Glossary of Terms 

Term Description Context
Balinger An oared sailing vessel used for war or trade. 14th to16th century
Basilisk A type of long heavy gun, usually breech-loading. 15th to16th century.
Blockship A ship deliberately sunk to block a channel.
Brig A small two-masted, square rigged vessel. A shortened form of brigantine. Sailing ship
Brigantine A small two-masted vessel. In the seventeenth century it was applied to a small vessel designed for rowing and sailing; sometimes a half-galley. By the end of the eighteenth century the term defined a rig. Sailing era
Cable (1) A large rope or hawser, particularly the anchor cable.
Cable (2) A measure of distance, 120, later 100 fathoms or one-tenth of a nautical mile.
Culverin A muzzle-loading, truck mounted gun. Originally firing a shot of 17 pounds, later of 18 pounds weight.  (8kg) Type of gun
Demi-cannon A muzzle-loading, truck mounted gun, originally firing a shot of 33 pounds, later 32 pounds weight. (15kg) Type of gun
Demi-culverin A muzzle-loading, truck mounted gun, originally firing a shot of 9 pounds , later 9 pounds weight. (4kg) Type of gun
Falcon A small muzzle-loading, truck mounted gun, firing a shot of 1 pounds weight. (0.5kg) Type of gun
Frigate Originally any fine-lined (therefore fast sailing) ship, but later expanded. Early in the seventeenth century used for most rated warships smaller than line-of-battle. By mid-seventeenth century extended to new one or two deck ships-of-the-line built to similarly fast lines. In common use it applied to most large cruisers. Sailing ship
Galleass One of several types of hybrid oared sailing warships. 16th century.
Galleon A sailing warship of fine lines, with a high upperworks aft and a galley bow with a heavy battery of chasers.  16th century.
Galley (1) A type of warship propelled primarily by oars.
Galley (2) The kitchen or cook-room of a ship.
Guard Ship Usually a ship of the line fitted in peacetime with part of her armament and rig and a nucleus crew. Capable of acting as a floating battery for the defence of the port she was at. Also capable of being rapidly fitted out in an emergency before the ships in 'Ordinary' (Reserve) became available.  Sailing ship
Hulk Dismasted ship, usually old and past active service. Used as a receiving ship, sheer hulk, hospital or accommodation ship; or some sort of stationary store ship. Sailing Era.
Lazaretto The name and concept came from Italy, where the practice of rigid quarantine to prevent or limit spread of plague &/or other infectious diseases was developed.

These were hulks adapted as accommodation for men undergoing quarantine.

Sailing Era.
League A measure of distance, three miles.
MLR Muzzle Loading Rifled.
An improvement to muzzle loading guns which fired cannonballs. Used for a short time before the initial problems with Breech Loading guns were solved.
Type of gun, mid to late 1800's. 
Pinnace A small fine-lined craft designed for fast sailing and rowing. From the 1500's used for vessels attending the fleet and carry out duties later done by frigates and sloops. Later became used for a ships boat rowed with eight oars. Type of ship
Powder hulk Vessel for storing and issuing gunpowder, usually moored well away from the dockyard to which it was attached. Usually under the control of the Ordnance. (which was a separate organisation to the Army and Navy, though later coming under the control of the Army) Sailing ship up to mid-nineteenth century
Razee A ship was razeed when the upperworks or even entire decks were cut off. A 74 or 64 gun ships were razeed into frigates, frigates into corvettes. A razee was usually bigger and more powerfully armed than the normal ship of its new class. it also generally became more handy or seaworthy having been cut down. 


Sailing ship up to mid-nineteenth century.
Receiving Ship Hulks intended to receive men &/or stores.
Accommodation and store hulks were used for both purposes.

RN did not build barracks for its seamen in home ports until the start of the 20th century.

Before this hulks were used to house men between commissions or before being assigned to ships. (Particularly pressed men who needed to be kept in confinement to prevent desertion).

Pre-20th century.
Sheer Hulk A vessel fitted with a pair of "sheer legs", (two spars forming an A frame), to hoist masts in and out of vessels. Basically a floating crane.  Pre 20th century.
Sloop In the 1600's a two-masted, square-rigged vessel which also had sweep ports for rowing. Type of ship
17th century
Term Description Context
This page last edited - 05 April, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.