How Well Do You Know US Navy Lingo?



By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Do you know what it means to graduate from Canoe U, or to earn yourself a Big Chicken Dinner? Understand the meaning of Deep Six, or what a snivel is? Think you can call yourself a Shellback or Airdale? See how much you really know about the language and lingo of the U.S. Navy with this quiz!

The U.S. Navy was born on October 13, 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized two ships with 80 men each to patrol the seas in the battle against Great Britain. The Department of War managed Naval affairs until the Department of the Navy was established in 1798, operating with just a handful of ships. Just over two centuries later, the United States maintains one of the largest Naval forces in the world. More than 320,000 active duty sailors man close to 300 vessels and operate 3,700 aircraft. 

These brave sea men and women are typically assigned to a ship or submarine for a three-year period. Living in close quarters for such an extended period has resulted in a Navy with its own culture, traditions and even its very own language. Think you can decipher some of the most common Navy lingo and phrases? Prove it with this quiz!

Which of these terms is used to refer to a brand new Navy recruit?

When a new Navy recruit gets to bootcamp, he or she is given a blue sweatsuit to wear until it's time for a uniform fitting. This blue gear earns the recruit the nickname of Smurf.


If someone tells you it's chow time, they mean it's time to do this.

Chow is Navy speak for food. You chow down on chow in the chow hall, and the person responsible for cooking all that grub is the chow boss.


What is a pad eye used for on a Navy ship?

A pad eye is a useful device found on Navy ships. Sailors can hook a chain to the pad eye, then use that chain to hold a stationary plane in place on the deck of the ship.


Boondockers is another word for....

Sailors in the U.S. Navy wear military-issued boots. They are black with rubber soles and steel toes -- making them terribly uncomfortable. Sailors refer to these boots as boondockers.


Thirsty? Head here to wet your whistle.

Back in the day, a cask -- or butt -- of water carried all the fluid men onboard a ship would be able to drink during the voyage. They would scuttle, or cut, a hole in the butt to have a drink. Today, the modern water fountains on ships are called scuttlebutts.


What is stored in the bomb farm?

No, bomb farm isn't some cute nickname for a part of the ship; it's where bombs are stored on the boat, and it's off limits to anyone but the explosives experts.


Which of these terms refers to Special Forces recruits?

Navy sailors use the term Snake Eaters to refer to any Special Forces recruits. It can refer to Naval recruits, like the SEALS, or those from other branches, like the Green Berets.


Which of these is not a type of chit?

Chit is Navy speak for any form of paper. It once referred only to currency, but can also be used to refer to passes, leave requests and other documents. Need to shred something? Head to the chit chipper.


O-dark-hundred could refer to this time of day.

When you're in the Navy, you do what you're told -- even if it requires waking up in the middle of the night. O-dark-hundred and O-dark-thirty both refer to any start time that occurs during normal sleeping hours, say midnight and 6 am.


When Navy recruits use the word Cadillac, they are referring to this.

Back in the day, Navy sailors swabbed the deck with a bucket full of water they lugged around by hand. No wonder many now refer to fancy wheeled mop buckets as Cadillacs.


Where can you find mid-rats?

Sailors who are hungry outside of meal times can rely on mid-rats, or mid-rations, to fill the belly. These meals are generally served after-hours, and include things like leftovers and sandwich fixings.


What does it mean to Deep Six something?

In Navy lingo, Deep Six refers to the last six fathoms of depth before you hit the ocean floor. When you Deep Six something, you throw it overboard, where it will presumably sink to the bottom of the sea.


If you leave your gear adrift, it means...

In the Navy, gear adrift is any gear that hasn't been properly put away. A common phrase is "Gear adrift is a gift," meaning that you leave your stuff up for grabs if you neglect to store it properly.


What is a Big Chicken Dinner?

It might sound yummy, but you want no part of a Big Chicken Dinner. If you're in the Navy, this term is used to describe a very unpleasant dishonorable discharge.


Where would you find a knee-knocker?

Most doors within Navy ships are designed to be water-tight, which often requires the use of a special frame that extends all the way around the opening. The bottom portion of that frame is a terrible trip hazard, leaving many sailors to call it a knee-knocker or shin-buster.


On Navy ships, rack is another word for this piece of furniture.

Rack is Navy speak for bed. Got a recruit who stays in bed all the time? He's a rack monster.


Which of these is Navy speak for goods obtained via trading or bartering?

In the Navy, any goods obtained via trading or batering are known as cumshaw. This term is also used to refer to more illicit activities, such as bribery or blackmail.


Which of these nicknames is used to refer to the U.S. Naval Academy?

The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD educates students who have aspirations of a career with the Navy. Its nickname, Canoe Club, belies the stately nature of this revered institution.


Where does a crank work?

Crank is a term used in the Navy to refer to mess deck workers. This includes the recruits who prep and serve food as well as though that keep the mess hall sparkling.


Which of these can you get from a roach coach?

When Naval ships are docked, sailors might have the opportunity to step off the vessel and get some grub. This often involves hitting up the local roach coach, a food truck that often parks near the port area.


If a Navy sailor calls you a bubblehead, he means you...

Bubblehead is Navy speak for a sailor assigned to a submarine. This helps to distinguish those assigned to ships from those working on subs.


Thinking too much? In Navy lingo, you're doing this.

Accused of nuking it? That probably means you're overthinking something that's relatively simple or easy.


Where is the crow's nest on a ship?

A crow's nest is a small structure located high above the deck on a ship. It serves as a valuable lookout point for sailors. Legend has it that the crow's nest got its name from the old practice of carrying ravens or crows aboard a vessel to help with navigation in times of poor visibility.


Lazily filling in just any old info when completing forms and logs? In Navy speak, you're doing this.

Gun decking is the practice of fudging the information or data in a form or log. This could be done to skirt through an inspection or just out of pure laziness.


A Navy man who goes overboard is called by this name.

Those dummies used to train sailors are named Oscar, and the name has since evolved to refer to anyone who falls overboard. If the crew is ready to throw you over the rails, you've been nominated for an Oscar.


What does the term gronk refer to?

If something has been gronked, it has been overtightened with a wrench. Some sailors also use the term gronk to refer to an unattractive individual.


What do you call a sailor who works below deck?

A snipe is any sailor who works below deck. This could include a job in the engine or machine room, working on the boiler or as a machinist.


What does it mean when someone calls you a Shellback?

Sailors who have traveled by ship across the Equator are given the nickname Shellback. Those who haven't crossed this latutude are Pollywogs.


What is a reefer?

In Navy lingo, a reefer is a refrigerated ship used to transport food. It may refer to both military and civilian vessels.


What do you call a sailor who works around airplanes?

The U.S. Navy has so many planes that it qualifies as one of the world's largest Air Forces. Sailors who work in the air wing of a ship are known as Airdales. The term refers not only to pilots, but also to maintenance and support crews.


What is a muster?

If you're ever been on a cruise, you probably know the muster station as the place where you gather in the event of an emergency. In the Navy, the term muster refers to a meeting, or to a simple roll call gathering.


Too much time below deck? You need one of these.

Navy sailors can spend months at sea. The vessels they sail on are so large, they may not see daylight for extended periods. Those who take a quick break above deck are said to be taking a reality check.


Which of these is another word for bathroom?

Gotta take a leak? Hit the head. This name for the bathroom comes from the old sailing days, when the bathroom was located at the head of the ship. As wind blew to fill the sails, it would blow odors out away from the crew.


Which of these is a form of geedunk?

Geedunk is military speak for vending machine goodies or other forms of junk food. You can often pick up geedunk at the roach coach when the ship is in port.


What does it mean for a sailor to snivel?

Sniveling means to request time off. Officers keep track of these hours in their snivel log.


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