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Altitude, or the distance of an object from sea level, was used to determine a ship's latitude. Figuring out a ship's latitude was a sailor's way of determining the ship's course.


Due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis and the elliptical orbit of the Sun, the path of the Sun follows in a year creates a figure-8 pattern referred to as an the analemma. Sailors used measurements of the Sun's position in the sky in celestial navigation.


The Greek translation for this is star finder (spelled astrolaby in the age of pirates). This ancient instrument measures the altitude of the sun and/or constellations from the horizon. The mariner's astrolabe was used as a tool by sailors to help them determine the latitude of their ship.

The knowledge of a ship's latitude was critical in determining whether it was on course to its destination.


When boarding an enemy ship, the long-handled boarding axe was used to cut lines, knock down cabin doors, and sometimes to cut the mast or yards on a ship.

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An instrument that was used to measure a ship's position.


The wooden structure on a ship's deck that houses the compass is referred to as the binnacle.


A pirate flag with a skull or skeleton was referred to as a jolly roger. A black and white jolly roger (used from 1690 onward) was referred to as a blackjack.


The pulleys and ropes used to raise heavy loads.

BOATSWAIN (pronounced bo'sun)

The person aboard ship who was in charge of maintaining the rigging, anchors, cables, and other equipment.


The goods seized from enemy ships in times of war. Other terms are loot, plunder or spoils.


The Buccaneers used this knife when they hunted wild pig and oxen on the Islands around Santa Domingo and Jamaica. Boucans came in all sizes and shapes and looked like a cut down cutlass. These knives were primarily used as a utility knife, but could be used in combat to hack or slash an enemy in battle.


The reward offered for the capture of a pirate. The person doing the capturing of the wanted pirate is called a bounty hunter.


The front of the pirate ship (the back is the stern).


A heavy spar (wooden pole for supporting sails) pointing forwards at the front of the ship.


A popular choice of buccaneers, the brigantine was a square-rigged, two masted vessel with a fore and aft sail on the mainmast, 80 feet long, weighing 150 tons, and could hold 10 cannons and a crew of 100.


To fire all guns simultaneously on one side of a ship.


Buccaneers got their name from the French word boucan which means barbecue. Buccaneers were originally pig and cattle farmers and the term referred to the way they barbecued their meat on grills as taught to them by the local natives. Buccaneer referred to the pirates and privateers who were based out of the West Indies.


A vertical partition inside a ship. Pirates pulled down bulkheads and other walls inside ships to make more room for working the guns.

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A young boy who worked aboard pirate ships as a servant. Many cabin boys made their way aboard ship by being kidnapped by pirates or were runaways looking for a means of escape.


A piece of land jutting into the sea.


The winding mechanism used to raise the anchor.


A small, three-masted ship used by the Spanish and Portuguese.


To clean or repair a pirate ship by beaching it and turning it over on its side. This was the time when pirate ships were most vulnerable to attack.


The carpenter was in charge of the soundness of the ship's masts, yards, boats, and hull, caulking the plank seams with oakum to keep it water tight.


A large three- to four-masted large-cargo sailing ship.


The person who made the maps for the pirate's voyage.


A raised structure above the ship's deck, either at the bow (forecastle) or stern (sterncastle). Castles were used as places for armed men in a sea battle. The forecastle was the traditional quarters of the crew, and the sterncastle held cabins for officers.


This whip was designed with nine knotted cords fastened to a handle. The name of the whip comes from the scars it left on the backs of the pirates who were flogged with the whip. The marks resembled cat scratches.


To make a wooden sailing ship water tight by sealing it with oakum (rope fibers) and tar.


This was the method of using the north star or other constellations as reference points in navigation.


The cartographer created a detailed map of seas and coasts for the pirates' voyage called a chart.


The chip log was a pirate ship's speedometer. Pirates took a light line and knotted it at equal intervals of 47 feet 3 inches. The end was weighted so it would drag in the water. After it was tossed overboard over the stern, the pilot counted the knots that were let out as a 28-second sand glass emptied itself. This gave him the speed of the ship in nautical miles per hour and is where the expression of knots per hour originates. The knot interval reference of 47 feet 3 inches to 6,080 feet is equal to the sand glass timers' 28 seconds to one hour.


Prior to the invention of the chronometer, pirates did not have an accurate method for measuring time, without which led to them steering off course and sometimes missing their destinations entirely. The chronometer's time-keeping accuracy allowed sailors to measure the stars against specific points in time, thus giving them their longitude. This changed navigation forever by allowing sailors to stay on the correct course to their destination.

(also Cimmarones or Cimmarons)

African slaves who escaped from the Spanish and lived in the mountainous and forested areas off the Caribbean, Privateer Sir Francis Drake often employed cimaroons to help him fight against their former masters.


To sail completely around a point, such as pirates and explorers circumnavigating the globe in search of treasure.


A wide brimmed hat turned up on two or three sides (bi or tricorne hat).


When a government pays privateers to hunt down and attack an opposing country's merchant ships and return with its goods.


An instrument that always points to magnetic north, used by sailors in navigation.


On the pirate ship's map, it's the circular reference design which resembles the compass. Lines radiated out from the center of the compass in 16 to 32 directions, also indicating courses to sail.


Spanish explorers who sailed to the Americas to obtain gold, silver, and other treasures. They were famous for conquering Mexico and Peru.


The Earth's land masses are divided into 7 large land masses called continents. The Earth's current continents are: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.


This term is used for privateers who operated in the Mediterranean. The most famous were the Barbary Corsairs from the Barbary Coast of North Africa (so called by the European crusaders who called their Muslim opponents barbarians) who were authorized by their governments to attack the shipping of Christian countries. The Maltese Corsairs were sent out by Knights of St. John in a religious war against the Turks, but the rewards of privacy soon became more important.


A small boat called a cockboat was used by the Captain to travel from ship to shore. The person in charge of steering was called the coxswain.


Navigation tool which was used to measure the angle between the north star and the horizon. The higher the north star, the farther north the pirate ship was.

4 Crusadoes

Portuguese coin.


A short bladed singled edged sword usually slightly curved and only sharpened on the outer blade, resembles a saber, only the blade is slightly heavier and shorter. The reason the cutlass had a shorter, heavier blade is because of what it was called upon to do. Besides having to run through your foe, the cutlass was also called upon to cut through heavy marlin lines, break down heavy oaken doors, and so on. A regular sword may not have always been up to the task. And shorten swinging space was available on ship. Lighter and sturdier.


Someone who robs or plunders at sea or plunders the land from sea without having a commission from a sovereign nation; a ruthless pirate.

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