Navy Glossary

ALL HANDS - Entire ship’s company.
AYE, AYE, SIR - Used by subordinates to seniors in acknowledging an order or command signifying that it is understood and will be carried out.
BATTEN DOWN - To close or make watertight, usually referring to hatches.
BEAR A HAND - Speed up work, or lend a hand.
BLUEJACKET - A Seaman in the United States Navy.
BREAK OUT - To unstow, or prepare for use.
CARRY ON - An order to resume work or duties.
CHARLEY NOBLE - Gally some-pipe.
CROSSING THE LINE - Crossing the Equator, at which time there is usually a ceremony during which they pollywog (landlubber) becomes a “shellback.”
CUT OF THE JIB - General appearance of a vessel or a person.
DITTY BOX/DITTY BAG - A small box or small canvas bag used by bluejackets for stowing small personal gear.
ENSIGN - The national flag: a junior commissioned officer in the Navy.
FIELD DAY - A day for general ship cleaning.
FLOATSUM - Floating wreckage, or goods thrown overboard.
GALLEY - The ship’s kitchen.
GRAVEYARD WATCH - The middle (mid) watch from 2400 to 0400.
HAND - A member of the ship’s crew.
HEAD - The ship’s toilet.
HIGH SEAS - The entire ocean beyond the three-mile limit where not nation has special privileges or jurisdiction (note: nations now claim 10 mile, 12 mile, or more limits).
HIT THE DECK - A phrase used to rouse men from their bunks at Reveille.
IRISH PENNANT - Untidy loose end of a line, (or loose threads on a uniform).
JETSOM - Goods which sink when thrown overboard at sea.
JUMPER - The blouse of a bluejacket’s uniform.
JURY RIG - A makeshift of mast and sail, or other gear.
KNOCK OFF - To stop; to stop work.
LANDLUBBER - Seaman’s term for one who has never been to sea.
LADDER - A metal, wooden, or rope stairway.
LIBERTY - Permission to be absent from a ship, or station for a period up to 48 hours. 72 hours on a three-day weekend. Anything longer than this is not liberty, but is leave charged to an individual’s leave balance.
LUCKY BAG - A locker for the stowage of loose articles of clothing and personal gear found aboard the ship, or station.
MAN - To put the proper number of men on a detail, so that the work can be done.
MAST - A vertical spar supporting the booms, gaffs and sails on a sailing vessel,; a spar supporting signal heard and antennae on a fighting ship; the term applied to the hearing of cases of offense against discipline, or for requests, or commendations.
OFFICER OF THE DECK (OOD) - The officer in charge of the ship during each watch and on deck as the Captain’s representative.
PADRE - Affectionate slang for the chaplain.
PASS THE WORD- To repeat an order, or information to the crew.
PHONETIC ALPHABET - A way of speaking letters so that they will be clearly understood; for example, an A is “Alpha,” and a B is “Bravo,” etc.
PIPE THE SIDE - The ceremony at the gangway in which side boys are drawn up and the boatswain’s pipe is blown when a high-ranking officer, or distinguished visitor comes aboard.
POLLYWOG - One who has never crossed the Equator.
QUARTER DECK - The part of the upper deck reserved for honors and ceremonies.
RANK - Grade of official standing of commissioned officers.
RATE - Grade of official standing of enlisted men.
RATLINE - A short length of small stuff running horizontally across shrouds.
ROCK AND SHOALS - Slang for Articles for the Government of the Navy. Precursor of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. (UCMJ)
ROPEYARN SUNDAY - a TIME FOR REPAIRING CLOTHIN. In the late 1950’s Ropeyarn Sunday, when it was held at all, was often held on Wednesday afternoon.
RULES OF THE ROAD - Regulations prescribed to prevent collisions of ships.
SEA BAG - A large canvas bag for stowing the gear of a bluejacket.
SEABEES - Construction battalions (CB’s); nickname for bluejackets in a construction battalion.
SEA LAWYER - A seaman who is prone to argue, especially against recognized authority.
SHAKEDOWN CRUISE - Cruise of a newly commissioned ship to test out all machinery and train the crew.
SHELL BACK - One who has crossed the Equator and has been initiated.
SHIPSHAPE - Seamanlike and neat.
SHORE PATROL - Same as the Army’s Military Police.
SHOVE OFF - Slang for leaving.
SICK BAY - Ship’s hospital, or dispensary.
SKIPPER - Slang for the Captain.
SKIVVIES - Slang for underwear.
SMART - Snappy, seaman like [i.e. “Look Smart”]
SQUARE AWAY - To get things settled down, or in order to complete a job.
STAND BY - A preparatory order meaning “get ready.”
STOW - To put gear in its proper place.
STRIKER - A non-rated [sailor] who is qualifying for a petty-officer’s rate.
SWAB - A rope mop
TRICE - To haul up [Shipboard bunks used to be “triced” up]
TURN TO - An order to begin work [“Turn to” starts the working day; “Knock off” ends the working day.]
UNCOVER - Uncover hat.
VERY WELL - Reply of an officer to a subordinate to indicate that the information given is understood.
WARDROOM - Officer’s assembly and mess room aboard a Navy ship.
WATCH - a POST OR PERIOD OF DUTY. [E.G. Quarterdeck watch; phone; dempsey dumpster watch; after lookout sounding watch etc.]
WEIGH - To lift the anchor off the bottom.
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Internet website for U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Selectees
LTC Daniel Smith (TN)
member of
The Society for Military History
and member of
The Board for the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History

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