Top 22 Slang For Sailor – Meaning & Usage

Sailors, with their adventurous spirit and nautical expertise, have a language all their own. From salty sayings to seafaring slang, we’ve compiled a list of the top slang terms for sailors that will have you feeling like an old salt in no time. So, batten down the hatches and get ready to set sail into a world of maritime expressions that will leave you saying, “Aye, aye, captain!”

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1. Jack Tar

Jack Tar is a slang term used to refer to a sailor. It is derived from the use of tar to waterproof the seams of wooden sailing ships. The term is often used to evoke a sense of nostalgia or romanticism about the life of a sailor.

  • For example, in a historical novel, a character might say, “I’ve been a Jack Tar for twenty years, sailing the seven seas.”
  • In a discussion about naval history, someone might mention, “The life of a Jack Tar in the 18th century was harsh and demanding.”
  • A person reminiscing about their time in the navy might say, “I miss the camaraderie of my fellow Jack Tars.”

2. Salt

Salt is a term used to describe an experienced sailor. It is derived from the idea that sailors spend a lot of time at sea, where they are exposed to the salt spray of the ocean. The term is often used to convey respect for someone’s nautical skills and knowledge.

  • For instance, in a sailing competition, a seasoned sailor might be referred to as “an old salt.”
  • In a conversation about sailing techniques, someone might say, “You should listen to him, he’s a salt with years of experience.”
  • A person discussing their love for the sea might declare, “I’ve always been drawn to the life of a salt.”

3. Old Salt

Old Salt is a term used to describe a sailor who has a wealth of experience and knowledge. It is often used to convey a sense of respect for someone who has spent many years at sea. The term “old” is not necessarily indicative of the person’s age, but rather their level of experience.

  • For example, in a documentary about sailing, an interviewee might say, “He’s an old salt who has seen it all.”
  • In a discussion about sailing traditions, someone might mention, “According to the old salts, it’s bad luck to whistle on a boat.”
  • A person recounting their adventures at sea might say, “I’ve sailed with some old salts who taught me everything I know.”

4. Boatswain

Boatswain is a term used to describe a ship’s officer who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship. The term is often used in a naval context and is derived from the Old English word “batswegen,” which means “boat servant.” The boatswain is typically in charge of the deck crew and oversees the handling of ropes, sails, and other equipment.

  • For instance, in a naval drama, a character might say, “The boatswain is calling for all hands on deck.”
  • In a discussion about ship operations, someone might ask, “Where is the boatswain? We need to repair a torn sail.”
  • A person describing their role in the navy might say, “I started as a boatswain and worked my way up to captain.”

5. Matey

Matey is a term used to refer to a friend or companion. It is often used in a nautical context to evoke a sense of camaraderie among sailors. The term is derived from the word “mate,” which means a person’s companion or partner.

  • For example, in a pirate movie, a character might say, “Ahoy, matey! Let’s set sail and find some treasure.”
  • In a conversation about sailing adventures, someone might say, “I went on a solo voyage, but I missed having a matey by my side.”
  • A person describing their close friend might say, “He’s not just a friend, he’s my matey.”

6. Shipmate

Shipmate is a term used to refer to a fellow sailor or crew member on a ship. It emphasizes the camaraderie and sense of community among sailors.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I trust my shipmates with my life.”
  • In a naval setting, a commanding officer might address the crew as “shipmates.”
  • A sailor might introduce themselves by saying, “I’m John, your shipmate for this voyage.”

7. Mariner

A mariner is someone who navigates or works on a ship, especially as a profession. It is a more formal term for a sailor.

  • For instance, a mariner might say, “I’ve been sailing the seas for over 20 years.”
  • In literature, a character might be described as a seasoned mariner with vast experience.
  • A maritime historian might study the lives and stories of famous mariners throughout history.
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8. Able Seaman

An able seaman is a skilled sailor who is capable of performing a variety of tasks on a ship. It is a rank or position within the maritime industry.

  • For example, an able seaman might be responsible for steering the ship or handling the sails.
  • In a naval context, an able seaman might be part of the ship’s deck crew.
  • A sailor might aspire to become an able seaman through experience and training.

9. Jolly Jack

Jolly Jack is a term used to describe a cheerful or happy sailor. It emphasizes the positive and lighthearted nature of sailors.

  • For instance, a sailor might be called “Jolly Jack” because of their constant smile and positive attitude.
  • In a naval setting, a commanding officer might use the term to boost morale among the crew.
  • A sailor might say, “Being a jolly jack is part of the sailor’s life.”

10. Tar

Tar is a slang term used to refer to a sailor or seafarer. It originates from the tar used to seal the wooden ships.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’ve been a tar for as long as I can remember.”
  • In literature, a character might be described as a rough and tough tar with a weathered appearance.
  • A maritime historian might study the lives and experiences of tars throughout different eras of sailing.

11. Bluejacket

This term refers to a sailor in the navy. It comes from the color of the jackets worn by sailors in the past, which were often blue.

  • For example, “The bluejackets were responsible for maintaining the ship’s equipment.”
  • A naval officer might say, “We need more bluejackets to help with the upcoming mission.”
  • In a discussion about naval history, someone might mention, “Bluejackets played a crucial role in many famous battles.”

12. Buccaneer

This term refers to a sailor who engages in piracy or acts like a pirate. It is often used to describe sailors who are involved in illegal activities at sea.

  • For instance, “The buccaneers terrorized the Caribbean, plundering ships and coastal towns.”
  • In a conversation about adventure novels, someone might say, “I love reading about buccaneers and their swashbuckling adventures.”
  • A historian might explain, “Buccaneers were active during the Golden Age of Piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries.”

13. Swashbuckler

This term refers to a sailor who is known for their daring and flamboyant behavior. Swashbucklers are often associated with sword-fighting and heroic actions.

  • For example, “The swashbuckler swung from the rigging and defeated the enemy with their sword.”
  • In a discussion about classic movies, someone might mention, “Errol Flynn was famous for his roles as swashbucklers in films like ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’.”
  • A fan of historical fiction might say, “I enjoy reading novels about swashbucklers and their daring escapades.”

14. Bilge Rat

This term refers to a sailor who is considered untrustworthy or dishonest. It is often used to describe someone who is sneaky or involved in shady activities.

  • For instance, “The captain suspected the bilge rat of stealing supplies from the ship.”
  • In a conversation about sailing folklore, someone might share, “Legend has it that bilge rats bring bad luck to a ship.”
  • A sailor might warn their crewmates, “Watch out for that bilge rat, they can’t be trusted.”

15. Jolly Roger

This term refers to the flag that pirates would fly to identify themselves and strike fear into their enemies. The Jolly Roger typically featured a skull and crossbones symbol.

  • For example, “The pirate ship raised the Jolly Roger before attacking the merchant vessel.”
  • In a discussion about maritime history, someone might mention, “The Jolly Roger is an iconic symbol associated with piracy.”
  • A fan of pirate stories might say, “I have a Jolly Roger flag hanging in my room to show my love for all things pirate.”

16. Scuttlebutt

Scuttlebutt is a term used to describe rumors or gossip among sailors. It originates from the nautical term for a drinking fountain or water barrel on a ship, where sailors would gather to chat and exchange information.

  • For example, “I heard some scuttlebutt that the captain is planning to retire.”
  • A sailor might say, “The scuttlebutt is that we’re getting a new crew member next week.”
  • Another might ask, “Have you heard any scuttlebutt about our next port of call?”

17. Land Ho

“Land Ho” is a phrase used by sailors to announce the sighting of land or landfall. It is an expression of excitement and relief after spending a long time at sea.

  • For instance, a sailor might shout, “Land ho!” when they spot land after a long voyage.
  • In a sailing adventure, a character might exclaim, “Land ho! We’ve finally made it!”
  • A captain might say, “Keep a lookout for any signs of land. We’ll shout ‘Land ho’ when we see it.”

18. Salty dog

A “salty dog” is a slang term used to describe an experienced sailor who has spent a significant amount of time at sea. It can also refer to someone who is tough, resilient, and has a deep knowledge of the sea.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “He’s a real salty dog. He’s been sailing for decades.”
  • In a conversation about sailing, one might ask, “Do you know any salty dogs who can give us tips for our voyage?”
  • A captain might say, “Only the salty dogs on this crew can handle rough weather like this.”

19. Seafarer

A seafarer is a term used to describe a person who travels by sea, typically as a sailor or crew member on a ship. It is a more formal and general term for someone involved in maritime activities.

  • For instance, a sailor might introduce themselves as a seafarer when meeting new people.
  • In a discussion about careers, one might say, “Being a seafarer requires a strong sense of adventure and a love for the ocean.”
  • A captain might address the crew, saying, “Thank you to all the seafarers on board for your hard work and dedication.”

20. Deck ape

A “deck ape” is a derogatory slang term used to refer to a sailor who is assigned to deck duties, such as cleaning, maintenance, or other manual labor tasks on the ship’s deck. It is often used in a teasing or joking manner.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I was a deck ape for my first year in the navy.”
  • In a conversation about ship responsibilities, one might mention, “The deck apes are responsible for keeping the deck clean and organized.”
  • Another sailor might playfully call their friend, “Hey, deck ape, pass me that wrench!”

21. Crow’s nest

The crow’s nest is a small platform or lookout point at the top of a mast on a sailing ship. It provides a higher vantage point for sailors to observe the surrounding area.

  • For example, a sailor might say, “I’ll climb up to the crow’s nest and keep an eye out for land.”
  • During a naval battle, a lookout in the crow’s nest might shout, “Enemy ship spotted to the starboard side!”
  • A captain might order, “Send someone up to the crow’s nest to look for any signs of trouble.”

22. Davy Jones’ locker

Davy Jones’ locker is a nautical term that refers to the bottom of the ocean, where sailors who die at sea are said to be buried. It is often used to describe a sailor’s final resting place.

  • For instance, a sailor might say, “If I die at sea, I’ll end up in Davy Jones’ locker.”
  • In a ghost story, a character might warn, “Beware the curse of Davy Jones’ locker, or you’ll be doomed to wander the seas forever.”
  • During a storm, a superstitious sailor might mutter, “We’re in for trouble if we end up in Davy Jones’ locker.”