Do You Know Your U.S. Marines Lingo?

By: Ian Fortey
Estimated Completion Time
3 min
Do You Know Your U.S. Marines Lingo?
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About This Quiz

The United States Marine Corps dates back to November 10, 1775. Two battalions of Continental Marines came together at that time to make a fighting force capable of handling duties on land and at sea, essentially making them the best parts of both the Army and the Navy. Over the years, the government tried to merge them with both of those military branches and considered them offshoots of both of those branches before they managed to carve out their own niche and become a stable third branch of the military in their own right.

Today the Marines are world-renowned as one of the most impressive fighting forces in any military. If someone says they're a Marine, they get taken seriously. And just as with any branch of the Armed Forces when you're in the Marines, you not only have to learn to act like a Marine, you learn to talk like a Marine. From official terms to much more unofficial lingo, there's a whole vocabulary associated with being a Marine. Most of us will only know what we hear on TV and in movies, while those who live it should know everything in this quiz and then some. So let's see what you've got! Take the quiz!

Fresh marines
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If a Marine calls someone a boot, what are they saying?
A slowpoke
A tough guy
A new recruit
An ancient Marine
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Anyone who gets called a boot is a new recruit. Why call them a boot? Because they're fresh out of boot camp! It's not necessarily an insult but it's not necessarily a compliment, either.

Marine watching
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You just pulled guard duty. What are you likely to call it if you're a Marine?
Fire watch
Night shift
Dark watch
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When you're on guard, you're said to be on fire watch. This is often used in reference to a non-combat situation, just guarding the barracks overnight when nothing is going on.

Military barrack
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What happens on field day?
You clean.
You go off base.
You train outdoors.
You go home.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Field day sounds like it should be fun, but it really isn't. Field day is the day everything gets cleaned. This is a full clean from floor to ceiling with furniture and gear all moved, and everything scrubbed down. No one likes field day.


Marine vehicle
Marine Corps Recruiting via YouTube
Do you know which movie a Marine might reference to describe an improvised military vehicle?
"Independence Day"
"Apocalypse Now"
"Mad Max"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Sometimes in the field, you need to tweak a vehicle and improvise the armor to fit a situation. Often an irregular vehicle that meets that description can be referred to as a "Mad Max" and, in fact, vehicles have been described in the media that way in the past.

Marines - Flags of our Fathers
DreamWorks Pictures / Malpaso Productions / Amblin Entertainment
What does "rah!" mean anyway?
"Yes, sir!"
It's just a general kind of battle cry.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

"Rah" is a trimmed down version of "oorah," which is the generally accepted battle cry of the Marines. What does oorah even mean? That's a hard one to put your finger on, and it's not really even traceable to one place or time. But does it matter? You yell it to express you're pumped up.

Marine Sergeant Thumbs Up
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If a Marine says "Semper Gumby," what do they mean?
Always flexible
This is stupid.
Stop clowning.
It's an insult.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Semper Gumby is, of course, a play on the Marine motto of Semper Fidelis. When they say Semper Gumby, they're saying they're always flexible and able to adapt. This might be used when a Marine is given one set of orders then immediately has to do something different.


US Military / Army / Marines goofing around
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What term might a Marine use to describe slacking off?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If a Marine is skating, it means they're slacking off and not doing all they could be doing. The term evokes fast movement, as in ice skating or skateboarding, and works here too as the Marine has somehow skated away from having to do whatever task they had to do.

Female marine writing
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Do you have any idea what ninja punch means?
A contraband beverage made in barracks
A hazing technique
Non-judicial punishment
A game played by Marines
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

No one wants to experience a ninja punch, which means non-judicial punishment or an Article 15. When a Marine has done something that doesn't merit a court-martial but still requires severe repercussions, this is it. It could result in a loss of rank or pay grade.

Marine security
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Who is Private Schmuckatelli?
The first Marine
A Marine mascot
A fictional Marine
It's a movie about the Marines.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Private Schmuckatelli is a fictional Marine who is used as an example to the other Marines in a conversation. For instance, if your CO wants you not to screw up, he might mention that he doesn't want you to fall asleep on Fire Watch like Private Schmuckatelli did last week.


Military nap
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Which of these terms might apply to a Marine who's only concerned with himself?
Semper I
Lone wolf
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Marines motto is "Semper fidelis," which means "always faithful" and often gets shorted to "Semper fi." As a play on that, when a Marine is a bit self-centered or selfish the others might refer to that soldier as "Semper I."

Marine excercise
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What does BCG stand for?
Boot camp gear
Boot camp glasses
Basic crew gear
Brief commissary guide
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you wear glasses, then the Marine Corps will kindly issue you a pair of boot camp glasses when you enlist, known to be some of the least fashionable and ugly pieces of equipment in the world. You've likely seen these black, thick-rimmed monsters before.

Marine Veteran
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Which of these is an old-school nickname for a Marine?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Though it doesn't get used a ton, the term leatherneck is a very old nickname for Marines. It comes from the old uniforms that used to have high leather collars to protect the wearer from being sliced up by a sword. Dress blues still have similar high collars.


Military dress uniforms
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What does a Marine mean when they talk about their blues?
Their feelings
Their dress uniform
Their vehicle
Their platoon leader
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Marine dress uniforms are known as dress blues or, more succinctly, blues. There's no real secret behind the name since the dress uniform for Marines is often blue though it's worth noting they haven't always been and aren't always 100% blue.

Navy sailor
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What's a squid?
A mop
An inept recruit
A drill sergeant
A sailor in the Navy
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

As much as the branches of the Armed Forces have to work together to protect the nation, it doesn't mean they have to like each other in their downtime. Marines may call sailors in the Navy squids, and it's not really a friendly term.

Marine in field
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What would a Marine call a voucher or letter that gives them some kind of special treatment?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Anything that gives you a bit of a break or an edge over the other Marines can be called a chit. For instance, if you're injured and have a note from the doctor, that's a chit that might get you light duty for a week.


Military boots
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Which of these terms can be used to describe marching?
Romp n' stomp
Brick kicking
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When you have to march or drill at some time, you could toss out the term romp n' stomp to describe it. The word "hump" can also be used or marching, but usually means you're carrying something that's a burden at the same time like you had to hump a 150 lb pack back to the barracks.

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Which term is sometimes meant as an insult towards Marines?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The term "jarhead" is used by Marines but is also historically an insult directed at Marines. It comes from the haircut Marines had to get, known as the "high-and-tight" cut that made their heads look like mason jars plus the fact that the Mason Jar Company literally made helmets for Marines during WWII.

Military journalist
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Who or what qualifies as a Joker?
A Marine who goes AWOL
A gambler
An inept recruit
A military journalist
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

From the movie "Full Metal Jacket," the name Joker refers to a military journalist. In the film, the character gets his nickname "Private Joker" during basic training, and it follows him through his career as a journalist in the military.


Marine in blues
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Do you know what a pickle suit is?
Combat uniform
Service A uniform
Dress uniform
Utility uniform
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The service A uniform was adopted by the Marines back in 1943 and is the oldest service uniform still in use. It's a base uniform and could be considered the military equivalent of a suit while dress blues are more the equivalent of a tux. It's called a pickle suit because it's head to toe green.

Marksmanship badge
TwoNineMarine via YouTube
What nickname does the marksmanship qualification badge have?
Pizza box
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

There are three kinds of badges a marksman can get in the Marine Corps for using rifles. The expert badge is the highest level and then comes the sharpshooter badge. The marksmanship badge is the third and lowest level and is sometimes called the pizza box as it's literally a square piece of metal with a target in it.

Marine radio
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What does "actual" refer to in radio communication?
Unit commander
Time of day
Combat readiness
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When a Marine gets on the radio to talk to someone and says something like "Delta Six Actual this is Hunter, come in, over," what they're requesting is to speak to whoever is in command of Delta Six as opposed to just the guy lugging the Delta Six radio around.


iguardcalifornia via YouTube
Marines don't have a bed, what do they have?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You have a rack in the Marine Corps or sometimes a sack if that's how you roll but not a bunk. A bunk is the Army term for a bed, and they're not really interchangeable terms for some reason.

Marines at memorial
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If you want to know the latest gossip, what will you ask a fellow Marine about?
The word
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The latest gossip is also called the scuttlebutt. The term is used sometimes in civilian life, but it does have military origins as it refers to the casks of fresh water found on boats around which sailors would chat. An old-timey water cooler, essentially.

Marine with duffel
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What does a Marine carry their stuff in?
Ruck sack
Duffel bag
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Marines carry their stuff around in a seabag. You can keep your clothes and toiletries and whatever else you need in one. It looks just like a duffel bag and, if we're being honest, it is a duffel bag, but it's not called a duffel bag. Army soldiers use duffel bags.


Marine in headquarters
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Which of these terms applies to military intelligence operations?
Low key
Secret squirrel
Top shelf
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thanks to a Hannah Barbera cartoon in the '60s about a squirrel who was a spy, the military has continually referred to intelligence operations in all branches by the name "secret squirrel." Usually, this is informal, but some formal missions have used it, like Project Ardilla. "Ardilla" is Spanish for "squirrel."

Smiling Marine
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If a Marine mentions their skivvies, what are they referring to?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This sometimes pops up in civilian vernacular but in the military, your skivvies are your underclothes, which usually encompass both a plain white undershirt and plain white boxer shorts.

Military Drill Sergeant
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What's a Smokey Bear?
Campaign cover
Safety officer
Fireproof room
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When a soldier becomes a drill instructor, they get a distinctive hat known as a campaign cover. That campaign cover looks an awful lot like the hat worn by Smokey the Bear, which is what some Marines will refer to it as.


Marines with guns
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What does gunny mean?
Artillery operator
Gunnery sergeant
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Marines will refer to their gunnery sergeant as "gunny." Their job is to serve as fire and operations chief, and they rank above a staff sergeant but below a master sergeant. You can reach the rank of master gunnery sergeant, and the nickname of gunny would no longer be appropriate.

Marines on the move
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Do you know what a grunt is?
Marine infantry
Army soldier
Boot camp recruit
Someone who washes out
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Marine infantry soldiers are often referred to as grunts. It was likely meant as an insult when it first became popularized, but it's just the sort of generally accepted term these days and isn't considered rude.

Taco rice
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If a Marine is talking about taco rice, what do they mean?
Messy food
Stomach upset
Expired MREs
They literally mean rice with taco fillings on it.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Weirdly enough, taco rice is what it sounds like. This dish is apparently the most splendid food a Marine stationed in Okinawa will ever eat, and there are numerous recipes online if you want to try to make your own. Just Google it!


Desert night
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"Zero Dark Thirty" was a movie. What does the term mean?
Under the cover of darkness
Off the clock
The night shift
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Anything being done at zero-dark-thirty is being done in the pre-dawn hours before the sun has come up. It doesn't have to be a specific time, just very early with no natural light around.

Military sweater
gonzoramavideo via YouTube
What's your woolly pully?
A sweater
A beard
A bad haircut
A hat
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Marines are issued sweaters that are part of the uniform for when weather permits. A green woolly pully goes with your service uniform and a blue woolly pully goes with your dress uniform.

John Wayne can opener
BlackCatSaloon via YouTube
Which of these is called a John Wayne?
A buck knife
High-topped boots
A hat
A can opener
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The P-38 can opener is still in production and was a staple of the Marines for decades. It's a small, folding can opener that featured John Wayne in the original instructional videos on how to use the thing.


Military helicopter
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What might a Marine call a pilot?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Pilots, most specifically those from the US Air Force, are sometimes called zoomies. It makes sense to call them this since the United States Air Force Academy is also known by the name Zoomie U.

Combat Knife
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Do you know what a Ka-bar is?
Locking mechanism
Combat knife
Protein bar
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Marine combat knife is also called a Ka-bar and is actually trademarked as KA-BAR. It's made by Ka-Bar Knives, which is owned by Cutco, the people who do that door-to-door knife selling where they cut leather and rope with their knives to show off how sharp they are.

You Got:
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