Top 28 Slang For Navy Sailor – Meaning & Usage

Navy sailors, with their bravery and dedication, form an integral part of our armed forces. But have you ever wondered what kind of slang they use? Well, we’ve got you covered! In this listicle, we’ve gathered some of the most popular and unique slang terms used by navy sailors. So, whether you’re a sailor yourself or just curious about their lingo, join us as we dive into the fascinating world of slang for navy sailors.

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1. Squid

This term is used to refer to a Navy sailor. It is believed to have originated from the resemblance of a sailor’s uniform to a squid’s tentacles.

  • For example, a veteran might say, “Back when I was a squid, we had to polish our boots every day.”
  • In a conversation about military branches, someone might ask, “Do you know any squids in the Navy?”
  • A Navy sailor might proudly say, “I’m a squid serving on the USS John C. Stennis.”

2. Swabbie

This slang term is used to describe a junior sailor or someone who is new to the Navy. It comes from the traditional role of “swabbing the deck” or cleaning the ship’s floors.

  • For instance, a senior sailor might say, “I remember when I was just a swabbie, learning the ropes.”
  • In a discussion about Navy ranks, someone might ask, “What rank does a swabbie usually start at?”
  • A new recruit might introduce themselves as, “Hi, I’m a swabbie fresh out of boot camp.”

3. Shellback

This term is used to describe a sailor who has crossed the Equator. It is a tradition in the Navy for sailors to go through a ceremony when they cross this imaginary line.

  • For example, a sailor might proudly say, “I became a shellback on my last deployment.”
  • In a conversation about Navy experiences, someone might ask, “Have you ever been through the shellback initiation?”
  • A sailor might share a story, “During the shellback ceremony, we were covered in slime and had to crawl through a tunnel.”

4. Deck Ape

This slang term is used to refer to a sailor who works in the deck division, which is responsible for maintaining the ship’s exterior and handling lines and anchors.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “I’m a deck ape, always working outside in all kinds of weather.”
  • In a discussion about Navy job specialties, someone might ask, “What does a deck ape do exactly?”
  • A sailor might complain, “Being a deck ape means I’m always covered in paint and rust.”

5. Airdale

This term is used to describe a sailor who works in aviation-related jobs in the Navy. It comes from the combination of “air” and “seaman.”

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m an airdale, working on aircraft maintenance.”
  • In a conversation about Navy career paths, someone might ask, “What’s it like being an airdale?”
  • An airdale might share a story, “I once had to troubleshoot an electrical issue on a fighter jet at sea.”

6. Bubblehead

This term refers to a Navy sailor who serves on a submarine. It is derived from the fact that submarines operate underwater and create a “bubble” of air for the crew.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’ve been a bubblehead for five years now.”
  • In a conversation about different Navy jobs, someone might ask, “What’s it like being a bubblehead?”
  • A submarine enthusiast might comment, “Bubbleheads have a unique perspective on naval warfare.”

7. Jarhead

This slang term is often used to refer to a Marine, but it can also be used to describe Navy sailors in a derogatory manner. The term “jarhead” originated from the high-and-tight haircut that Marines often sported, which made their heads look like jars.

  • For instance, someone might say, “My brother is a jarhead, and he’s currently deployed.”
  • In a discussion about military branches, a person might comment, “Marines and jarheads are known for their toughness.”
  • Another might use the term in a negative way, saying, “Those jarheads think they’re better than us Navy sailors.”

8. Shipmate

This term is used to refer to a Navy sailor or any person serving on a ship. It emphasizes the camaraderie and teamwork among sailors.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’ve got great shipmates on this deployment.”
  • In a conversation about life on a Navy ship, someone might ask, “How well do you get along with your shipmates?”
  • A Navy veteran might reminisce, “I’ve made lifelong friendships with my shipmates.”

9. Salt

This slang term is used to describe a seasoned and experienced Navy sailor. It is derived from the phrase “old salt,” which refers to a sailor with extensive experience at sea.

  • For instance, someone might say, “He’s a salt who has seen it all.”
  • In a discussion about Navy ranks, a person might comment, “Salts often hold leadership positions.”
  • Another might use the term affectionately, saying, “I look up to the salts in my division.”

10. Bluejacket

This term is used to refer to a Navy sailor, particularly one in the lower enlisted ranks. It originated from the traditional blue uniform worn by Navy sailors.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m proud to be a bluejacket.”
  • In a conversation about Navy traditions, someone might ask, “Do bluejackets still wear bell-bottom pants?”
  • A Navy recruiter might use the term to attract new recruits, saying, “Join us and become a bluejacket!”

11. Boatswain’s Mate

A Boatswain’s Mate, or Bosun’s Mate, is a Navy sailor who is responsible for the maintenance and operation of deck equipment, such as ropes, anchors, and rigging. They also assist with navigation and provide leadership to junior sailors.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m a Boatswain’s Mate on the USS Constitution.”
  • In a conversation about ship maintenance, someone might ask, “Do you know if the Boatswain’s Mate has inspected the anchor?”
  • Another sailor might comment, “The Boatswain’s Mate is the backbone of the ship’s deck department.”

12. Tin Can Sailor

A Tin Can Sailor is a Navy sailor who serves on a destroyer, which is a fast and maneuverable warship designed for anti-submarine warfare. The term “tin can” refers to the thin metal hull of the ship.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “I’m proud to be a Tin Can Sailor on the USS Cole.”
  • In a discussion about naval warfare, someone might ask, “What are the typical duties of a Tin Can Sailor?”
  • Another sailor might comment, “Being a Tin Can Sailor requires a lot of hard work and dedication.”

13. Nuke

A Nuke is a Navy sailor who works in the field of nuclear propulsion. They are responsible for operating and maintaining the nuclear reactors that power submarines and aircraft carriers. The term “nuke” is a colloquial abbreviation of “nuclear.”

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m a Nuke on the USS Enterprise.”
  • In a conversation about advanced training, someone might ask, “What does it take to become a Nuke?”
  • Another sailor might comment, “Nukes have a high level of technical expertise and play a critical role in the Navy’s nuclear program.”

14. Deck Diva

A Deck Diva is a Navy sailor who works in the deck department and is responsible for general maintenance and cleanliness of the ship’s exterior. The term “diva” is a playful way to refer to someone who takes pride in their appearance and duties.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “I’m a Deck Diva on the USS John S. McCain.”
  • In a discussion about ship maintenance, someone might ask, “What are the typical tasks of a Deck Diva?”
  • Another sailor might comment, “Being a Deck Diva requires attention to detail and a strong work ethic.”

15. Gunner’s Mate

A Gunner’s Mate is a Navy sailor who is responsible for the operation and maintenance of firearms and other weapons systems aboard a ship. They are trained in gunnery and play a critical role in shipboard security and defense.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Zumwalt.”
  • In a conversation about shipboard safety, someone might ask, “Do Gunner’s Mates receive specialized training?”
  • Another sailor might comment, “Gunner’s Mates are the experts when it comes to weapons and ammunition.”

16. Seabee

Seabee is a nickname for a member of the Naval Construction Battalion, which is responsible for building and maintaining military infrastructure. The term originated during World War II and is derived from the initials “CB” (Construction Battalion) pronounced phonetically as “Seabee”.

  • For example, “My cousin is a Seabee stationed in Okinawa.”
  • In a conversation about military occupations, someone might say, “I have a lot of respect for the Seabees and the work they do.”
  • A former Seabee might proudly state, “Once a Seabee, always a Seabee.”

17. Doc

Doc is a term used to refer to a Navy Hospital Corpsman, who is a medical specialist providing healthcare to sailors and Marines. The term originated from the Navy tradition of calling a Corpsman “Doc” as a sign of respect and trust in their medical skills.

  • For instance, “Doc patched me up after I twisted my ankle during training.”
  • In a discussion about military medical care, someone might say, “Corpsmen are the unsung heroes of the Navy.”
  • A sailor might call out, “Hey Doc, can you take a look at this rash?”

18. Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger refers to the traditional pirate flag, typically depicted as a white skull and crossbones on a black background. In the Navy, the term “Jolly Roger” is sometimes used to refer to a ship’s flag or insignia.

  • For example, “The ship raised the Jolly Roger to signal victory.”
  • In a conversation about naval traditions, someone might say, “The Jolly Roger has a long history of instilling fear in enemies.”
  • A sailor might proudly declare, “We fly the Jolly Roger as a symbol of our unit’s strength and camaraderie.”

19. Sea Lawyer

Sea Lawyer is a term used to describe a sailor who frequently argues or challenges orders and regulations, often in a legalistic or nitpicky manner. The term implies that the sailor is trying to be a “lawyer” at sea, using legal knowledge to dispute rules and policies.

  • For instance, “Don’t be a Sea Lawyer and just follow orders.”
  • In a discussion about discipline in the Navy, someone might say, “Sea Lawyers can disrupt the chain of command.”
  • A frustrated officer might remark, “I don’t have time for Sea Lawyers questioning every decision.”

20. Anchors Aweigh

Anchors Aweigh is a phrase used to indicate that the anchor of a ship is being raised or lifted off the seabed in preparation for sailing. The term is often associated with the official song of the United States Navy, also titled “Anchors Aweigh”.

  • For example, “As the ship departed, the crew sang Anchors Aweigh.”
  • In a conversation about naval traditions, someone might say, “Anchors Aweigh is a symbol of the Navy’s readiness to set sail.”
  • A sailor might shout, “Anchors aweigh! It’s time to get underway!”

21. Salty Dog

A “salty dog” is a term used to describe a Navy sailor who has a lot of experience at sea. It refers to someone who has weathered many storms and has a deep understanding of life on a ship.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’ve been sailing for 10 years, I’m a salty dog.”
  • In a conversation about naval traditions, someone might mention, “Salty dogs are known for their knowledge and expertise.”
  • A sailor sharing stories might say, “Let me tell you about the time I encountered a typhoon, only a salty dog could handle that.”

22. Topside Tommy

A “topside Tommy” is a slang term used to refer to a Navy sailor who spends a lot of time on the upper deck of a ship. It is often used to describe someone who enjoys being outside and prefers to work or relax on the deck rather than below deck.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “I’m a topside Tommy, I love feeling the sea breeze.”
  • In a discussion about duties on a ship, someone might mention, “Topside Tommies are responsible for maintaining the upper deck.”
  • A sailor talking about their preferences might say, “I’m not a fan of being below deck, I’m more of a topside Tommy.”

23. Deckplate Leader

A “deckplate leader” is a term used to describe a Navy sailor who is respected by their peers and superiors. It refers to someone who takes charge and leads by example, often on the deckplate (the metal floor of a ship).

  • For example, a sailor might say, “He’s a deckplate leader, everyone looks up to him.”
  • In a conversation about leadership in the Navy, someone might mention, “Deckplate leaders are crucial for maintaining discipline and morale.”
  • A sailor talking about a memorable leader might say, “I’ll never forget the deckplate leader who guided us through a difficult mission.”

24. Anchor Clanker

An “anchor clanker” is a slang term used to refer to a Navy sailor who is currently assigned to shore duty, meaning they are not currently at sea. It is often used in a light-hearted or teasing manner.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “I used to be an anchor clanker, now I miss being at sea.”
  • In a discussion about different assignments in the Navy, someone might mention, “Every sailor experiences both sea duty and shore duty at some point.”
  • A sailor jokingly referring to their current assignment might say, “I’m just an anchor clanker for now, but I’ll be back at sea soon.”

25. Ratey

A “ratey” is a slang term used to refer to a Navy sailor of a specific rank. It is derived from the Navy’s rating system, which categorizes sailors based on their skills and job assignments.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m a ratey, I’m a Petty Officer First Class.”
  • In a conversation about promotions and career progression, someone might mention, “Every sailor aspires to become a ratey in their chosen field.”
  • A sailor introducing themselves might say, “Hi, I’m a ratey, I work in the engineering department.”

26. Hook

In the context of the Navy, a “hook” refers to a recruit or someone who has recently joined the Navy. It is often used to describe someone who is new to the Navy or inexperienced.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I remember when I was a hook, everything was so confusing.”
  • During boot camp, a drill instructor might shout, “Listen up, hooks! We’re going to teach you how to be sailors.”
  • In a conversation about Navy life, a sailor might mention, “Being a hook can be tough, but it’s also a great opportunity to learn and grow.”

27. Black Shoe

The term “black shoe” is used to refer to a Navy sailor who serves in a non-aviation role, particularly in surface warfare. It is often used to distinguish between sailors who serve on ships and those who serve in aviation roles.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “I’m a black shoe, so I spend most of my time on ships.”
  • In a discussion about career paths in the Navy, someone might mention, “Black shoes have a wide range of opportunities, from surface warfare to engineering.”
  • A sailor might proudly state, “I’m a black shoe through and through, and I love serving on a ship.”

28. Yardbird

In Navy slang, a “yardbird” is a term used to refer to a seaman, particularly someone who is assigned to shore duty or works in a shipyard. It can also be used more broadly to refer to any sailor, especially in a derogatory or dismissive manner.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’m currently a yardbird, but I’m hoping to get back on a ship soon.”
  • In a conversation about different Navy ranks, someone might ask, “Are you still a yardbird, or have you been promoted?”
  • A sailor might jokingly say, “Don’t mess with the yardbirds, we may not be on a ship, but we still know how to handle ourselves.”
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