Naval Terminology

Abaft: A relative term used to describe the location of one object in relation to another, in which the object described is farther aft than the other. Thus, the mainmast is abaft the foremast (in back of).

Amidships: In or towards the middle of a ship in regard to length or breadth (center of).

Aft: At, near, or toward the stern (back end).

Athwartships: At right angles to the fore-and-aft line of the vessel (sideways-across).

All hands: The entire ship’s company – everyone in the unit.

Aloft: Above the upper deck (above).

Aye, aye: The traditional and expected response to an order. “Yes, sir” (or Ma’am) is not an acceptable substitute.

Beam: The extreme width of a vessel.

Belay: To cancel an order or stop an action, as in “Belay the small talk!”

Below: Beneath the deck (under).

Bridge: The raised platform extending athwartships, the part of the ship from which the ship is steered and navigated.

Bow: The forward part of a vessel’s sides (front).

Bulkhead: A vertical partition, i.e., a wall.

Colors: The morning or evening ceremony of hoisting or lowering the U.S. flag.

Compartment: A room. Sailors sleep in berthing compartments in a ship. A small compartment housing officers is called a stateroom. The compartment where the Captain lies is called the cabin. It is the only cabin in a naval vessel.

Cover: Head gear, such as the cadet’s with hat or ball cap.

Deck: Horizontal planking or plating that divides a ship into layers; the floor.

Division: A local unit of the Sea Cadet Corps in which the training involves general seamanship topics. Sea Cadet Squadrons concentrate on aviation while Sea Cadet Battalions study SeaBee construction subjects.

Door: Oddly enough, the nautical term for a door–an opening in a bulkhead (wall)–is “door.” It is not a hatch. A hatch is an opening in a deck.

Drill: A training period scheduled for the unit. Commonly on a regularly scheduled weeknight or weekend, it can also include special training events, parades, etc.

Field Day: A general clean-up of the facility involving all hands.

Fore: Forward

Forecastle: A compartment where the crew lives.

Frame: The athwart ship strength member of a ship’s hull.

Galley: The kitchen.

Gear Adrift: Items, such as personal gear, not properly stowed.

Gunwale: The upper edge of the sides of a ship.

Hatch: An opening in a ship’s deck for passageway or for handling cargo or stores.

Head: The bathroom or, more specifically, the toilet, so named because in the days of sail it was a simple seat over a hole cut in the overhand of the bow in the foremost part (head) of the ship.

Hull: The shell. Or plating, of a ship from keel to gunwale.

Inboard: Towards the centerline of a ship (towards the center).

Keel: The timber or bar forming the backbone of the vessel and running from the stem to the stem-post at the bottom of the ship.

Ladder: Doesn’t necessarily mean something with rungs, it also means stairs. A stairwell is called a ladderwell.

Manhole: An opening into a tank or compartment designed to admit a man.

Midshipman: An adult, typically a former cadet or college student, appointed by the National Chairman to a position of leadership in the Naval Sea Cadet Corps (including the Navy League Cadet Corps), under the age of 21.

Muster: To assemble the cadets for a roll call.

Officer: An adult appointed by the National Chairman to a position of leadership in the Naval Sea Cadet Corps (including the Navy League Cadet Corps). In order of precedence officer ranks include: Warrant Officer, Ensign, Lieutenant (junior grade), Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander. By custom, it is common to address a Lieutenant (junior grade) as “Lieutenant” and a Lieutenant Commander as “Commander.”

Passageway: A hallway, or corridor.

Port: The left side of a vessel when looking forward.

Outboard: Towards the sides of the vessel (with reference to the centerline).

Overhead: The ceiling. The deck forms the overhead of the compartment below it.

Quarterdeck: The area of the ship or training facility, commonly the entrance, set aside for ceremonial purposes.

Rack: Common slang for bunk or berth where the cadet sleeps.

Rate: The rank of a cadet, sometimes expressed as the equivalent Navy pay grade (E-1 through E-7)
• Recruit (E-1)
• Seaman Apprentice (E-2)
• Seaman (E-3)
• Petty Officer Third Class (E-4)
• Petty Officer Second Class (E-5)
• Petty Officer First Class (E-6)
• Chief Petty Officer (E-7)

Scuttle: To sink a vessel by boring holes in her bottom or by opening sea valves.

Scuttlebutt: Drinking fountain (from the old term for the cask where fresh water was kept handy for the4 crew on sailing vessels). The term also refers to rumors or gossip, which was exchanged around the scuttlebutt.

Starboard: The right side of the ship.

Stern: The after part of the vessel (back).

Superstructure: The ship’s structure above the main deck.

Topside: Generally refers to weather decks.

Void: An empty tank.

Watertight doors: form a watertight seal when properly closed.

Wardroom: Named for the compartment on the ship where officers take their meals and socialize. It also refers to the entire complement of sea cadet officers in the unit.

Watchstanders: Sailors or cadets on duty for a certain period of time, such as the Petty Officer of the Watch or the Messenger usually stationed at the quarterdeck.

Weather Deck: Any deck exposed to the elements.