Do You Know Your U.S. Navy Lingo?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

If you happened to find yourself on board a Navy ship, would you have any idea what your fellow sailors were trying to tell you? Would you know what to do with a chit? Would you think scuttlebutt was a word meaning that people were gossipping? What might be a crank, a Cadillac or a knee knocker? 

You're the type of person that has always found different languages or dialects fascinating. You love to know more about other worlds. You have a thirst for knowledge in general, but what is more fascinating than studying the words of a group of people or a culture that is meant just for them, that others are not supposed to understand? 

So before you enlist and head on out to parts unknown while traveling through the worlds vast oceans, you might want to prove to yourself, and to us too, that you are an expert on Navy slang. 

It doesn't matter whether you wind up being a snipe, an airedale, or a bubblehead, you're going to need to prove you can hang with your fellow sailors when it comes to understanding their lingo and slang. We are pretty sure you can pass muster, but you're still going to have to take this quiz to prove it. 

What does it mean if "all hands" must report to a specific location?

If you hear the common phrase, "All hands on deck" it means everyone aboard a ship must head to the deck. If you're late, you might be putting your hands on the deck, all right, as in 100 pushups.


If a ship is leaving a dock, what is it doing?

A ship that leaves dock is casting off. It means the boat is leaving its moorings. It's often a bittersweet moment for sailors headed to war.


What does it mean if a sailor says, "Aye, aye"?

In the Navy, you'll often hear the phrase, "Aye, aye Captain." It means that a sailor understands the Captain's orders.


On a ship, what's the "line"?

On a ship, never call it "rope," or you'll out yourself as a novice. Line is used for all sorts of important functions on a ship, such as mooring the ship to a dock.


If the sailors have been ordered to have a "field day," what does it mean?

A "field day" sounds like fun ... until you realize that it means to clean the whole ship. Sooner or later, all sailors wind up on field day chores.


What does it mean if someone tells you to "make way"?

"Make way for the captain!" It means to get out of the way. This phrase is also used between ships to designate right-of-way.


What's the purpose of a ship's "arresting gear"?

Arresting gear is meant to snag aircraft that are landing on a carrier. It can be as simple as a chain or cable meant to stop the plane before it runs off of the landing surface and into the sea. Because, you know, that would be a very expensive mistake.


If the captain says he wants your "eyes in the boat," what does it mean?

"Get your eyes in the boat!" It means that you need to pay attention and do your job instead of screwing around.


What do sailors often call airplanes?

"Bird" is a common military term for aircraft. Thanks in large part to aircraft carriers, birds are a vital part of a modern-day naval force.


What do sailors do at the "head"?

The head is the ship's toilet. And yes, in the old days, they smelled really, really bad.


Who lives in a "stateroom"?

Officers are the lucky people who get the staterooms. As you can imagine, these quarters are typically nicer than those given to enlisted men.


What does it mean if a sailor is "beached"?

Sailors don't typically want to be beached. It means they've been sent ashore, possibly due to a serious mistake or infraction.


If a sailor mentions the bow, he's referring to which part of the ship?

The bow is the front of the ship. The stern is the rear side of the ship. Confuse the two and you'll be mocked mercilessly during your time on the ship.


On a Navy ship, what are "stores"?

A ship's stores are just about anything that's carried as cargo or gear. During long journeys, stores are a vital part of the mission.


The term "boat" refers to what, exactly?

The word boat is often used for submarines. But it can also refer to just about any seaworthy vessel that's used to travel bodies of water.


If a ship capsizes, it does what?

It's never a good thing if a ship turns turtle, or capsizes. But if it does, you hope it's the enemy ship instead of yours.


What does the ship's "amp tramp" do?

The amp tramp is, of course, the ship's electrician. When fuses blow and circuits break, the amp tramp is the guy you need.


What do sailors do in the scullery?

The scullery is a space reserved for dish cleaning and other dirty housekeeping work on a ship. If you're an enlisted sailor, at some point you'll wind up in the scullery.


What do sailors do when they "turn to"?

To "turn to" means to start work. It's the same routine each day -- report to duty and then turn to.


What's the "weather deck"?

The weather deck is any part of the deck that sees weather. If there are inclement conditions on the weather deck, you'd best be dressed for it.


What's a "Navy brat"?

A Navy brat is someone who grew up in a Navy family. In many cases, Navy brats (like Army or Air Force brats) move around a lot due to their parents' occupations.


What does a "knot" represent?

Knots indicate a ship's speed. It is measured as one nautical mile per hour, and no, it's not equivalent to the miles per hour units used on land.


What happens in the ship galley?

The ship galley is the kitchen. On some ships, it's a place for great food. On a Navy ship during wartime the food may not be anything to write home about.


If sailors "deep six" something, what are they doing?

To "deep six" something is to discard it. It can also refer to burial at sea.


What might you call an aircraft carrier?

Aircraft carriers are sometimes called "bird farms." Why? Because they carry the birds (aircraft) that make the carrier such a powerful weapon.


In the Navy, someone who has never crossed the equator is called a _____.

A "pollywog" is a sailor who hasn't crossed the Equator. In other words, they haven't really done much sailing.


True or false, is a "Big Chicken Dinner" a delicious meal?

It's definitely not extra crispy and delicious. A Big Chicken Dinner is a Bad Conduct Discharge, and it's akin to a felony conviction.


What does it mean when sailors conduct a "float test"?

Don't want those old missiles? Give them the old "float test" and chuck them overboard. They didn't float?%0D Oh well, no one will ever know, trust me.


What's a "blue nose"?

A blue nose is a sailor who has crossed either the Antarctic or Arctic Circle (or both). Their noses are "blue" because it's very, very cold in those locations.


What's the "deck"?

Most people would call it a floor in civilian life. But the floor of a ship is called the deck.


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