Sailing vessel and paddle steamer on the River Thames at Greenwich
Sailing vessel and paddle steamer on the River Thames at Greenwich © Historic England CC97/01577
Sailing vessel and paddle steamer on the River Thames at Greenwich © Historic England CC97/01577

Glossary of Maritime Women Terms

Definition of terms used throughout this section of Women's History.




Historically, the governing bodies of the Royal Navy.

Used of a ship which breaks in two amidships (in the middle) because of the strains on her hull, usually because she is supported amidships on a sandbank or rocks, but her hull is unsupported fore and aft; or vice versa, supported at the ends but not amidships.

A two-masted vessel, with fore and main masts, and carrying square sails, with an additional sail on her main mast: used for cargo carrying and very common in the 18th and 19th centuries, often as a collier.

Small, versatile rowing boat used on the north-east coast of England and in south-eastern Scotland, for fishing and pilot duties, once common from Berwick-on-Tweed in the north to the Humber in the south. They could vary in size from very small vessels to more substantial boats capable of carrying sails and ranging further afield.

Ship dedicated only to the carrying of coal and no other cargo, and running a particular route, for example from the ports of the English north-east coast, near the coalfields, to London.

Evidence for an event or monument, for example a shipwreck, from written sources, whether published or unpublished (archives, diaries, newspapers, official papers, for example).

To sink at sea (as opposed to, for example, going ashore on a sandbank).

To roll up the sails and bind them to the yards ("arms") from which they hang: to put the sails out of use.

A 'convention' is an international treaty. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 stated what was and was not acceptable during hostilities, for example not attacking neutral or unarmed shipping, both of which were regarded as war crimes.

A 19th or early 20th century passenger vessel which ran a regular scheduled shipping route between two or more ports, for example Southampton to New York, owned by a particular shipping company or "line"; for example the 'Titanic' was owned by the "White Star Line".

Commercial, for example 'mercantile shipping', cargo-carrying ships. Sometimes used in the form 'mercantile marine', to indicate the men and ships involved in such activity (see Merchant Navy).

The trading and commercial ships belonging to a country, and their sailors, as distinct from that country's warship fleet and sailors (the Navy).

The middle class.

Vessel powered by a steam engine driving large external wheels, with paddle-shaped spokes, on either side of the ship in the 19th century. Later steamships ran with screw propellers instead of paddle wheels.

The ropes and chains used to hang or operate a ship's sails on her masts and yards, but often used to indicate both the ropes, and the sails and masts they operated, as in "he took refuge in the rigging".

To save or rescue all or part of a ship or her cargo from the danger of shipwreck (for example, towing her off a sandbank) or after an actual shipwreck incident (for example, collecting cargo washed ashore for the owners).

A mechanical rod ending in several blades, placed near the underside of a steam-ship. The internal steam engine transmitted its energy to the whirring propeller, driving the ship through the water. Screw propellers replaced the paddle wheel as a means of powering steamships from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries.

German submarine of the First and Second World Wars, anglicised from the German 'U-boot', short for 'Unterseeboot' or "under-sea boat".