Articles: Codes of conduct agreed upon and signed by all crewmembers of a pirate ship. Articles varied depending on the ship and her captain.
Barataria: Renowned pirate lair in Louisiana made famous by French privateer, pirate, and smuggler Jean Lafitte.
Barbary Coast: An area of northern Africa that ran along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines of what are now Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya.
Author of the 1911 novel
Bilge: The lowest deck of a ship, often filled with rats, where stagnant water (called bilge water) that couldn't be pumped out of the ship became utterly toxic.
Bireme: An ancient Greek vessel with two rows of oarsmen stacked one deck above the other.
Blackbirders: Another name for slave ships. The act of slave trading was called blackbirding.
Blake, Sir Peter: Famed New Zealand yachtsman who in 2001 was murdered by Brazilian pirates on the Amazon.
Bloody Mary: Nickname of England's Queen Mary I who reigned from 1553 to 1558.
Boatswain: The individual responsible for the ropes, lines, cables, sails, and every functional piece of equipment on a ship.
A wooden frame of green sticks and boughs that was used to smoke meat. The word buccaneer is derived from
Bow: The front of a ship.
Brethren of the Coast: Caribbean pirates, also referred to as buccaneers, who swore allegiance to each other.
A double-masted ship usually rigged with a square-rigged
Buccaneers: Hunters and survivalists who turned to piracy in the 1600s.
Buccaneers of America, The: Infamous account of the adventures of the buccaneers. See Alexandre Exquemelin.
Cannons: The primary weapons aboard pirate ships, initially made of bronze, then of cast iron. Sometimes referred to as “guns.”
Captain: A pirate who was voted leader of a ship by his crew, chosen for his leadership, tactical skills, and knowledge of trade routes and potential booty they could acquire.
Captain Blood: Famous novel by Rafael Sabatini and 1935 film starring Errol Flynn.
Caravel: A large but narrow Spanish vessel featuring a double or triple mast, flat stern, and lanteen sails.
Careening: Process where a wooden ship is taken to shallow waters, the masts pulled to the ground, and the ship placed on its side so it can be repaired and cleaned.
Carpenter: The crewmember who attended the ship's repair work and who also served as crew surgeon.
Carrack: Light, fast ships that had three or four masts and a high-rounded stern.
Cartagena: Modern-day Colombia.
Charts: Maps drawn by cartographers or other individuals who sailed particular routes.
Clinker: A Viking-style ship with hulls made of overlapping planks secured by iron nails, with tarred waterproofing wedged between the planks.
Cog: A single-masted square-sailed vessel with high sides and raised bow and stern.
Corsairs: Barbary Coast pirates who were the European and American version of privateers.
Gold coins minted by Spain that were originally called
Drakar (Dragon): Large Viking longship with over seventy oars and a length of over 150 feet.
Earrings: Often gold, pirates and privateers wore them primarily as a show of wealth, to avoid taxation, or as security to pay for their funeral.
Elizabeth I: The Queen of England who reigned from 1558 to 1603, and issued letters of marque to privateers including Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Walter Raleigh, and Richard Grenville.
Escudos: See Doubloons.
Eyepatch: Used by pirates to cover the loss of an eye or blindness, or to intimidate foes.
Execution Dock: Gallows located in the Wapping district of London, where many famous pirates were hanged.
Renowned buccaneer, pirate, and surgeon during the mid- to late 1600s. Author of
Fearnought: A short thick woolen jacket or overcoat usually gray or blue in color, often made of canvas and painted with wax or tar for waterproofing.
Flogging: A common punishment involving whipping or lashing a victim with a cat o' nine tails. Additional pain was sometimes inflicted by pouring salt into the open wounds.
Flotilla: A large fleet of ships sailing together.
Fore-and-aft Rigged: Sails lined up with a ship's hull, rather than being set at right angles to the hull as when they were square-rigged.
The portion of a ship located ahead of the tallest mast, or
Galleon: A 400-ton cargo- and treasure-bearing warship built by the Spanish that was the supreme target of pirates.
Galley: Ancient single-deck vessels powered by sails and oars.
German Princess, The: Nickname of Englishwoman Mary Carleton, the most infamous prostitute in Port Royal during the 1670s.
Gibbet: An iron cage designed specifically to display the bodies of executed criminals.
Gokstad Ship: Famed Viking warship excavated in Norway in 1880.
Golden Age: An era of piracy estimated to have lasted between thirty and fifty years, with its heyday being from 1714 to 1722.
Granado (or Granada) Shell: A primitive grenade made of hollow balls of iron or wood that could be filled with gunpowder and set with a fuse. Also called powder flasks.
Hanseatic League: A Germanic guild of naval and merchant ships during the 1200s that gained riches through extensive commerce while attempting to suppress piracy.
Helmsman: The individual who operated the wheel that controlled a ship's rudder. Worked closely with the ship's master and boatswain.
Hispaniola: Present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic, claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain in 1492.
Hook: A prosthetic device used by pirates who lost a hand or arm.
Huguenots: French Protestants, some of whom were pirates, who challenged Spain for New World dominance during the 1500s.
Hull: The frame or body of a ship.
International Maritime Bureau (IMB): A modern-day organization that oversees the Piracy Reporting Centre based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Jib: A triangular sail attached to the bow of a ship.
Johnson, Captain Charles:
Author of the renowned 1678 book
Jolly Roger: An all-encompassing description of pirate flags, most typically showing a skull and crossbones.
Keelhauling: A punishment where victims were tied to a rope hanging from a yardarm, then tossed into the sea and dragged under the ship's keel.
Knarr: A Viking merchant vessel over 50 feet long that could carry heavy cargo of up to fifteen tons.
Langrel: A type of cannon shot favored by privateers and pirates made of canvas bags filled with musket balls or bits of scrap iron and chain.
Lanteen: A triangular sail suspended by a long arm, or yardarm.
Letter of Marque: Commissions, licenses, or other documents that authorized the holder to attack enemy merchant ships in the name of the government that had issued the letter.
Letter of Reprisal: An uncommon privateering commission, valid during war or peace, that allowed the holder to seize goods from a ship in order to right a wrong that could not be corrected in the legal system.
Libertalia: A fictional pirate haven deemed to be the perfect pirate utopia where “democracy would rule.”
Lieutenant: The second in command of a ship, under the captain.
Long Clothes: Clothing worn by pirates that were loose and blousy. Typically worn while not aboard ship.
Longship: A distinctively narrow craft, designed for speed, pillage, warring, and exploration. The most recognizable Viking vessel.
Madagascar: Notorious haven and tropical utopia where pirates established “kingships.”
Mainmast: The tallest mast of a ship, usually located at the center of the ship.
Mainsail: The largest sail of a mainmast.
Maracaibo: A Spanish port in Venezuela.
Marooning: A pirate punishment that involved abandoning an individual or group on an uninhabited island with few or no natural resources.
Master Gunner: The individual in charge of the cannon during attacks, and of directing the crew in aiming, firing, and reloading the cannon.
Maynard, Robert: English lieutenant who in 1718 was credited with killing Blackbeard.
Mizzenmast: Typically the shortest mast of a ship, and in all but the largest sailing ships is the mast farthest from the bow.
Mock Trials: A favorite pastime of pirates while at sea, where they would pretend to be criminals and hold a trial.
Money Pit of Oak Island: Located off the coast of Nova Scotia, the most famous and elusive treasure trove of the past two centuries.
Monmouths: Knitted or woolen caps typically worn by sailors and pirates.
Monoreme: A long, narrow ancient Greek vessel that relied on a single row of as many as fifty oars for propulsion.
Mutiny: When men in the service of a particular captain turned against him and took over the ship.
Navigator: The most important member of a crew, often pressed into pirate service from captured merchant vessels.
New Providence: An island in the Bahamas that served as a pirate haven until it was reformed by governor Woodes Rogers.
New Spain: See Hispaniola.
Ocean Born Mary: New Hampshire resident Mary Wallace, who allegedly married the pirate who had invaded the ship she was born on and spared the crew's lives because of her.
Ocracoke Island: Blackbeard's hideout off the coast of North Carolina.
Oseberg Ship: Famed Viking clinker-style karve ship excavated in Norway in 1904.
Parrots: A commodity pirates occasionally sold for high prices.
Pegleg: A prosthetic device often made of wood worn by pirates who had survived the loss of a leg.
Philip II: The King of Spain who married England's Mary I in 1554 for political reasons.
Pieces of Eight:
Silver coins minted by Spain that were originally called
Pinnace: A small, fast, maneuverable vessel with two square-rigged masts. Typically 40 feet long, it could carry up to 15 tons of cargo.
Pirate: Someone who without government authorization steals from another party while at sea or who plunders goods on land, having made their approach from an ocean or body of water.
Pirate Code: See Articles.
Pompey the Great: Famed Roman naval leader who wiped out Mediterranean piracy in 67 B.C., an act that virtually eliminated the practice for 400 years.
Portholes: Small square windows cut into the hull through which pirates could shoot guns.
Portobello: Port city of Panama that was attacked by Henry Morgan in 1668.
Port Royal: Notorious Jamaican pirate haven that fell into the sea during a 1692 earthquake and tidal wave.
Powder Monkeys: Boys serving on pirate ships who prepared cartridges, filled canisters with gunpowder, and transported and loaded them into muskets and cannons.
Privateer: An individual who engaged in privateering.
Privateering: Legal piracy that gave the bearer of a government commission the right to board any ship and seize its contents.
Quartermaster: The individual responsible for keeping track of ship stores and inventory. Also the arbiter for crew disputes and liaison between crew and captain.
Reales: See Pieces of Eight.
Renegados: European seamen who converted to Islam and preyed on European merchant ships in the company of the Barbary pirates.
Rigging: The systems of ropes and lashings used to secure a ship's sails and masts.
Renowned author who wrote
Sailor's Petticoats: Sometimes called petticoat breeches. Shorter trousers secured just above the ankles.
Salvo: A simultaneous discharge of two or more guns as a salute.
Schooner: A double-masted ship with fore-and-aft rigging.
Scurvy: A life-threatening disease caused by a lack of vitamin C.
Sea Dogs: Queen Elizabeth I's nickname for England's famed privateers. Sometimes called sea rovers.
Sextant: Navigational device used to measure the angle of the sun or stars above the horizon.
Ship's Master: The individual who oversees the actual sailing of a ship and the coordination of all functional aspects of a ship.
Shipwright: A carpenter who designs, constructs, and launches wooden vessels.
Skull and Crossbones: The image most associated with pirates, usually on their flag. See also Jolly Roger.
Slaver: Another name for a slave ship.
Sloop: A common pirate ship with a single mast and usually a fore-and-aft rigged mainsail.
Slush Fund: Excess grease that resulted from frying salt pork aboard ship that was sold for use in candlemaking and tanning.
Spanish Main: Spanish-controlled lands that included areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Square Meal: Literal meaning referring to the square wooden platters pirates often ate from while onboard ship.
Square-Rigger: A powerful three-masted ship with square rigging and jib sails.
Rectangular sails draped from horizontal bars called
Stern: The back of a ship.
The upper portion of the sailing deck located behind a short mast, or
Stevenson, Robert Louis:
Stinkpots: A container filled with any vile-smelling item pirates could find. Usually tossed onto a potential victim's deck.
Strait of Malacca: An over 600-mile-long waterway between Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula plagued by modern- day pirates.
Tar: Another name for sailor. Sometimes called Jack tar.
Tricorn or Tricorne: A three-cornered hat often worn by pirates and seamen.
Trireme: An ancient Greek vessel with three rows of oarsmen stacked one deck above the other.
Tortuga: Famous pirate haven. A small turtle-shaped island at the northwest corner of Hispaniola (present- day Haiti). Often called Turtle Island.
Wallace, Mary: See Ocean Born Mary.
Woolding: A form of torture that involved tying a cord around a prisoner's head and around a stick. The stick would be twisted until the victim's eyes popped out.
Yardarm: A long arm that is set at a forty-five-degree angle to a ship's mast. Sometimes called a yard.