Here’s some pirate lingo to help you know who you’re talking to…& what to call them.
bilge rat – (1) A rat living in the bilge of a ship. It is considered the lowliest creature by pirates, but many pirates take to eating the animals to survive. (2) An insulting name given by a pirate.
boatswain (also bosn or bosun) – A warrant officer or petty officer on a merchant ship who is in charge of the ships rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crew.
buccaneer – A pirate, especially one of the freebooters who preyed on Spanish shipping in the West Indies during the 17th century. The buccaneers were first hunters of pigs and cattle on the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga, but were driven off by the Spanish and turned to piracy. Buccaneers were said to be heavy drinking, cruel pirates.
bucko – A familiar term meaning friend.
carouser – One who drinks wassail and engages in festivity, especially riotous drinking.
chandler, or ship chandler – A dealer offering supplies such as rope, lard, tools and galley supplies . See also sutler.
corsair – (1) A pirate, especially along the Barbary Coast; a romantic term for pirate. This term was used for Christian and Muslim privateers in the Mediterranean between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Barbary corsairs centered on North African states and were often “hired” by Muslim nations to attack Christian ships. The Christian Corsairs were known as the Maltese corsairs and they took their orders from the Knights of St. John to attack the Turks. (2) A pirate ship, often operating with official sanction.
coxswain – A person who usually steers a ship’s boat and has charge of its crew.
hands – The crew of a ship; sailors.
hearties – A term of familiar address and fellowship among sailors.
interloper – One that trespasses on a trade monopoly, as by conducting unauthorized trade in an area designated to a chartered company; a ship used in unauthorized trade.
Jack Ketch – The hangman. To dance with Jack Ketch is to hang.
Jack Tar (or tar) – A sailor.
knave – A servant boy or a dishonorable man. Also a Jack in a deck of cards.
lad – A way to address a younger male.
landlubber (or lubber) – A person unfamiliar with the sea or seamanship. The term doesn’t derive from “land lover,” but rather from the root of lubber, meaning clumsy or uncoordinated. Thus, a landlubber is one who is awkward at sea for familiarity with the land. The term is used to insult the abilities of one at sea.
lass – A way to address a younger female.
lookout – A person posted to keep watch on the horizon for other ships or signs of land.
matey – A piratical way to address someone in a cheerful, if not necessarily friendly, fashion.
picaroon – A scoundrel.
pirate – One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation; the opposite of a privateer.
pressgang – A company of men commissioned to force men into service such as on a vessel, specifically a pirate ship.
Privateer – A sailor with a letter of marque from a government. Technically a privateer was a self employed soldier paid only by what he plundered from an enemy. In this, a privateer was supposed to be above being tried for piracy. A privateer is theoretically a law-abiding combatant, and entitled to be treated as an honorable prisoner if captured. Most often, privateers were a higher class of criminal, though many became pirates.
provost – The person responsible for discipline on board a ship.
quartermaster – During the Golden Age of Piracy this was the highest ranking pirate on a ship under the captain, usually elected by the crew. The quartermaster was the only officer on a ship who could veto a captain’s decision, but only when the ship was not engaged in battle or on a mission.
scallywag – A villainous or mischievous person.
scourge of the seven seas – A pirate known for his extremely violent and brutal nature.
strumpet – A promiscuous woman; a female prostitute.
sutler – A merchant in port, selling the various things that a ship needs for supplies and repairs.
wench – A young woman or peasant girl, sometimes a prostitute.
rapscallion – A mischievous person; a scoundrel.
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