Navy Terms

ABOARD – on or in a ship. Close aboard; near a ship.
ADVANCE PAY – an advance on your base pay for a move. This must be repaid.
AFT – toward the stern; opposite of forward.
AIRDALE – slang, a naval aviator.
ALLOTMENT – assignment of part of military pay directly to a person or bank.
ALONGSIDE – beside a pier, wharf or ship.
ANCHOR – the hook used at the end of a chain and dropped to the sea bottom to hold a ship in one particular place. The smallest Navy anchors can be lifted by one person; anchors used by an aircraft carrier can each weigh up to 30 tons.
ANCHORAGE – suitable place for ship to anchor. A designated area of a port or harbor.
ANCHOR’S AWEIGH – said of the anchor when just clear of the bottom.
AYE-AYE – term used to acknowledge receipt of a command or order from senior. It means “I have heard the order; I understand it; I will carry it out.”

BARNACLE – small marine animal that attaches itself to hulls and pilings.
BELAY – to cancel an order; stop; firmly secure a line.
BERTH – space assigned ship for anchoring or mooring.
BERTHING – where Sailors sleep onboard ship.
BILLET – an allotted sleeping space; an individual’s position in the ship’s organization.
BLACK SHOE – an officer who is not an aviator; the latter is a brown shoe. Usually only used by Surface Warfare Officers.
BLUEJACKET – Navy enlisted member below the grade of CPO.
BOATSWAIN – pronounced “bosun,” refers to the mate, warrant officer or petty officer in charge of boats, rigging and ground tackle aboard ship.
BOW – most forward part of a ship.
BRAVO ZULU (BZ!) – Good job!
BRIDGE – platform or area from which ship is steered, navigated and conned; usually located in forward part of ship.
BRIG – Sailor’s universal term for jail.
BROW – large gangplank leading from a ship to a pier, wharf or float; usually equipped with handrails.
BULKHEAD – one of the upright, crosswise partitions dividing a ship into compartments.

CAPTAIN – rank, or commanding officer of a ship or squadron.
CARRY ON – to proceed with any duty.
CATAPULT – shipboard mechanism for launching aircraft.
CHAIN OF COMMAND – the military’s management concept.
CHAPLAIN – the military men and women of the cloth who nurture the spiritual well-being of service members.
CLASSIFIED MATTER – information or material of aid to possible enemy, if improperly divulged. There are currently three categories: Top Secret, Secret and Confidential.
COMMISSARY – grocery store on or near base where service members and families can purchase food, beverages, etc., at prices usually lower than in civilian stores.
COMMISSION – to activate a ship or station; written order giving an officer rank and authority.
COMMISSIONING CEREMONIES – ceremonies during which a new ship is placed in service. It is customary to invite friends of officers and others interested to attend the ceremony, along with the sponsor who christened the ship.
COMMODORE – the title of an officer commanding a squadron or flotilla of submarines, destroyers or smaller ships.
COMPARTMENT – space enclosed by bulkheads, deck and overhead, same as a room in a building.
CONUS – the Continental United States. (48 states and the District of Columbia.) Flying in CONUS determines certain limitations to space-available travel on military aircraft.
COURSE – direction steered by a ship or plane.
COURT-MARTIAL – military court for trial of serious offenses. There are three types: summary, special and general courts-martial.
CROW – slang, eagle on petty officer’s rating badge.
CRUISE – to sail with no definite destination. More commonly used to describe round trip.

DECK – a floor or platform extending from end to end of a ship.
DETAILER – the person responsible for deciding your Sailor’s next duty station.
DEPLOY – tactical term used for dispersal of troops; also disposition of ships in battle formations.
DIVISION – in the organization of ship or plane groups, the unit between sections and squadrons; in shipboard organization, Sailors and officers grouped together for command purposes.
DSN – Defense Switched Network; Department of Defense internal telephone system (formerly Autovon).

EMBARK – to go aboard ship preparatory to sailing.
ENLISTED EVALUATION – written report of enlisted service member’s performance of duty, informally referred to as an EVAL.
ENSIGN – lowest ranking commissioned officer.
EXCHANGE – department store run by the military.
EXECUTIVE OFFICER (XO) – regardless of rank, the officer second in
command of a ship, squadron or shore activity. In early days, such an officer was the first lieutenant.

FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS – A salutation meant to wish good fortune.
FANTAIL – the after end of the main deck.
FATHOM – in measuring depth of water, six feet. From Anglo-Saxon faehom. Originally distance spanned by man’s outstretched arms.
FITNESS REPORT – written report of an officer’s performance of duty, including chief petty officers, informally referred to as a FITREP.
FLAG AT HALF-MAST – this tradition began in times of mourning in old sailing days to indicate that grief was so great it was impossible to keep things shipshape. Half masting of colors is the survival of days when slack appearance characterized mourning on shipboard.
FLAG OFFICER – Rear Admiral, Lower Half; Rear Admiral, Upper Half; Vice Admiral; Admiral, and Fleet Admiral are flag officers.
FLANK SPEED – certain prescribed speed increase over standard speed; faster than full speed; as fast as a ship can go.
FLEET – from Anglo-Saxon fleet. Organization of ships and aircraft under one commander.
FLIGHT DECK – deck of ship on which planes land, takeoff.
FORECASTLE – pronounced “focsul.” In the days of Columbus, ships were fitted with castle-like structures fore and aft. The structures have disappeared, but
the term forecastle remains; refers to upper deck in forward part of ship. Abbreviated fo’c’sle.
FORWARD – toward bow; opposite of aft.
FROGMAN – slang, member of underwater demolition team or SEALs.

GALLEY – the kitchen of the ship.
GANGPLANK – see Brow.
GANGWAY – opening in bulwarks or rail of ship to give entrance; order to stand aside and get out of the way.
GEEDUNK – slang, ice cream soda, malted milk, anything from soda fountain or Geedunk stand.
GENERAL QUARTERS – battle stations for all hands.
GOUGE – the real story behind rumors and stories which may or may not be accurate.
GRUNT – slang, a Marine.
GTMO – abbreviation for U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
GUNG-HO – slang, eager and aggressive beyond normal requirements.

HASH MARK – slang, service stripe worn on uniform of enlisted personnel.
HEAD – place in ship or on shore station that might otherwise be called a rest room, washroom or toilet.
HOLIDAY ROUTINE – followed aboard ship on authorized holidays and Sundays.
HONORS – ceremonies conducted in honor of a visiting dignitary, usually involving sideboys and, occasionally, a band and honor guard.

KNEE-KNOCKERS – A passageway opening through a bulkhead. The lower lip of the opening sits at shin height.
KNOCK OFF – cease what is being done; stop work.
KNOT – measure speed for ships and aircraft, as “the destroyer was making 30 knots,” or “the top speed of the plane is 400 knots.”

LADDER – in a ship, corresponds to stairs in a building.
LEATHERNECK – term probably applied to U.S. Marines by Sailors because of
the leather-lined collar once part of Marine Corps uniforms. The collar, about the same height as that of the present uniform collar, was designed to give a greater military appearance to the uniform; when damp with perspiration, it was highly uncomfortable and caused throat trouble. Abolished by Marine Corps in about 1875.
LINE OFFICER – officer who may succeed to operational command as opposed to staff corps officer who normally exercises authority only in a specialty (e.g., hospitals, supply centers, etc.).
LOOKOUT – seaman assigned to watch and report any objects of interest; lookouts are “the eyes of the ship.”

MAST – captain’s mast, or merely mast, derived from the fact that in early sailing days, the usual setting for this type of naval justice was on the weather deck near ship’s mainmast. Currently, it means a type of hearing with commanding officer presiding, in which any punishment administered is non-judicial in nature and is an alternative to court martial.
MESS – meal; a place or group of officers and crew who eat together as in “crew is at mess,” “meeting was held in CPO mess,” or “she was the guest of wardroom mess.” Mess comes from Latin mensa, or table.
MID-WATCH – Watch from 0001-0400 or 0001-0600 based upon the ship’s schedule, usually results in no sleep before or after this watch.
MILITARY CLAUSE – protects you from paying the rest of a rental home’s lease, if you are asked to move due to military orders.
MUSTER – to assemble crew; roll call.

OLD MAN – seaman’s term for captain of a ship.

PASSAGEWAY – corridor or hallway on ship.
PLAN OF THE DAY – schedule of day’s routine and events approved by Executive Officer (XO); published daily aboard ship or at shore activity.
PORT – left side of ship looking forward.

QUARTERDECK – part of main (or other) deck reserved for honors and ceremonies and the station of the officer of the deck (OOD) in port.
QUARTERS – living spaces assigned to personnel aboard ship; government-owned housing assigned to personnel at shore stations; assembly of personnel for drill, inspection or meeting.

RANK – grade or official standing of commissioned and warrant officers.
RATE – grade or official standing of enlisted personnel; identifies pay grade or level of advancement; within each rating a rate reflects levels of aptitude, training, experience, knowledge, skill and responsibility.
RATING – job classification with the Navy, such as electronics technician.

SAILOR – When capitalized “Sailor” is used to demote a Navy service member – from Seaman to Admiral.
SCUTTLEBUTT – a drinking fountain in Navy is called scuttlebutt. A scuttlebutt in old days was a cask that had openings in the side, fitted with a spigot; also rumor, from the fact that Sailors used to congregate at the scuttlebutt or cask of water to gossip or report on day’s activities – sometimes true, sometimes not.
SEA BAG – large canvas bag for stowing gear and clothing.
SEA DUTY (or SEA TOUR) – assignment to ship whose primary mission is accomplished while underway/deployed.
SHAKEDOWN CRUISE – cruise of newly commissioned ship to test machinery and equipment and train crew as a working unit.
SHIPMATE – anyone who is attached to the same command as a Sailor—ship or not.
SHORT TIMER – one whose enlistment or tour of duty is almost completed.
SICK BAY – ship’s hospital or dispensary.
SIDEBOYS – impeccably-uniformed Sailors who participate in honors ceremonies on the quarterdeck.
SKIPPER – from Dutch schipper, meaning captain. SPOUSE – wife or husband.
STARBOARD – right side of ship looking forward. STERN – after part of ship.
STOW – to put gear in its proper place.
SWAB – rope or yarn mop; also an unflattering term for a Sailor.

TOPSIDE – from Pidgin English, meaning upper level, or above decks.
TURN TO – an order to begin work.

WARDROOM – a compartment aboard ship near officers’ stateroom used as officers’ mess room.
WATCH – watch standing concerns the positioning of qualified personnel, in various time increments, to operate a ship or other naval asset continuously around the clock.