Derry - Slang for the popular WW2 port of Londonderry.
Dhobey Dust - Laundry detergent.
Dhobey - dhobeying
Dib; Dibby Dab - A common name (mainly used by members of the Engineering
branch) given as an insult to members of other trades. It was originally a
name given to an Ordinary Seaman Stokers who's only job in the Engine Room or
Boiler Room was to wipe up oil leaks off the deck.
Dicky - Nickname for anyone with the surname of "Bird".
Dicky run - A quiet and uneventful visit, or "run" ashore.
Dip - To lower temporarily; to pass under.
Dipped - To be reverted in rank.
Dit - A rumour. No Shit Dit is a rumour that has been verified as being
true. Bad Dit is a rumour that has been verified as bogus.
Ditch - To throw away.
Door - A closure between two compartments on the same deck.
Dowse - To put out a light or fire.
Draft - A posting to a ship.
Drag - To pull along the seabed to recover something.
Drainpipe - A nickname for an extremely thin person. Also Snaky and
Draught or Draft - The depth of the ship in the water, from the waterline to
the bottom of the keel.
Drip - To complain.
Drown - To drench or saturate.
Duff - Normally means dessert but it also may indicate that something is not
working, or it may be used in a phrase such as "No duff" which means "not a
drill or exercise".
Dungarees - Working uniform.
Dusty - A Nickname for someone with the last name of "Miller".
Dutch Courage - The uninhibited courage shown by a person who has had one
too many. This refers to the Old Dutch custom of issuing tots of schnapps
Easy - Carefully or slowly.
End for End - The reverse position.
Ensign - The colours worn by a ship for purposes of national identification.
The ensign worn by HMC Ships is the national flag of Canada.
Eyes of the Ship - The extreme forward end.
Fair - Favourable or unobstructed.
Fake Out - To lay a wire or rope on the deck so that it is free for running.
Fast Cruise - A training exercise whereby the ship simulates being underway
while remaining alongside.
Fathom - Nautical measure, 6 feet.
Fid - A fid is an elongated conical tool used for splicing ropes. It is more
commonly used to describe a sailor who displays lesser personal qualities.
Fiddle - Fitting on a table to keep mess utensils in place in bad weather.
Fiddlers Green - Sailor’s heaven.
FIGMO - F**k It, (I) Got My Orders. "Go away and don't bother me, I’m outta
Fishheads - Slang for surface ship sailors commonly used by airmen and
Flaked Out - Slang for a sleeping sailor.
Flats - The passageways of a ship.
Fleet - A general term meaning the ships of a navy.
Float test - If a sailor float tests an item it means that the item was
Flotsam - Any floating cargo, stores, or damaged equipment which have
floated off a wrecked or damaged vessel.
FOD - Foreign Object Damage. Used when referring to aircraft on deck.
Forecastle (also fo'c'sle) - The fo'c'sle is the upper deck forward of the
Forepeak - That compartment farthest forward in a ship.
Foul - To entangle or obstruct.
Founder - To sink.
Freshen The Nip - To shift the point where a bight of wire or rope makes
Furl - To fold or roll up an awning or sail.
Fuzzy Bum - A term of endearment for junior sailors. See Hairy Bag.
Gaiters - Leggings.
Galley - The ship's kitchen.
Gangway - Any recognized entrance to, passageway, or traffic route within a
Gash - Extra, leftovers, and garbage.
Gate - An uncomplimentary term for mouth or mouthing off.
Gear - Equipment, clothing or other possessions
Gone to Ground - Asleep
Goofing Stations - A pipe peculiar to the Canadian navy, usually made to
alert off-watch members of the ship's company that there is something unusual
to be seen from the upper deck. The term originated in HMCS Labrador, the
icebreaker/arctic patrol ship, during her first voyage through the North-west
Passage in 1954. The pipe was made to the crew so they would not miss the
sight of polar bears, walruses and icebergs close at hand.
Grapnel - A pronged hook for retrieving gear over the side or for dragging
Green Sea - An unbroken wave.
Greenie - A wave that breaks over the ship.
Grey Funnel Line - Her Majesty's Canadian Ships.
Grog - Rum mixed with two parts water.
Grunt - A soldier.
Guffers or Goffers - Soft drinks.
Gun Run - A historical demonstration or a race where a crew of sailors
disassemble, re-assemble and fire a naval cannon.
Gunnery Jack - A weapons or gunnery officer.
Hairy Bag - How a true sailor refers to another true sailor.
Handsomely - Slowly, carefully.
Hanging Judas - A tall, whip, or halyard hanging loose from aloft.
Hatch - A hatch opens up between two compartments on adjoining decks.
Haul Taut - To pull tight.
Hawse Pipe - The pipe where the anchor cable runs out from the ship.
Heads - Toilets.
Helm - The helm is the position from which the ship is steered.
Helmsman - The person steering the ship.
HMCS - Her Majesty's Canadian Ship, and designates a warship in the service
Holiday - A gap or space; an area missed when painting the ship.
Hook - The ship's anchor.
Hooky - A Leading Seaman. See also Killick.
Horny Horse - Slang for the Saskatoon Naval Reserve Division HMCS UNICORN.
Hulk - A vessel in use but condemned for sea service.
Irish Pennants - Rope yarns or stray rope ends hanging.
Jack - A sarcastic term for young sailors who are trying to act like
experienced sailors. Similarly, a junior sailor who is putting on airs is said
to be "Jacky."
Jack Tar; Jacky Tar - A slang term referring to sailors in general; more
specifically these days, male sailors.
Jag it in - To quit.
Jagged - Fatigued, tired, beat.
Jaunty - The master-at-arms.
Jenny Wren - Female members of the WRCNS (Women's Royal Canadian Naval
Jetsam - Stores or equipment deliberately thrown over side to lighten ship.
Jettison - To cast overboard.
Jetty Jumping - Coming back from a trip on one ship and being posted to the
next ship leaving port to cover off manning shortages. Sometimes happens while
ships passing at sea with one incoming and the other outgoing.
Jimmy - The Executive Officer.
Jonah - A bringer of bad luck.
Jungle Deck - Tank deck on replenishment ship.
Junk - Old rope.
Jury - Temporary, make shift.
Jury rig - Temporary or makeshift.
Killick - Leading Seaman. It is derived from a Gaelic word meaning 'anchor',
which would have been a heavy stone wrapped in tree branches.
Knobby - Nickname for those with the surname of "Clark" or variations
Knot - Speed in nautical miles per hour.
Kye -Hot chocolate drink.
Labour - A ship labours when she pitches and rolls heavily.
Landfall - First sight of land after a sea passage. Lay Up to take a ship
out of service; (storage).
Lay up - To take a ship out of service for an indeterminate length of time.
Leading Seaman - A Leading Seaman (LS) is the equivalent of Corporal in the
Army and Air Force. The rank insignia of a Leading Seaman is two chevrons.
Lee - The sheltered side.
Liberty boat - The ship's boat carrying members of the ship's company
permitted to go ashore.
Lie To - To be as stationary as possible in a gale with the wind and sea
Lieutenant - The Lieutenant is equivalent to Captain in the Army and Air
Force; the rank insignia is two standard stripes. The word is from the French
language, lieu, "place"; and tenner, "to hold", and means "one who acts for,
or in lieu of, a superior officer."
Lieutenant-Commander - The Lieutenant-Commander is equivalent to Major in
the Army and Air Force; the rank insignia is two standard stripes with a
narrow stripe. In 1875, lieutenants of eight years' seniority were "frocked",
or given the 'half-stripe' of commander, and in 1914 the rank of
Lieutenant-Commander was officially established.
Limbo(s) - Another name for the anti-submarine mortar(s) that were housed on
the St. Laurent Class destroyers.
List - A ship that leans over to the left or to the right is said to have a
Lobstergate - A slang term (derived from the US scandal "Watergate") that
refers to the incidents of lobster poaching by HMC ships on the east coast.
Lubber’s Line - The vertical mark on a compass to mark the ship’s heading.
Maggie (the) - HMCS MAGNIFICENT and aircraft carrier that served in the
Canadian navy in the post-war era.
Make And Mend - Half day during working week that was originally set aside
to repair and replace kit, it is now an opportunity for recreation.
Marry - Clutching two parallel lines together in your hand. When the ship's
berthing hawsers are doubled-up, the second hawser is "married" to the first
while a seaman takes turns on the bollard.
Master Seaman - This rank is unique to the Canadian navy, and was created to
accommodate the unified rank structure of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is
equivalent to Master Corporal in the Army and Air Force. The rank insignia of
a Master Seaman is two chevrons surmounted by a maple leaf. Sometimes referred
to as "master killick".
Matelot - A sailor, in French.
Matie - Dockyard worker.
Mess Mother or Mom - The senior hand of a mess.
Mess Traps - Food utensils.
Mind your P's and Q's - In the days of sail when sailors were paid a
pittance, seamen drank their ale in taverns whose keepers were willing to
extend credit until payday. Since many salts were illiterate, keepers kept a
tally of pints and quarts consumed by each sailor on a chalkboard behind the
bar. Next to each person's name, a mark was made under "P" for pint or "Q" for
quart whenever a seaman ordered another draught. Also, on payday, each seaman
was liable for each mark next to his name, so he was forced to "mind his P's
and Q's" or he would get into financial trouble. To ensure an accurate count
by unscrupulous keepers, sailors had to keep their wits and remain somewhat
sober. Sobriety usually ensured good behavior, hence the meaning of "mind your
P's and Q's."
Moaning and dripping - Complaining.
Molly - Scullery worker.
Monkey Fist - The complex knot surrounding (sometimes taking the place of)
the weight on the end of a heaving line.
Muster by the Open List - This is a muster of the entire ship's company,
wherein each member reports name, rank and duties on board. This practice
originated in the Royal Navy, to counteract the practice of some ship's
pursers of having non-existent people on the ship's rolls (and thereby
pocketing the pay and benefits of these non-people).
Navy Gravy - Ketchup.
Neat - Undiluted rum, (not mixed).
Newfie John - Slang for the popular port St. John's, Newfoundland.
Non-skid - An epoxy compound applied to deck surfaces to improve traction.
North-Easter - Slang term meaning "not entitled", this dates from when
ratings stepped up to the pay table only to discover they were not entitled to
pay by reason of fines or other debts. This was abbreviated "N.E." on the pay
Number One - The Executive Officer.
O Boats - Slang term for the Oberon Class Submarines that served in the
Canadian navy from the 1960s to the late 1990s.
OD - Slang for Ordinary Seaman
Oh Dark Thirty - Very late at night, or very early in the morning.
Old Man - The commanding officer.
Order of the Blue Nose - One who has crossed the Arctic Circle in a ship.
Ordinary Seaman - The Ordinary Seaman (OS) is the equivalent of Private
untrained in the Army or Air Force, and is the lowest enlisted rank in the
navy. There is no rank insignia for Ordinary Seamen.
Oscar - The kapok stuffed dummy used for man overboard drills.
Overhaul - To overtake; to examine and repair; to haul apart the blocks of a
Pay-bob - The paymaster.
Pecker Checker - Navy doctor.
Pelican Hook - A quick-release shackle which can be knocked free with a
hammer. Often used to release the anchor.
Pendant Number - Traditionally the side-number of a ship.
Petty Officer - The rating of petty officer dates from the eighteenth
century in the Royal Navy. It was not then a rank, but an appointment, made by
individual ship's captains. The usual practice was for a captain to choose his
petty officers from his best able seaman. Usually, the master-at-arms, the armourer, the sail-maker and the ship's cook were all petty officers. The term
itself is from French, petit officier meaning small or minor officer. The rank
of Chief Petty Officer first appeared in the Royal Navy in 1853.
Pier Head Jump - Posting to a ship just prior to ship sailing.
Pig Boats - Slang term for the Porte Class Gate Vessels that were used
mainly for Naval Reserve training up until the 1990s.
Pigeon - Serviceman in the air element.
Ping Bosn - Sonarman.
Pipe Down - An order meaning keep silence; a pipe down at sea means a free
afternoon to catch up on lost sleep.
Pirate Rig - Civilian clothing, often outlandish and colourful, that sailors
will wear instead of their uniforms, but only on the rare occasions that this
is allowed. One such occasion is often a ship's banyan.
Plank Owner - A member of the original commissioning crew of a ship.
Pongo - Serviceman in the land element.
Port - A hole in the ships side.
Proud - Sticking out.
Pusser - Anything that is service issue.
Putty - Formerly the ship's painter; now applies to the deck department
personnel in charge of the paint locker.
Quarter-deck - The quarter deck is the upper deck aft of the superstructure
or, on ships with flightdecks, aft of the flight deck area. The name derives
from the great men o' war; the quarter-deck was a raised section of the upper
deck at the after end, where the helm position was. A service member always
salutes the quarterdeck when coming aboard or proceeding ashore, as a mark of
respect. The origin of this custom is somewhat obscure, but is thought to come
from the location of the tabernacle, which is where the ship's chaplain kept
the consecrated bread, which in the Christian faith is considered to be the
body of Christ; thus, the salute was a mark of respect to the visible presence
of God onboard. Another theory is that, as this is where the ship's master
would be in battle, the authority of command was in that particular place.
Quarter-inch admiral - A less-than-complimentary term for an officer cadet;
the term comes from the rank insignia of an Officer Cadet, which is a narrow
1/4 inch stripe.
Quartermaster - At sea, the quartermaster is the Master Seaman, Leading
Seaman or Able Seaman who is the helmsman. In harbour, the quartermaster is
the senior member of the gangway staff and is responsible for supervising the
bosn's mate and the security of the brow.
Rabbit - Government property taken or converted for private use.
Rack - A sailor's bunk.
Rack Monster - Someone who logs more hours asleep than awake.
Rack Time - Sleep.
Rake - To lean or incline from the upright. Range To layout rope or cable.
Rat Guard - Circular or conical metal plates attached to a ship’s berthing
hawsers to prevent rats getting aboard.
Rattle - To be in trouble.
Red Sea Rig - Dress in short sleeve white shirt and dress pants with a
cummerbund. Red Sea rig is a RN term but it has been adopted by most navies as
a wardroom order of dress. It was traditionally used in the days before A/C
and represents a relaxed form of wardroom dress. Traditionally there was no
temperature hot enough to cause officers to relax their dress. But one
exception was made and it was in the Red Sea which was far enough away from
England and sufficiently remote that a relaxation could be afforded.
Refit - To repair.
Requestmen - Personnel appearing formally before the executive officer or
commanding officer with a request.
Rig of the Day - The uniform to be worn for the day or for a specific
activity as laid down in routine orders or by announcement to the ship's
Rig Run - To go ashore, when in other than home port, in uniform.
Ring Knocker - An Royal Military College graduate.
Rocket - A letter or memo of reprimand.
Rogues Salute - A single gun fired at colours on the day of a court martial.
Rosie - Short for the American naval base at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.
Round-Down - The rounded bow of the original St. Laurent Class of
Roundly - Rapidly or fast.
Rounds - A complete walk around the ship, checking on all spaces.
Run - To go ashore when in other than home port, and particularly go on a
bender; To press disciplinary charges against a sailor i.e. "To run him"
Run Down - To ram, by accident or purposely.
Salty dip - A story of some exploit or adventure; it usually pushes the
limits of credibility, and grows with each recounting.
Scotchman - Material used to prevent chafe.
Scrambled Eggs - The gold braid found on the cap brim of a senior officer.
Scran - Food.
Scran Locker - Stowage for kit left lying about.
Screw the Pooch - To make a mistake, or to be incompetently idle. Derives
from the derogatory term "F**k the dog".
Scribe - A writer or someone in the Admin branch.
Scribe Tribe - A writer on a 280, Tribals
Scrounge - The procurement of a needed item through irregular or illegal
Sculk - To shirk work or loaf.
Scullery Slut - Junior hand assigned to work in the mess to clean dishes.
Sculling - To leave lying about or unattended.
Scuttle - A round port hole.
Scuttle-butt - Rumours or gossip. The origin of the term is literally a
scuttled butt, or breached cask, which was usually lashed on the deck. It was
used to contain the fresh water for daily use, and sailors met there to draw
water and exchange gossip.
Sea Daddy - Someone who takes a less-experienced crewmember under his or her
wing and expert tutelage.
Sea Legs - The ability to maintain balance when a ship is rolling.
Secure - To make fast; to stop work.
Seen off - To be cheated or hard-done-by.
Sesame Street - The main passageway leading fore and aft on 01 deck of an
Iroquois Class Destroyer.
Sewed - Ship grounded on the blocks during docking in a dry dock.
Shady - Nickname for anyone whose last name is "Lane".
Shellback - An old-timer. One who has crossed one or more of the Equator,
the Arctic or Antarctic Circles.
Sheppards Hook - Stave with a large hook for recovering boats falls and
Ship's Company - All members of the ship.
Ships Company - The complement of a ship or base.
Shipshape - Neat and tidy.
Shitter Fitter - A term that refers to a person of the Hull Technician
Shoring - A temporary rig built from lumber to strengthen weak bulkheads,
doors and hatches.
Shot Mat - A heavy rope mat used to protect anything. Most commonly the
decks from heavy weights and bow of ships boats in destroyers during underway
Show a Leg - A traditional call made at wakey-wakey. Originated in the days
of sail when women were let aboard ship. A woman in a sailor's hammock would
display a leg and thereby the sailor not required to turn out.
Sick bay - The space or quarters aboard ship for treating injuries and
SickBay Ranger - Someone who spends more time in sick bay than doing their
Silent Hours - Hours between pipe down and calling the hands, only emergency
pipes are made.
Sin Bos'n - Chaplain or Padre.
Sister Ships - Ships of the same class.
Sisters of the Space Age - Slang term for the Iroquois Class commissioned in
the early 70s. This term comes from a promotional movie that was produced with
the same title.
Skate - A no good; a man frequently in trouble.
Skive - To avoid work.
Skulk - To avoid duty-usually in the sense of hiding.
Skylarking - Frolicking or mischievous behaviour.
Slackers - Nickname for Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Sliders - To leave work early.
Slip - To leave the berth and sail away. i.e. "The ship slipped at 0800."
Slops - Repayment uniform clothing and hence the Base Clothing Stores.
Snaky - A very thin person.
Snotter; snottie - A derogatory term for junior officers below the rank of
Snub - To stop suddenly a rope or cable.
Snug - Properly secured; tight.
Sod’s Opera - An impromptu variety show put on by the ship’s company,
usually of a bawdy nature. Term used by RN.
Son of a gun - When in port, and with the crew restricted to the ship for
any extended period of time, wives and ladies of easy virtue often were
allowed to live aboard along with the crew. Infrequently, but not uncommonly,
children were born aboard, and a convenient place for this was between guns on
the gun deck.
South Wind - The correct retort to "How's your glass?" might be "There's a
south wind in it" meaning it is empty.
Sparker - Radio operator.
Spell - Period of time.
Spindrift - Spray blown from the crests of waves.
Splice the main brace - The main brace on a ship was always made of good
cordage, because it handled the main yard carrying the primary sail of a
square rigged vessel. If a brace gave out during a storm, a splice was the
fastest way repair it. The best mariners on board were sought out for this
difficult task. They were then rewarded with an extra ration of rum for
splicing the main brace. The term has since come to mean a special issue of
spirits to the crew.
Splinter Box - A heavy metal box used to patch a hole made in the side of
the ship through enemy action or by collision.
Spurn-Water - A low metal or wooden coaming around the outboard edge of
decks to prevent dirty water running down a ships sides.
Square One’s - To put oneself in the right without own yardarm regard to
Square rig - Slang for the sailor's uniform worn prior to the 1970s.
Stad - The large barrack block in the upper part of CFB Halifax named HMCS
Stanchion - A supporting post.
Stand easy - To "stand easy" is a parade command, meaning to assume a
relaxed posture. On board a ship, the command "stand easy" refers to a "coffee
Starboard; starboard side - The right-hand side of the ship as you face
forward. See larboard.
Steamer - Slang term for a navy destroyer powered by a boiler, such as the
St. Laurent Class and her sister classes.
Stern - The after end of the ship.
Stevedore - A man employed to stow cargo in a ship.
Stoker Marine Engineers - The term "stoker" derives from the days of
coal-fired boilers and steam engines.
Stone Frigate - A Sea Element shore establishment.
Stove - To break or make a hole in.
Stow - To put away.
Straddle - In shipboard gunnery, when one round or salvo is over, and the
next is short, or vice versa.
Strike - To haul down.
Strop - A piece of line spliced to form a closed loop and used for lifting.
Stroppy - A cheeky person.
Subby - Sub-lieutenant.
Sub-lieutenant - Sub-lieutenant is equivalent to Lieutenant in the Army and
Air Force, and in the Royal Navy is between midshipman and lieutenant. Their
rank insignia is a standard stripe surmounted by a narrow stripe. This rank
was introduced in Royal Navy in 1861.
Sullage - Wet garbage.
Surge - To handle a rope on a turning drum so that it remains stationary.
Swallow the Anchor - Retire from the Sea Element.
Sweeper - Man responsible for cleaning an area.
Sweet - Good, or functional.
Swing The Lead - To avoid work.
Tackle - Equipment used for lifting, usually consisting of pulleys and
lines. Sometimes pronounced "tayckle".
Tadpole - A greenhorn. A sailor who has not crossed the Equator.
Take Charge - To get out of control.
Take charge - Assume control of.
Talk a good days work - An all talk, no action, type of person.
Tally - The ribbon worn around a sailor's cap indicating his ship.
Tanker Wanker - Someone who's done all their sailing on the AORs
Taut - Tight; to haul taut.
Tell Off - Detail for work.
Tiddley - Neat, smart, clean.
Tiffy - Originally an artificer, mostly the medical man onboard a ship now;
“the sick bay tiffy.”
Tight - Watertight.
Tot - Rum ration
Trick - A short spell of duty on a particular job.
Trim - The tendency of a ship to lie with her decks not in a horizontal
position, fore to aft. A ship that lies with her bow too low is said to "trim
by the bow."
Turd Herder - Derogatory for an Hull Technician
Two Blocks - When the blocks of a tackle meet.
Uckers - Sea Element name for the game of LUDO.
Unsat - Unsatisfactory.
Veer - To pay out a line, wire, or cable.
VertRep - VERtical REPlenishment. Bringing stores or personnel aboard ship
by use of a helicopter.
Vittler - The stores rating who looks after issuing rations to the cooks and
takes care of the ordering and storing of food onboard. From the word
‘victual’ (which is pronounced ‘vittle’).
Voice pipe - A brass tube used to convey spoken orders.
Voice-pipe sweeper - A very thin person.
Wakey wakey - The pipe, or announcement that is made in the morning.
Walk Back - To pay out keeping the line in hand by walking.
War bags - The lifebelt, flash hood holder, and gas mask bag combination
that encompasses a sailors ensemble when he is at action stations or
Wardroom - Naval officers' mess.
Warm the Bell - To be early. To act or arrive before the laid down time.
Warm the brow - Lining up for the brow being opened well in advance of daily
Wavy Navy - A slang term for reservists during WW2. Its derivation is from
the rank insignia of officers in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR)
rather than being straight, were 'wavy'.
Weep - To leak slightly.
Wet - Stupid.
Wet down - To celebrate a promotion by buying a round of drinks.
Whiskey - Short for the oft used operational area Whiskey 601 which is
seaward from the Straits of Juan de Fuca (west coast).
White ash breeze - Sculling, or rowing; refers to the fact that oars were
made of white ash, a strong hardwood.
Wiggy - Nickname for anyone with the surname of "Bennett."
Winger - A friend.
Work Up - To exercise the officers and men of a ship in all their duties.
Writer - A slang term for a clerk.
XO - The Executive Officer
Yeoman - The senior signalman on board.
Zoomie - Air Force personnel.
Z's - Sleep, or snoring. "Let’s go grab some Z’s."