Sailing Terminology Pronunciation

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
How to pronounce some sailing words. Some sailing words' pronunciation.

Other than walking, or using a beast of burden, sailing is probably the oldest form of travel used to cross long distances.

The history of sailing is therefore long, and has roots in many diverse cultures, creating a collection of words that, although apparently commonplace, are of somewhat obscure origin. We’re not going to go into the history and origins of these words, but we will be looking at how to pronounce them.

There will be localized differences, depending on where you are. This guide is based on the South African usage, which follows the British way of saying things. Very often the Brits pronounce things that the average South African cannot imitate, we then either adopt the American pronunciation, or use our own. As you can imagine, this does not make pronouncing things easy, and it may even be incorrect, but, sailing does have a long and interesting history, and if we do away with cultural diversity, and localized influence, we are eroding and diluting the history.

The sharp, or front end of a boat is the bow. Not bow as in “bow and arrow” or “low-life”, but bow as in “how do you do?” or “now is the time”.

The flat, or blunt, or rear of the boat is the stern. Stern rhymes with “learn your work”. Although the back is the stern, the end of the boat is actually the transom, which rhymes with what most sailors think they are, unless they’re women, and that is handsome.

On either side of the boat, running down each side is a gunwale. In the mists of time long past sailors used to imbibe heavily on alcoholic beverages whenever they could, which resulted in a very relaxed and lazy method of speaking. This manner of speech turned gun-whale into gunnel, kind of like funnel.

There is, of necessity a gunwale on the left, or port, side of the boat, and another on the right hand side of the boat. The gunnel, or gunwale on the right hand side is actually on the starboard side. Try getting your tongue to make sense of starboard after your fifth or sixth bottle of cheap hock. It just won’t come out right. This is where starb’d came from. The sailors of yonder history dropped the “oar” from the word, and it became star-bid.

What became of the missing “oar”?

To this day nobody knows. Sometimes sailors would leave a big ship on a rowboat to go party on shore for an evening. Sailors waiting on the shore by the rowboat for the ships leave party to return probably used the oar to fuel a fire on a lonely cold beach.


Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy
Posted on Jul 2, 2011
Gayle Crabtree
Posted on Jul 2, 2011
Elaine P. N.
Posted on Jul 2, 2011