Naval Glossary

When a person becomes a crewmember of a ship or naval station, the person must learn a whole new type of language that is related with the daily life of a sailor. Many terms and words, probably more than any other type of job in the world, are unique to the Navy and the life of a Sailor. In fact many of the terms and words we use today in everyday conversions can trace their roots to the nautical heritage. This page will help familiarize the visitor with the terms and words that you may encounter in the USS Oregon website.

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Aboard - On a naval station or ship

Accommodation Ladder - A ladder suspended over the side of a ship to facilitate boarding from small boats.

Admiral - Highest ranking officer grade.

Aft - The rear portion of the ship.

Aloft - Any location above the highest deck of a ship.

Amidships - The middle section of the ship.

Anchorage - An area designated for the anchoring of ships.

Armored Belt - An area of vertical steel plating that covers a ships vital spaces, such as engineering and weapons magazines.

Armored Deck - Deck, below the main deck, that provides additional protection to a ships vital spaces, such as engineering and weapons magazines.

Armament - The whole weapons of a ship.

Astern - Directly behind the ship.


BB - Designation for Battleship

Barbette - A cylindrical heavily armored column that serves a support for the turreted guns. Protects ammunition handling equipment.

Battle Dressing Station - A makeshift, temporary medical space used for treating wounded crewmwmbers during battle.

Battle Ensign - A larger American flag that is hoisted right before battle.

Beam - The extreme breadth of a ship.

Binnacle - A stand for a magnetic compass.

Bow - The very front of the ship.

Bridge - Location on the ship that serves as a command and control station.

Brig - A compartment that serves as a jail aboard the ship. Besides this confined sailors would be issued rations of bread and water.

Broadside - Simultaneous firing of all guns to one side at a target.

Bulkhead - Vertical plating that divides the ship into various spaces (walls).


Caliber - The diameter of the guns bore, also an expression of gun length.

Casemate - Armored compartment for a gun and the guncrew.

Chart - Naval name for a map that contains navigation information.

Charthouse - Space where charts are stored and maintained.

Colors - The national flag.

Commissioning Pennant - A small version of the American flag that displays seven stars and one red and one white strip. Identifies the ship as a commissioned American warship.

Conn - See Bridge.

Course - Ship's desired direction of movement


Division - Shipboard organization of crewmembers that perform the same duty or work in the same spaces.

Deck - Horizontal plating or wooden planks that form layers on the ship (floors).

Draft - Vertical distance from the waterline to the keel.

Dress ship - Display of flags including signal flags in honor of a person or special event.


Ensign - The national flag; also the lowest officer grade.

Executive Officer - Second in command of the ship (XO).


Fantail - After end of the main deck.

Fathom - Unit of depth equal to six feet.

Flag officer - Officer with the rank of admiral.

Flagstaff - Vertical staff located at the rear of the ship where the ensign is hoisted.

Fleet - An organization of ships under one commander, usually an admiral.

Forecastle - Forward section of the main deck. Actually pronounced foc'sle.

Foremast - First mast closest to the bow.


Galley - Place on a ship where meals are prepared


Helm - Mechanical equipment used to turn the rudder.



Jack - Starred blue flag that represents the blue field on the American flag.

Jackstaff - Vertical staff located on the forecastle where the Jack is hoisted.


Knot - Nautical measurement of speed equal to 1.15 miles per hour on land.


Launch - A powerboat usually over 30 feet long.

Liberty - Shore leave

List - Lean of a ship either port of starboard.


Magazine - Space dedicated to the stowage of ammunition and powder.

Main deck - The uppermost complete deck.

Mainmast - Second mast aft from the bow.


Neptune - Refers to King Neptune, ruler of the Raging Main


Overhead - The horizontal surface that forms the top of a interior compartment of a ship, i.e. a "ceiling" but never called a ceiling on a vessel or ship.


Pilothouse - Enclosure on the bridge containing the steering controls.

Port - The left side of the ship when facing the bow. Identified by the color red on running lights.

Pollywog - A person that has never crossed the equator.


Quarterdeck - An area of the ship designated by the Commanding Officer where official and ceremonial functions are carried out when the ship is in port.

Quarters - Stations for crewmembers for shipboard evolutions.


Radio Shack - A room or space on the ship where radio equipment is located.

Running Light - Illuminated navigational markings on a ship that aid in identifying a ships heading in order to prevent collisions at sea. Red indicates Port (left), Green indicates Starboard (right).


Scullery - Space where dishes are washed.

Shellback - A person who has crossed the equator.

Ship's Company - A crewmembers permanently assigned to the ship.

Squadron - A Naval unit consisting of two or more ships attached to a Fleet.

Starboard - The right side of the ship when facing the bow. Identified by the color green on running lights.

Stern - The rear most part of the ship.

Superstructure - Structures above the main deck.


Topside - Refers to the weather decks, maindeck and above.


USS - United States Ship



Wardroom - Officers messing area

Weatherdeck - Any deck located where it is exposed to the elements