The Old Booksmith

Glossary of Naval & Maritime Terms & Phrases
of the Late 18th & Early 19th Centuries

I've been a devotée of Napoleonic-era naval historical novels since discovering my father's collection of C. S. Forester in junior high. In the past half-century I've read all the works of every author in the genre I could find, and I long ago found it useful to make occasional notes regarding ship-handling and tactics in the Age of Sail (as well as reading a great many nonfiction books on the subject).

The following lengthy glossary is divided into thirds for convenience and in the interest of loading time.

A – F

G – Q

R – Z

NOTE: There are hundreds of types of "standard" naval knots and ropework, each with its special uses. Nearly all of these are omitted as being difficult to clearly describe in words.


Blake, Nicholas & Richard Lawrence. The Illustrated Comnpanion to Nelson’s Navy. (2000)

Lavery, Brian & Geoff Hunt. The Frigate Surprise: The Complete Story of the Ship Made Famous in the Novels of Patrick O’Brian. (2008)

O’Neill, Richard (ed). Patrick O’Brian’s Navy: The Illustrated Companion to Jack Aubrey’s World. (2003)

Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. 2d ed. (2005)

White, David. The Frigate Diana. (1987)

Willis, Sam. Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare. (2008)

Willis, Sam. Fighting Ships, 1750-1850. (2007)

+ all the novels of Frederick Marryat, C. S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian, Dudley Pope, Alexander Kent, Dewey Lambdin, & Julian Stockwin.