What Do Sailors Say To Each Other?

Introduction To Sailing Jargon and Phrases

Welcome to the exciting world of sailing! Sailing is an ancient craft with its own rich history and culture, which has developed its own language and expressions over the centuries.

This article will explore some of the most commonly used phrases among sailors and explain their meanings, as well as introduce some of the other expressions that are regularly heard on a sailing vessel today.

So, whether you are a seasoned sailor or just starting out, this article will give you a better understanding of what your crewmates are saying and help you join in the conversation!


Let’s start with one of the most well-known phrases among sailors – “Ahoy”! This is a friendly greeting that is used when calling out to someone on another boat or on shore, and it dates back to the 16th century when it was first used by Dutch sailors trading in India and the Far East.

It is believed that they adapted the greeting from an earlier Indian expression – ‘Haiyo’ – which literally means ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’ in Hindi. Today, “Ahoy” is used by sailors all around the world as a way to call out to each other in a friendly way and exchange greetings while at sea or in port.

Land Ho!

The next phrase we will investigate is “Land Ho!” This expression is shouted by an excited sailor when they first spot land after being at sea for an extended period of time, usually accompanied by much excitement from their crewmates! It dates back to at least the 17th century when it was first recorded being used by British navy ships sailing around South America and Africa in search of new lands to explore.

Nowadays, “Land Ho!” remains a popular expression among sailors who can still appreciate its joyous implications even if they no longer have to undertake dangerous ocean voyages like those undertaken centuries ago!


Another popular phrase among sailors is “Matey” – a term of endearment for one’s friends or companions on board a ship. It has been in use since at least the 17th century when English pirates began referring to each other as ‘matey’ as they sailed around plundering merchant vessels along the West Indies coastlines.

Today, it remains a popular term of affection among sailors who use it as a way to express camaraderie with their fellow shipmates while out at sea or ashore in port together.


In sailing circles, using the pronoun “me” instead of “my” when referring to something owned by one person has been commonplace for centuries now. For example, instead of saying “my boat” someone might say “me boat” instead – just as one might say “me car” instead of my car ashore?

This usage likely originated from pirate ships where many men shared everything equally aboard ship so there was no need for individual ownership distinction between them all – hence why they would refer to something as being theirs collectively by using the pronoun “me”.


Next up we have another pirate-era phrase: “Avast!” This is an expression used by sailors over centuries when they want someone else to stop what they are doing immediately or pay attention – similar to how one might say stop or look here ashore – except it has much more impact coming from someone onboard a vessel out at sea!.

Its origin can be traced back even further than pirates though, records show that it was likely first used as early as 1588 when British navy ships were fighting against Spanish Armadas during fierce naval battles across the Atlantic Ocean during this period in history!.


Scuttlebutt may sound like an odd word but it actually has quite an interesting origin story behind it, scuttlebutt actually comes from a combination of two words: scuttle (to cut open) and butt (a cask).

When combined together scuttlebutt means literally means “to cut open a cask” which refers to how during earlier times sailors would gather around barrels filled with water (or grog!) during their shore leave periods so they could exchange news and gossip about what had happened while they were away!.

Over time this became known simply as “scuttlebutt” – nowadays still used among seafarers when gossiping about each other while ashore!.


This phrase may sound familiar due its association with fictional pirate characters like Captain Jack Sparrow but it actually dates all the way back at least two centuries prior, records show that it was first used by European privateers who sailed around raiding merchant vessels for plunder during this period in history!.

Today yo-ho-ho remains an exclamation often heard amongst seafarers who want express joy or excitement about something happening onboard – whether that be spotting dolphins swimming alongside their vessel or finally reaching port after days upon days out at sea!.

Tween Decks

This expression refers specifically to areas found between two decks aboard sailing vessels, these areas are often cramped and uncomfortable but remain essential spaces for storing supplies and equipment needed onboard such as spare sails, rigging tools etc..

As such these areas became known simply as ‘tween decks which eventually became shortened over time into simply ‘tween decks – still regularly heard amongst mariners today whenever discussing areas found between two decks aboard any given vessel!.

Shiver Me Timbers

Another classic sailing phrase often heard amongst seafarers today is shiver me timbers – an expression originally said when crews would hear loud noises coming from storms while out at sea – usually accompanied by much fear and trepidation amongst all those onboard!.

However nowadays shiver me timbers can mean anything from expressing surprise/shock about something happening onboard or simply being excited about something happening ashore – either way its still regularly heard amongst mariners today both on shore leave periods or whilst aboard vessels out at sea!.


As you can see there are many phrases associated with sailing that have been passed down through generations so if you ever find yourself on board any type of vessel then you will likely hear many of these expressions being uttered throughout your voyage!.

Whether you’re talking about reaching land after days upon days out at sea (Land ho!), exchanging pleasantries with fellow shipmates (Ahoy!), discussing provisions needed before heading out again (Scuttlebutt!) or expressing joy/surprise/shock about something happening onboard (Shiver me timbers!), there’s plenty of words/phrases associated with sailing that have stood strong through time so don’t be afraid to join in on any conversations taking place aboard any type of vessel – just remember these few phrases we’ve covered here today and you’ll fit right in no matter what your experience level may be!

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