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Sailor Lingo

Shakespeare for Kids

Learn to talk like a sailor! Many words and phrases we say today actually come from expressions related to ships and the sea.


First rate: A ship that had 100 guns or more and had three decks. Today we say something is "first rate" if it is of high quality.


Learning the ropes: Ships had hundreds of ropes and it took sailors awhile to learn how each of them worked. To say that someone is "learning the ropes" means that they might be new to a job.


Tidy: The ocean's tides, or times when the level of the waves rises and falls, are predictable. A "tidy" person is someone who is neat and orderly.


Skyscraper: The highest sail on a ship—the one closest to the sky—was called a "skyscraper." Today, skyscrapers are very tall buildings in cities.


Other nautical terms:


Port refers to the left side of the ship.


Starboard refers to the ship's right side.


The front of a ship is the bow, and the back of the ship it its stern.


Source: Salty Dog Talk by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey. 1993 by Bill Beavis. Printed by Sheridan House, Inc.



Jan Porcellis. Dutch Ships in a Gale. Oil on Panel, ca. 1620. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

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