Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang FAQ
Part 2 - N through Z

This FAQ is maintained by Jeff Crowell (; web hosting provided by Haze Gray & Underway.

Last Updated 31 October 2003.


--'RN' denotes Royal Navy usage. Similarly, RCN = Royal Canadian Navy, RAN = Royal Australian Navy, RM = Royal Marines, RNZN = Royal New Zealand Navy, UK = general usage in militaries of the former British Empire

--Terms in ALL-CAPS have a separate listing.

--Special note: Since days of yore the military in general, and sailors in particular, have often had a rather pithy (dare I say ‘tasteless'?) manner of speech. That may be changing somewhat in these politically correct times, but to Bowdlerize the sailor’s language represented here would be to deny its rich history. The traditions and origins remain. While I have attempted to present things with a bit of humor, if you are easily offended this FAQ may not be for you. You have been warned.

NAAF - Naval Auxiliary Air Field

NAAFI - (RN) Navy, Army, and Air Force Institute. Provides canteens, shops, and other services to the armed forces ashore and afloat.

NAFOD – (Aviation) Abbreviation for "No Apparent Fear Of Death." What a frightened LSO writes on your grade card. Indicates consistent unsafe practices. Spoken as "nay fod."

NALF - Naval Air Landing Field

NAM - Navy Achievement Medal. Said to be given to SONAR GIRLS for tracking a stationary object.

NAS - Naval Air Station

NATOPS – Naval Aviation Training and Operating Procedures Standardization system (pronounced NAY tops) A program of systematized training and procedures development for aircraft and air operations. Can also refer to the specific NATOPS manual for each aircraft type. Developed to improve readiness and reduce accident rates and severity. It has been truthfully said that every line in the NATOPS manual has been written in blood.

NATO Standard – (RCN) Term to indicate a large cup of coffee with double cream and double sugar.

NATO Stock Number - NATO Stock Number (NSN) : A number given by NATO to identify a particular part, that is unique and standard to only that particular part, with a description that only God can understand because no man or woman could have come up with such a far fetched description.  No matter the size and shape, there is a number.  It is a given that what your looking for is usually found after hours of looking up the NSN, beating, yelling, and cursing at the computer, only to have a friend with a horseshoe up his ass find it as you walk away in disgust.

Nav (the) - (1) Navigator, or having to do with navigation. (2) The Navy (USN).

NavSta - Naval Station.

Navigator - Officer responsible, under the captain, for safe navigation of the ship. Aka 'Gator', 'Nagivator', 'Old Clueless'.

Navy Brat (or Junior) – One who has grown up in a Navy household.

Navy Shower – A water-saving evolution in which one attempts to get reasonably clean while using as little water as possible. Basically, you wet yourself down, turn off the shower, lather up, then turn the shower back on to rinse off.

NBC Warfare - Nuclear/Biological/Chemical Warfare.

Neats - (RN) Straight rum, as opposed to GROG (q.v.). Also seen as 'Neaters'.

Negat – Spoken or abbreviated form of ‘negative.’

NFG – Non Functional Gear. Written on the sides of inoperative equipment as an indication that they should be replaced or scrapped (float tested). Often corrupted as "No Fucking Good."

NFO - Naval Flight Officer. Derisively, Non-Flying Officer.

Nixie – A countermeasure against acoustic homing torpedoes. It consists of a noise-generating body ("fish") towed behind the ship on a long cable.

NJP - Non-Judicial Punishment. See CAPTAIN'S MAST.

No-Load – 1) A servicemember who does not pull his or her own weight. 2) A test of a catapult system where the cat is fired without launching anything (a dry firing).

No Joy – No radio contact, or no visual contact. Sometimes used to say "it didn’t work."

Nonskid - An epoxy compound applied to deck surfaces to improve traction for feet and wheels. At the end of a cruise, when a flight deck's nonskid is mostly gone, not to mention oily and/or greasy, taxiing or landing can be even more of an adventure than usual. Usually applied to all weather decks of any ship.

No room to swing a cat – Originally, this term meant insufficient room to carry out a flogging, which punishment was performed with a CAT. The modern meaning is simply that an area is crowded.

Noseconer – See CONER.

NQP - Non-Qual-Puke. (submarines only) One who has not yet received his DOLPHINS. Also used as a derogatory term for a Dolphin wearer who screws up on something he should have known.

Nub – Newbie, or someone who does not stand watches and is therefore deadweight to the department. Literally, "Non-Usable Body."Nugget - First-tour pilot or NFO. A diamond in the rough, or at least with a few rough edges.Nuke, nuc – (1) Nuclear-trained and qualified personnel, whether surface or sub. (2) A nuclear-powered vessel. (3) Nuclear weapon, although the term "special weapon" is preferred.

Number 8's - (RN) Action working dress. The equivalent of US dungarees.

Nuts and Bolts - (RN) Stores rating concerned with equipment.

O1 (or 02, 03, etc.) – A paygrade designation for an American commissioned officer. Pronounced oh-1, oh-2, etc. A naval O1 is an Ensign, O2 is a Lieutenant (j.g.), etc.

Oakum – Jute or hemp fiber. Used with pine tar in caulking the seams of a wooden ship.

OBA - Oxygen Breathing Apparatus. An oxygen generating and rebreathing system used for firefighting.

OBE - Overcome By Events. Eaten by the snakes in the cockpit; the victim of task saturation. What happens to the pilot who forgets that his priority of actions goes in the following order: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

Occulting – A navigation light (buoy or lighthouse) in which the light is on longer than it is off. See also FLASHING.

OCS - A program which takes in college graduates and turns out commissioned officers. See "90-Day Wonder."

OD - (RN) (1) An ordinary seaman. (2) Derogatory term for anyone acting 'green' (Olive Drab). Frequently modified with the adjective "fucking".

Officers’ Country – The area of the ship where the officers live. Generally off-limits to enlisted crew unless they are on duty or on a specific errand.

O-ganger - Officer.

Oh Dark Thirty - Very late at night, or very early in the morning. Aka Zero Dark Thirty.

Oil King – Personnel in charge of inventorying, testing, and bringing aboard petroleum products of various types.

Oilskins – Garments made from cloth which has been made water-resistant by impregnating it with linseed oil.

One Way – See "WALTER."

On Speed – (Naval Aviation) A term meaning that the aircraft is at the proper speed for final approach to landing. Indicated by the INDEXER light array. This speed varies with amount of fuel and ordnance or other stores being carried.

Oolie - (Submarine) A difficult question that may not pertain to one's duties, or one that tests one's system knowledge to the limit. Also seen as Ouly or owly.

OPFOR – OPposing FORce, whether in an exercise or real life.

Opposite Number - (RN) (1) Anyone carrying out comparable or equivalent duties on another watch or ship. (2) A friend.

Oppo - (RN) Friend. Aka 'Wings', 'Winger' (i.e. wingman). c.f. OPPOSITE NUMBER.

Orange Force - Opposing force in a wargame exercise.

Order of the Blue Nose - One who has crossed the Arctic Circle in a ship.

Order of the Golden Dragon – A fraternal order made up of those who have crossed the equator at the International Date Line in a ship. An event similar to a LINE-CROSSING CEREMONY is staged for the victim's benefit.

Order of the Red Nose – A fraternal order made up of those who have crossed the Antarctic Circle in a ship.

Ordie - See REDSHIRT.

ORSE – Operational Reactor Safeguards Examination, a strenuous and exhausting series of examinations, tests, and demonstrations of reactor operating procedures and practices, performed on nuclear-powered ships of the US Navy. Conducted by NAVSEA08, the Nuclear Propulsion group of Naval Sea Systems Command, once a cycle.

O’s – Officers. Pronounced "ohs."

Oscar - (1) The dummy used for man overboard drills. (2) The international signal flag hoisted for "man overboard". (3) Phonetic alphabet for "O."

Oscar Brothers – The Commanding Officer and Executive Officer (CO and XO).

Overhead – What a civilian would call the ceiling. Essentially, the underside of the deck above.

Own Goal - See BLUE ON BLUE.

Pack (the) - Aircraft ranged (parked) about the deck of an aircraft carrier, especially forward of the landing area.

Padeye - (1) A recessed tie-down point on a flight deck or a flight line. (2) Almost any anchor point on a bulkhead or deck.

Paint - To track or detect an object with radar.

Papa Hotel - Phonetic pronunciation of the flag signal 'P-H'. Acronym for "all hands return to ship".

Parrot - IFF transponder

Passageway – A hallway aboard ship.

Paybob (RN) - Supply officer, especially one responsible for accounts.

Paygrade - Alphanumeric designation corresponding to rank (officer) or rating (enlisted). Used to denote pay level or as an analog to rank/rating. For example, O-1 is an Ensign (USN/USCG) or 2nd Lieutenant (USA/USMC/USAF); an E-1 is a Seaman Recruit (USN) or Basic Airman (USAF).

PCD (or PCOD) – Pussy Cut-Off Date. The last date during a deployment in which a servicemember can have sex (and catch a sexually-transmitted disease) and still have it cured prior to his return home. A less-easily determined date since AIDS and Hepatitis-C entered the picture.

Peak and Tweak – An activity intended to bring electronics, avionics, or other systems to optimum operating condition. Something the TWIDGETS do.

Peeping Tom - An F-14 Tomcat fitted with the TARPs pod. Reconnaissance Tomcat.

Pecker Checker – Navy doctor or Corpsman. Aka Dick Doc, Chancre Mechanic.

Pelican Hook – A quick-release shackle which can be knocked free with a hammer. Often used to release the anchor when dropping the hook.

Pelorus – A stanchion topped with a gyrocompass, used to shoot bearings to an object for navigation purposes.

Penis Machinist – Hospital Corpsman.

PFM – Pure Fucking Magic. A nontechnical explanation for why something works. "Hell, I dunno how it works. It’s PFM."

Pigeons, Pigeon Steer - Heading and distance to homeplate. "Your pigeons 285 for 125 miles."

Pigging, pigged - The use of a prepared, expendable ship (manned but with no crew below decks) to run over a mined area repeatedly to trigger influence-type mines. The ship is a 'guinea pig'. An area cleared of mines is said to be "pigged".

Pig of the Port - The least attractive member of the opposite sex brought aboard during a port visit. Awards and honors are often granted, though seldom sought after.

Pig Palace - A bar populated with ugly women, watered booze, etc.

Pilot - (RN) The navigating officer.

Pinkers – (UK) Gin or gin and water/tonic to which has been added angostura bitters.

Pinkie - A landing occurring at first or last light which is generally counted as a night landing (night landings are logged separately).

Ping – (1) To transmit on active sonar, or the sound or signal made by same. (2) (RM) To recognize someone or something. (3) To bounce or wander around aimlessly.

Ping Jockey – Sonar operator.

Pintle – The pins upon which a ship’s rudder hangs.

Pipe Down – Originally, a call on a boatswain’s whistle sending the crew below. It has come to mean "be quiet."

Piping Aboard – A ceremony where the arrival of a senior officer is signified by the blowing of a BOSUN’S WHISTLE.

Piping Hot – Originally, meals were announced aboard ship by piping (blowing a call on the boatswain’s pipe). If a meal is piping hot, it has just been served and is therefore hot.

Piping TAB - On submarines, a book that has all the systems drawn out. Used as a study guide. TAB stands for Training Aid Booklet, and actually there are two, one for piping systems and one for electrical systems. The systems bibles. Aka 'The Mickey Mouse Book'.

Piss – (RAN, RNZN) Beer.

Piss Ant – Yard worker. See also Sandcrab.

Pisscutter – Garrison cap.

Pissed – (1) (US) Angry. (2) (UK) Drunk.

Pissing Contest – A behavior similar to that displayed by two male dogs when they meet. A heated argument.

Pistol – (1) (Aviation) An aircraft gun, whether built-in or carried in a pod. (2) In older usage, refers to the exploder/detonator of a bomb or torpedo.

Pit – (1) (Aviation) The back seat of a two-seat aircraft. Where the GIB sits. (2) (RN/RCN/RAN) Rack (bed).

Pitch – Dynamic movement of a ship or aircraft about a transverse axis, i.e. when bow or nose moves up and down. See also TRIM.

Pit Log – Short for Pitometer Log, a device for measuring the ship’s speed through the water.

Pit Sword – The part of the PIT LOG (q.v.) which extends down into the water from the ship’s hull and senses ship speed. It works by generating an electric field and measuring its variations, which are proportional to speed through the water.

PKP - Purple K Powder. Potassium carbonate. A dry firefighting agent that chemically prevents combustion.

Plane – See DIVE PLANE.

Plank Owner – A member of the original commissioning crew of a ship. Traditionally, when a plankowner leaves, he is presented with a piece of the wooden decking. Since the advent of all-metal warships, however, a common plankowner memento is a plaque bearing a brass or bronze escutcheon constructed from the machining scraps of the propellers.

Plastic Bug - Derisive term for the F/A-18, due to the large proportion of synthetic materials in its makeup.

PLAT - Pilot Landing Aid Television. Two cameras which record landings aboard the carrier. One is mounted flush in the landing area of the flight deck, one is mounted on the island. Often called upon to resolve pissing contests between pilots and LSOs.

Platform – (1) The station of the LSO, athwart the carrier’s touchdown area, outboard of the portside deck edge. (2) A generic name for any ship, aircraft, etc.

Plimsoll Mark – A mark on the side of a ship’s hull which indicates a certain level of loading and, therefore, draft.

Podunk - A small town, or one's hometown.

Pogey Bait – In modern usage, candy or other junk food. See also GEDUNK. Originally, a "pogue" was a young boy or sailor, and pogey bait was candy or other sweet stuff used as inducement for homosexual play.

Pole – (Aviation) The stick or yoke used to control the aircraft in roll and pitch.

Police - Pick up or clean up. 'Policing the brass' would be to shine or clean brass fittings and/or fixtures or, on a firing range, to pick up expended brass.

Pollywog, Polliwog - One who has never crossed the Equator aboard ship and become a SHELLBACK. Aka 'wog'. Frequently modified by the adjective "slimy".

Pollywog Ceremony - See LINE-CROSSING CEREMONY.

Pommie Bath – (RNZN) To change clothes without bathing, simply applying deodorant. Same as a MARINE SHOWER.

Pongo - (RN) Soldier. May be mistakenly used to refer to a ROYAL MARINE.

Pooped – Term used when a wave breaks over a ship’s stern.

Poopie Pants – Permanently stained coveralls or dungarees used for performing particularly dirty work.

Poopie Suit - (1) Blue coveralls worn by sub crews (and, recently, surface ships) underway. (2) Immersion survival suit worn by aviators in cold-water ops.

Pork Chop, Chop – (USN) Supply Officer. From the resemblance of the collar device (actually oak leaves and three acorns) to a pork chop.

Pork Sword – (RNZN) Penis

Post-Stall Gyration – The behavior of an aircraft immediately following a DEPARTURE; a period of uncommanded (and uncontrollable) roll, pitch, and yaw excursions while the aircraft is deciding whether it wants to fly or not.

Port and Starboard – (1) Watch schedule where one stands 6 (or four or eight) hours on, the same amount of time off watch, then back on watch. Aka "Port and Stupid." (2) Before ships had rudders, they were steered by an oar which was positioned on the quarter. This side was known as the "steer board side" which, over time, was corrupted to "starboard side." For a long time, the other side of a ship was known as the "larboard" side, even into the 1700s. This led to confusion and difficulty in giving orders during storms, etc., where it might be easily confused between starboard and larboard. Since the larboard side was also the side of the vessel which was placed against a pier or dock, it became known as the "port" side, i.e. when you went into port, that side of the ship was against the pier.

PQS - Personnel Qualification System. A method of formalizing and tracking the qualification progress of personnel toward watchstation certification. Often abbreviated as 'Qual System'. Used by all warfare specialties, but has reached its ultimate in the submarine service.

Prairie - A noise-masking system which pumps air out of holes in a screw blade to reduce cavitation noises.

Pressure Hull – The watertight, pressure-bearing structure that makes up the living and working area of a submarine.

Probe and Drogue – An air-to-air refueling system which involves an inflatable ‘basket’ (the drogue) which is extended at the end of a long hose trailed by the tanker aircraft. The receiving aircraft maneuvers so that its refueling probe enters the basket.

Pro Word – Radio procedure word. Used to standardize and expedite voice radio communications. Examples: ‘over’ ("I am finished speaking now, and expect you to reply"), ‘roger’ ("I understand you," or "yes"), ‘out’ (perhaps the most misused term in Hollywood, it means "I am finished speaking and do not require an answer or acknowledgement back").

Pucker Factor - A measure of the stressfulness of a situation, determined by the amount of muscle tension registered in one’s rectum. High pucker factor events are usually accompanied by 'that old sinking feeling'.

Puke – People, or person. "What are those pukes up to?" "He’s a drifty puke, isn’t he?", etc.

Pull G’s – (Aviation) To maneuver in such a way that centrifugal acceleration adds to the force of gravity.

Pumpkin Suit – Orange exposure suit worn by topside watchstanders aboard U.S. submarines.

Punch Elvis - Eject.

Purchase Cable - The part of the arresting gear that connects the CROSS-DECK PENDANT to the arresting engines belowdecks.

Pusser, pussers - (RN) (1) Supply officer. (2) Anyone who goes 'by the book'. (3) Of or belonging to the Royal Navy. The term is a corruption of "Purser".

Pusser Neats - (RCN) Royal Navy issue rum, rarely seen but a few bottles still exist. Aka 'Blue Label Rum', 'Instant Stupid.'

Puzzle Palace - (1) The Pentagon or, more generally, headquarters of any sort. (2) (RM) The maze of offices on any UK camp.

Qual Card - A listing of necessary PQS qualification points. Each completed goal is acknowledged by the signature of the appropriate duty Chief or other authorized signer. May be a single piece of paper or a bound book.

Queer - (1) Homosexual. (2) An EA-6 Prowler, or the pilot of same, from the VAQ squadron identifier.

Rabbits - (1) (RN) Souvenirs. (2) Any unofficial job. (3) Hydraulic tracks that move weapons horizontally in a US SSN's torpedo room. (4) (RCN) Items stolen from the ship or shipyard and smuggled out the main gate. Can also mean items bought duty free overseas. Originally referred to actual, live rabbits which were taken by dockyard workers from Whale Island in the UK.

Rack - Bed, especially the combination bed and locker found as enlisted sleeping accommodations.

Racket – An intercepted electromagnetic signal. The term is used in Electronic Warfare.

Rack Time – Sleep.

Radioing a Report - See GUNDECKING.

Raghat – Junior sailor, E-6 (First Class Petty Officer) and below. Refers to the sailor’s white hat.

Rain Locker - Shower.

Ralph – Also seen as "looking for Ensign Ralph." Praying to the porcelain god (vomiting). May result from seasickness or from having maximized a recreational opportunity ashore, or a combination of the two.

Ramp (the) - The aftmost edge of the flight deck. Slopes toward the water at about 45 degrees. Aka 'ROUND-DOWN'.

Ramp Strike - Occurs when an aircraft on carrier approach lands short and hits the RAMP. Damage sustained by the aircraft can range from loss of the hook point to destruction of the aircraft. Ship (and personnel) damage can also result.

Ramrod – In WW II, a combined fighter-bomber mission whose primary goal was destruction of a ground target.

R&R – Rest and Rehabilitation.

Rank and File – The generic man in ranks. Comes from the terms for a military formation, where a rank is a row (crosswise) and a file is a column (lengthwise) within the formation.

RAST – Recovery Assist Secure and Traverse. A mechanical aid to landing or moving helicopters aboard a small boy, especially during heavy weather.

Ratbags – Foreign currency.Rate – Job specialization, e.g. GSM (Gas Turbine Mechanic), GMG (Gunner’s Mate, Guns), GMM (Gunner’s Mate, Missile), AO (Aviation Ordnanceman), etc.

Rat Guards – Circular or conical metal plates attached to a ship’s mooring lines to prevent rats getting aboard (or getting off).

Rate Grabber – One who does something he does not rate, i.e. has not earned. An example would be a First Class Petty Officer acting like a Chief!Rating - (1) (USN) Enlisted rank. (2) (RN) Enlisted personnel.

Rattle (in the) - (RN) In official trouble, on report.

RCH - Smallest unit of linear measurement known.

Redass - Official flap about something of little consequence. A pain in the butt. "Man, that gender sensitivity training was a real redass."

Red Flag – The US Air Force postgraduate fighter tactics school, based out of Nellis AFB in Nevada.

Red Force – Opposing force in wargames. Sometimes abbreviated as "REDFOR."Rednose – See ORDER OF THE RED NOSE. Redout - A condition caused by excessive negative G's. Temporary loss or obstruction of vision caused by too much blood in the retinas.

Redshirt - Aviation Ordnanceman. Wears a red jersey. Responsible for loading and downloading ordnance from aircraft, and other ordnance- handling duties such as assembling and attaching guidance packages. Aka 'ordie', 'loadtoad'. Members of Crash and Smash Team also wear red jerseys.

Reflash – The reignition of a fire, generally due to hot spots.

Reheat - UK term for afterburners.

REMF – Rear Echelon MotherFucker.

Reserve Salute – A shrug of the shoulders.

Re-up – Reenlist.

Rhubarb – Originally, the codeword for a ground attack mission over Europe during WW II, carried out by fighter aircraft—not the favorite mission of the fighter pilots, as the missions suffered high loss rates. Now, the term for an argument or disagreement.Rig for Angles and Dangles - Submarine usage: to prepare for sharp, swift dives, ascents, and turns, or to practice same.

Rig For Red – In submarines, to ensure all interior lighting is red and of low intensity so as to preserve night vision.

Ring Knocker - US Naval Academy graduate

RIO - Radar Intercept Officer, the NFO in a fighter aircraft. Aka the 'GIB'.

Roach Coach – Mobile food vendor’s vehicle or gedunk stand.

ROAD - aka 'ROAD Program.' Retired On Active Duty. A (non)work strategy employed by some senior members of the naval service.

Rocket – A letter or memo of reprimand.

Rogue’s Gun (or Salute) – (UK) The single gun salute fired at the commencement of a court martial.

Roll – Dynamic movement of a ship or aircraft about the lateral axis, i.e. a tilting of the deck from side to side. See also LIST.

Rollers – Hot dogs.

Roll In On – (1) An aviation term referring to the initial maneuver of an attack. (2) To make a play for the attentions of a member of the opposite sex.

RON - Remain overnight.

Rope (vs. line) – Natural or synthetic, woven, braided, or twisted (or some combinations), it is called ‘rope’ as long as it is on the spool. As soon as you unroll a piece and cut it off, it becomes ‘line.’

Ropeyarn Sunday – Early liberty or an early knockoff of ship’s work. Refers to the days of sail, when Sunday was generally a day for "make and mend," i.e. personal admin. rather than ship’s work.

Rotorhead – Helicopter pilot or crew. Aka "Rotor Maggot."

Round-Down - See RAMP.

Royal Baby - The junior (or, often, the fattest) member of KING NEPTUNE's court. During the LINE-CROSSING CEREMONY, all POLLYWOGS must kiss his belly, which is usually smeared with grease, oil, or salad dressing.

Royal Marine - (RN) British Marine. "Her Majesty's Royal Marines," when they are up and dressed (seldom). Aka 'bootneck', 'jolly'.

RPO - (RN) Regulating Petty Officer.

RTB - Return To Base.

Rug Dance - Quality time spent with a senior officer or NCO, usually in a very one-sided conversation. Typical topics of discussion include one's parentage and probable eventual fate. Aka 'chewing out, ass chewing, etc.'

Sagging – The condition of a ship in which the bow and stern are supported by wave crests and the midships area is less supported by the trough. See also HOGGING.

Sally Ship – Causing a ship to list by having parties of men run from one side of the ship to the other. When a ship runs aground, a suction often forms between the hull and the sea bottom mud, and sallying ship can break that suction, making it possible to back off of the reef. Somewhat akin to a TRIM PARTY, but for very different reasons.

Salty – One whose level of experience is extreme. One who is "in the know" regarding matters maritime.

Salvo – One or more guns fired together, or the shells which have been fired.

Sandbag – (1) To ask a question of someone to belittle or deride them, or to do something behind their back. (2) To not give 100% of one’s abilities; to hang back, or hold back.

Sandcrab - A sideways-walking, scavenging beach creature. Refers to a civilian Naval contractor or civil service.

Sandy Bottoms - (RM) The usual result of making a hot WET (q.v.) with melted snow.

SAPFU - Surpassing All Previous Fuck-Ups.

SAR – Search And Rescue. Pronounced as a word, not initials.

Scope – (1) The length of the anchor chain. ‘Increasing the scope’ means to veer (pay out) more anchor chain. (2) The Cathode Ray Tube display for a radar.

Scope Dope – A radar scope, or one who watches same.

Scram – Emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor.

Scrambled Egg – The gold braid found on the cap brim of a senior officer.

Scran - (RN) General term for food.

Scratch - (RN) The Captain's secretary.

Screaming Alpha (Fire) – A burning human. See CLASS ALPHA FIRE for more detail.

Screw the Pooch – To make a mistake, especially a serious one.

Scrounge – (1) A sailor who is not current on his hygiene quals. (2) The procurement of a needed item through irregular (i.e. usually illegal) means.

Scrubber – (USN Submarines) On a submarine, removes or "scrubs" CO2 out of the air.

Scrubber Load – (USN Submarines) A non-watchstanding crewmember whose only contribution appears to be exhaling CO2 for the scrubbers to work on.

Scullery Slut - (RCN) Junior hands assigned to work in the mess decks (enlisted eating area) to clean dishes, serve the Chiefs, make coffee, etc. Similar to USN 'MESSCRANK.'

Scuttle - (1) A water-tight opening set in a hatch or bulkhead. (2) To intentionally sink a ship or object. (3) To punch a hole in something.

Scuttlebutt - (1) Drinking fountain; Originally, a BUTT which had been SCUTTLED, used to hold drinking water for crew access in sailing ships. (2) Gossip or rumors. Originated from the habit of crewmembers of talking while at the scuttlebutt.

Sea Bat - A practical joke akin to a snipe hunt. If he bites on the joke, the victim usually gets batted on the butt with a broom.

Sea Chest - The cavity inside a SEA SUCTION from which pumps draw seawater, often for cooling purposes.

Sea Chicken – Derisive term for NATO Sea Sparrow. Not the same as ‘CHICKEN OF THE SEA’ (q.v.).

Sea Daddy - Someone who takes a less-experienced crewmember under his or her wing and expert tutelage. Often, and traditionally, when a CPO takes care of and educates a boot ensign.

Sea Lawyer – Someone who professes to have significant knowledge of the fine points of the rules and regs. This knowledge is often used for personal gain, or to claim why something cannot be done.

Sea Story – A tale of nautical or airborne derring-do. Differs from a fairy tale only in that while a fairy tale begins "Once upon a time," a sea story begins either "There I was," (aviation version) or "This is no shit," (seaborne version).

Sea Suction - Underwater opening in a ship's hull. May be several feet in diameter. Usually fitted with a grating to prevent the entry of large, unwanted objects such as divers and other sea life.

Semi – (UK) A member of the USN, or more generally, things American, e.g. "that semi destroyer." Originated in the proliferation of semi-automatic gear in the post-WWII US Navy, especially things that did not work so well. Pronounced "sem-eye."

Semi-Active Homing – A type of radar missile homing where the launch platform provides radar transmissions and the missile homes in on the radar energy reflected off of the target. Abbreviated as ‘SAH.’

Set and Drift – Refers to the behavior of a ship under the influence of wind and current; both deflect the ship from its intended course. ‘Set’ is the direction of that deflection, and ‘drift’ is the speed in knots of the displacement. A vector.

Sewer pipe - Submarine.

Shaft Alley - Engineering space aft of engine rooms, where propeller shafts pierce the hull. Location of shaft seals, etc.

Shellback - One who has crossed the Equator. Frequently modified with the adjective "trusty".

Shellback Ceremony - See LINE-CROSSING CEREMONY.

Shift Colors - When a ship moors, the national colors are broken on the stern, the Jack is broken on the bow, and the national colors ("steaming colors") are hauled down at the masthead, all at the instant the first line goes over. When the ship gets underway, as soon as the last line is cast off the dock, the Jack and colors are struck at bow and stern while the steaming colors are broken at the masthead.

Ship Over – Re-enlist.

Ship’s Company – Refers to the officers and men assigned to the ship, as separate from the AIRWING.

Shipshape – Also seen as "Shipshape and Bristol fashion." The desired condition of any ship or unit; the maintenance of seamanlike appearance. Every piece of gear stowed neatly, "a place for everything, and everything in its place."

Shitbird – A screwed-up person.

Shitcan - Trash can, or when used as a verb, to throw something away. Can be used to refer to people: "He was a dirtbag, so we shitcanned him to Surface Line."

Shit In It – (UK) Leave it alone.

Shitfaced – (1) Drunk. (2) (UK) Angry.

Shitters – (1) (UK) Just about anything, but especially any liquids or chemicals, used in cleaning the head. (2) The toilets, as opposed to the Pissers (urinals).

Shitting – Lying to, or attempting to con, someone. "Are you shitting me?"

Shonky – (RNZN) Not particularly well; not well rehearsed, not familiar with.

Shooter – (1) The catapult officer. The one who directs the firing of the catapult. (2) A unit (aircraft or ship) that is launching, or is about to launch, ordnance.

Short - (or short-timer) Someone whose rotation or transfer date is rapidly approaching. Can lead to usage of the term ‘FIGMO.’

Short-Arm Inspection – VD check. The sailors lined up after a port call and the doc took a look. Really.

Short Timer – One whose enlistment is nearly up.

Short-Timer's Chain - A length of chain carried by a short-timer, where the number of links equals the number of days remaining before discharge. Each day, the short-timer cuts off another link.

Shot – (1) (Artillery) A radio call that a round has been fired. See also SPLASH. (2) A unit of measure for anchor chain. In this usage, a shot is 15 fathoms (90 feet). (3) (archaic) A unit of measure equaling a league (3 nautical miles). This appears to be the origin of the convention that a country’s territorial waters extend 3 miles out from its shores—a country was able to claim what it could control with its guns. That is probably also the origin of the term itself—"gunshot" or "cannon shot" became simply "shot."

Shot Line – The line fired from a line throwing gun; used to put lines over for UNREP or when coming alongside the pier. The shot line is small-diameter line to which successively heavier lines are attached so that they may be hauled over to the receiving ship or pier.

Show a Leg – The traditional call made at reveille, it originated in the days of sail when women were let aboard ship. At reveille, a woman in her hammock would display a leg and thereby was not required to turn out.

Side Number - Numbers painted on the nose of an aircraft to serialize it as to type and squadron. 1XX and 2XX are fighters. 3XX and 4XX are attack aircraft. 5XX is the EW (EA-6 Prowler) detachment, 6XX is the E-2 Hawkeye detachment, and 7XX is the ASW (Viking) squadron.

Sierra Hotel - From the phonetic alphabet for SH, the polite form of 'Shit Hot'. Excellent, aggressive, skilled, etc. "Man, that was a sierra hotel takeoff."

Sippers - (RN) Drinks, usually containing alcohol.

Situational Awareness - Especially in aviation, one's awareness of the surroundings, circumstances, and tactical situation, though it is used in all warfare communities. Loss of situational awareness is often fatal in combat, and can be fatal at other times as well.

Skate - (RCN) One who avoids work. See BANDIT. Also, to get out of something, e.g. work.

Skimmer - A surface ship, or officers/crew of same. Frequently modified with the adjective "fucking" by members of the submarine community.

Skipper – Commanding Officer. Apparently from the Dutch "Schipper,", which means, essentially, "he who ships."

Skive Artist - (RCN) One who avoids work.

Skivvy Waver - See BUNTING TOSSER.

Skivvy Folder - Parachute rigger.

Skosh – Pronounced with a long ‘o’. From the Japanese sukoshi, literally 'small' or 'little'. The F-5 was long known as the Skoshi Tiger. (1) Little or low, as in "They better get that foul deck cleared; Dave's coming in skosh fuel." (2) Fast, or quickly, as in "We need to get this job done most skosh."

Skunk – The name label used for surface radar contacts. "Skunk Alpha" refers to the first new radar contact of the day, "Skunk Bravo" the second, etc.

Skylarking – Horsing around, goofing off, etc.

Slammer - The AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, which is in service but has not been assigned an official name, although 'Bounty Hunter' appears in some early Hughes Missile Systems documents.

Sleeping Dictionary – A member of the local population who teaches a sailor the local language (among other things), usually in exchange for room and board.

Sliders - (1) Hamburgers. So greasy, they "slide". (2) (RN) Those who leave work early, either by departments or individually.

Sliders with lids - Cheeseburgers.

Slops - (RN) Uniforms and other official clothing for sale. The 'slop chit' is the authorization to obtain clothing from stores. Derived from the old terms sloppe or slype, which meant ill-fitting or loose clothing.

Sloshy - (RN) The cook, or the cook’s helper.

Slush Fund – The money accumulated by the ship’s cook through the sale of slush, the salty fat which collected during the boiling of salt meat aboard ship. The sailors used the slush on their biscuits, and the cook got to keep the money.

Small boy - Frigate or destroyer.

Smart Money – Money paid to a sailor who has a Smart Ticket (Smart Certificate), which was issued to a man who had been injured or wounded in the performance of his duty.

Smoking Lamp - From the square-rigger days, a lamp from which personnel could light their pipes or cigars. In contemporary usage, signifies whether smoking is permitted or not. If the smoking lamp is out, no smoking is permitted.

Snack Hole – See CAKE HOLE.

SNAFU - Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.

Snake-eater - SEAL's and other Special Forces personnel.

Snake Ranch – A house rented by a group of bachelors.

Snidget – A member of engineering department who works on electronics, literally a "Snipe Twidget."

Snipe - Crew members in the engineering rates; someone who works in the engineering spaces and seldom is seen topside when underway. MM's (Machinist's Mates) and BT's (Boiler Technicians) are ultimate snipes. In today's modern gas turbine fleet, also includes GSM (Gas Turbine Specialist, Mechanic), GSE (Gas Turbine Specialist, Electrician), and EN (Engineman). It is believed that true snipes cannot stand direct sunlight or fresh air, must have machine oil in their coffee in order to survive, and get nosebleeds at altitudes above the waterline. It is also firmly believed that fresh-air sailors who venture into SNIPE COUNTRY are never seen again. Aka BLACK-HAND GANG (RN), BLACK GANG. See STOKER (RN).

Snipe Country - The engineering spaces, bilges, and voids where the snipes dwell. Considered to be extremely dangerous territory for non-snipes. "The snipes will get you" is commonly used to deter sailors from going too far below decks.

Snivel - (1) A request that one not be assigned a watch or other duty (flight, etc.) due to other obligations. (2) A log for recording same, the 'Snivel Log'. (3) Whining.

Snorkers - (RN) Sausages.

Snotty - (RN) Derogatory term for a midshipman. Supposedly due to the "young gentlemen’s" habit of wiping their noses with their sleeves. The navy attempted to counter this habit by sewing buttons on the cuffs of naval uniform jackets.

SNUB – Shortest Nuke Onboard

Sod’s Opera – (UK) An impromptu variety show put on by the ship’s company, usually of a bawdy nature.

Soft Deck – (Aviation) A safety altitude below which certain maneuvers are prohibited during ACM. Expressed as feet AGL. Typically 5,000 feet AGL. See also HARD DECK.

Sonar Dome – The generally onion-shaped structure at a surface ship’s bow which houses the sonar transducer.Sonar Girls - Submarine sonar operators. The rate is STS. The term is somewhat derogatory, and refers to behavioral and hygiene habits. Minus the behavioral quirks, the equivalent rates are ST (surface) and AW (aviation).

Son of a Gun – Traditionally, a male child born (or conceived) afloat. An archaic term from the days of sail, when crewmen were typically not let ashore for fear of desertion. Women were let aboard (the regulation said "wives", but this was immediately and widely ignored, or at least winked at), and even carried at sea at times.

SOP – Standard Operating Procedure.

SOS – Shit On a Shingle, i.e. creamed chipped beef on toast.

SOSUS – SOund SUrveillance System. A land-based system of seabed hydrophones and sophisticated analysis equipment, used to monitor worldwide movements of ships and submarines.

Spanner - (RN) Wrench.

Sparker, Sparks - (RN) Radio operator.

SpecOps - Special Operations. Any mention of SpecOps is generally followed with "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

Speeding Ticket - A citation written by the MAA, often for a Charley Sierra infraction such as "out of uniform."

Speed of Heat (The) – (Aviation) Moving very fast.

Splash – (1) Signifies the kill of an aircraft, e.g. "Cowboy one-six, splash one." (2) (Gunnery) A radio call warning that a salvo or shell will land in ten seconds (see also SHOT). The call may be to warn you to get your head down (if you’re in the target area) or to get your head up (to observe the fall of shot if you are a member of the fire direction team).

Splice the Main Brace - Have a drink. Originated in the days of the sailing navies.

Square Away – Originating in the days of sail, the term refers to putting a ship before the wind (getting way on the ship). Today, the term refers to getting organized or ready for something, be it an inspection, a drill, etc.

Squawk - To use an IFF transponder, or the numeric code set into such a device.

Squid - Sailor. Frequently modified by the other services, especially Marines, with the adjective "fucking".

Speed Jeans - G-suit.

Spook - Intelligence personnel.

Spot – (Gunnery) Observing the fall of shot and calling corrections to the firing unit; also refers to the actual corrections themselves.

Spud Locker - The stern gallery of a carrier. Where a really low ramp strike ends up.

Squared Away – Originally, to "square away" meant to trim a ship’s sails to put her before the wind (i.e. get underway). Today, it means a ship that looks good, maneuvers smartly, etc., or refers to a sailor who is capable and smart in appearance and action.

SSORM – Ship’s Service and Organization Manual. The bible for shipboard organization.

STAB - (UK) Stupid Territorial Army Bastard

Stateroom – The room in which an officer lives. Originally, the term ‘stateroom’ referred to the better-quality lodging available aboard riverboats plying the rivers of the early United States; these rooms were named after various states of the Union. It has come to mean any motel-style room aboard ship (as compared to berthing spaces, which are barracks style).

Steaming as before - The beginning of a log entry made at when changing the watch. If at the beginning of the day (i.e. midnight), it is followed with a detailed narrative of ship, system, and machinery status. It is traditional that the first log entry made in the new year should be in verse.

Steel Beach - Barbecue on the flight deck or other weather deck. Often hosted by a department to give the cooks a break.

Stern Tube – (1) (Submarine) Torpedo tubes which point aft. Many modern subs (and all U.S. subs) today have only a single set of torpedo tubes mounted well aft of the bow in order to permit installation of the bow sonar array. These tubes point forward but are angled outboard of the centerline. (2) The point where the propeller shaft passes through the skin of the ship. This tube includes a packing gland which permits rotation of the shaft without excessive leakage of water.

Stew Burner - Cook.

STFB – Stand The Fuck By, i.e. prepare for heavy rolls and bad weather (get ready for trouble).

Still - See EVAP.

Stinger – (1) The MAD boom, which extends aft of a P-3’s empennage. (2) An additional bell stroke given when the captain actually departs the ship.

Stoker, stokes - (RN) Marine Engineering Mechanic, Technician, or Artificer.

Stores – (1) (Services of Supply) Almost anything which is handled or consumed aboard ship, e.g. food, spare parts, etc. (2) (Aviation) Weapons or other devices which can be carried by an aircraft.

Straddle – In shipboard gunnery, when one round or salvo is over, and the next is short, or vice versa. A hit is often soon to come, as the firing ship is getting the target’s range (prior to the advent of radar, the most difficult aspect of the fire control puzzle).

Straight Board – In submarines, the more modern version of the "GREEN BOARD" (q.v.) report. Hull closure indicators are mounted on a panel. Closures which are shut are indicated by a backlighted dash (short straight line), while open closures are indicated by a backlighted ‘donut’ (circle). Therefore, with a ‘straight board,’ all hull openings are closed and it is safe to dive the boat.

Strangle - Shut off or disable. "Strangle your parrot" is a common call to shut off an aircraft's IFF transponder.

Strike – (1) (Aviation) The mud-moving side of the community. (2) To attempt to qualify for a new rate (specialty).

Striker - Crewmember, usually a nonrate, who 'tries out' for a specific rate.

Striking for Chief – Brown-noser, or someone really good at his job.

Stripey - (RN) Able rate with two or three good conduct badges.

Subby - (RN) Sub-lieutenant.

Sub - (RN) Pay advance, loan.

Suck and Blow Sailor – Airedale. "Suck and Blow" also refers to jet aircraft, for obvious reasons. Early jets were called "blow jobs."

Suck Rubber - To use an EAB mask.

SURTASS – SURveillance Towed Array Sonar System.

Swab – (1) Sailor. (2) Mop.

'Swain - (RN) Ship's Coxswain. Similar to the COB in the US Navy.

Sweat – To worry about something or to be overly conscientious, or one who worries excessively.

Sweat Grenade - Someone whose sweat pumps are always running at full speed. An excitable person, or one who takes humorous situations too seriously.

Sweet - Good, or functional. "Homeplate, I have sweet lock on your gadget (TACAN)."

Swinging Dick - Men (or personnel), as in "I want every swingin' dick in Deck Division working on the problem!"

Swinging the Lead - (RCN) To work in a lazy manner. "OS Bloggins has BIRDS for swinging the lead."

SWO – Surface Warfare Officer.

SWOS – Surface Warfare Officer School.

TACAN – TACtical Air Navigation. A radio navaid (navigational aid) which provides bearing and distance data to the aircraft. Slang term is ‘gadget.’Tack - (1) A piece of rope (line) used as a blank in a signal flag hoist, used for punctuation or to set aside a part of the message. (2) A punctuation mark in a written or voice message, written as a dash.

Tacking On - "Tacking on the crow" refers to the practice of punching the arm of a newly-promoted Petty Officer, a practice now in disfavor due to past abuses. See CROW. May have originated in the tradition of having one’s shipmates each take a stitch in attaching a new crow.

TACTAS – TACtical Towed Array Sonar.

Tactical Diameter – The diameter of the circle first described by a ship’s turn. Tactical diameter is larger than FINAL DIAMETER due to the momentum of the ship, which drives the ship outside of the arc of its turn at first. See also ADVANCE AND TRANSFER.

TAD - Temporary Additional Duty, as when attending a school. Generally less than 6 months. Facetiously, 'Traveling Around Drunk.' See also TDY.

Tail – Towed sonar array.

Tallyho - Call signifying visual contact.

Target - Submarine usage: a surface vessel.

TARPS - Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod. Installation of one turns an F-14 into a ‘Peeping Tom.’

Tattletale - See "AGI."

TAU - Twin Agent Unit. On an aircraft carrier, a tractor that has been modified or purpose-built for firefighting. It has two nozzles: one sprays PKP, the other sprays AFFF.

TDU - Trash Disposal Unit. Essentially, a vertically-oriented torpedo tube used to dispose of trash aboard a submarine.

TDY – Temporary Duty. See also TAD.

Teakettle - The nuclear engineering plant.

Teardrop – A streamlined depth charge. See also ASHCAN.

TER – Triple Ejector Rack. A stores rack used to get more usage out of the limited number of hardpoints found on tactical aircraft. Allows up to three bombs (for example) to be hung on a single set of shackles, depending on weight and space limitations.

Test Depth – The maximum depth to which a submarine can go routinely without damage.

Texaco - Airborne tanker.

TFOA – Things Falling Off Aircraft. An unintentional event. Highly embarrassing, and thereby something to be avoided! Can be ordnance but also can be other important pieces such as landing gear doors, control surfaces, ejector racks, fuel tanks, etc.

Three Sheets to the Wind – Drunk. Literally, when the lines to the sails (sheets) have come adrift and fly in the wind.

Tickler - (RN) Tobacco, especially naval issue.

Tiddly suit - (RN) Best uniform.

Tiff - (RN) Artificer. Usually used with the rate, e.g. 'Chief Tiffy'.

Tilly - (1) (USN) A wheeled aircraft crash and salvage crane on an aircraft carrier. It is typically parked aft of the island. (2) (RN) Crew bus or other transport.

Tincan – Also seen as "Tin Can," a common nickname for a destroyer. The nickname arose because in World Wars One and Two, the hull plating of this ship type was so thin the sailors claimed they were made from tin cans. In fact, a .45 pistol bullet would penetrate it. Modern destroyers have much thicker hull plating, but the nickname persists. This nickname is sometimes abbreviated as "Can", although to a radioman a ‘can’ is a set of headphones.

TINS - "This Is No Shit." The opening line to a sea story.

Titivate – Clean up, or make shipshape.

Titless Wave - A (male) Yeoman. Can also be used to refer to PN's (Personnelman).

Tits Duty - Easy or sweet duty.

Tits Up - Inoperative, or broken. "It's dead, Jim." Polite forms: 'sneakers up', 'belly up'.

TLD - Thermo-Luminescent Dosimeter. Found in nuclear vessels, used to determine exposure to radiation.

TMOW - Torpedoman Of (the) Watch. Responsible for all onboard weapons systems of a submarine. This includes the safe shipping and storage of torpedoes and torpedo-tube launchable missiles. Considered by some to be a KNUCKLE-DRAGGER.

Toasts – In the British Empire, toasts were drunk at dinner to the reigning monarch (also known as ‘the loyal toast’). The Navy eventually received special permission to drink the loyal toast while seated (due to the lack of headroom common to ships of the day). In addition, traditional toasts were drunk on specific days of the week. They were:

Monday – "Our ships at sea."

Tuesday – "Our native land."

Wednesday – "Ourselves and no one like us."

Thursday – "A bloody war or a sickly season" (and therefore more-rapid promotion).

A variant was "A bloody war and quick promotion."

Friday – "A willing foe and searoom."

Saturday – "Sweethearts and wives." (someone would usually pipe up "and may they never meet!"

Sunday – "Absent friends."

Toe Rail – On weather decks, the raised lip at the deck edge. An aid to keeping one’s feet inboard.

Tomachicken – Tomahawk cruise missile.

Top Gun – Navy Fighter Weapons School, the Navy’s postgraduate fighter tactics course. Originally based at Miramar NAS in California, now located at Fallon NAS in Nevada.

Tot - (RN) A half-gill measure of Pussers Rum (approximately two fluid ounces). Used to be daily issue, served neat to Chiefs and Petty Officers; mixed with two parts water for other rates.

Toto Station – Patrol station in the North Red Sea during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The winner of a "name the station" contest: "Gee, Admiral, we’re not in Kansas any more." The inshore stations were promptly named "Wizard" and "Oz."

Touch and Go – While the term today refers to practice aircraft landings, the origin may have been when a ship touched ground (ran aground) briefly, then came clear by its inertia. In aviation, sometimes also called a "Crash and Dash."


Transient - (ASW) A sudden sound emitted from a sonar contact. May be anything from a dropped wrench to the sound of torpedo or missile tube outer doors opening. Tends to generate high PUCKER FACTOR in other subs or surface ships.

Trap - (1) Arrested landing aboard a carrier. "Night traps" are night landings. "Field traps" (arrested landings on a shore base) are an entirely different kettle of fish, being nowhere near as abrupt or unforgiving. (2) (RN) Toilet cubicle. (3) Trapping: (RN) Sexual activity with members of the opposite sex, probably derived from some obscure analog to tailhooks.

Trim – (1) The static (i.e. at-rest) tendency of a ship to lie with her decks not in a horizontal position, fore to aft. A ship that lies with her bow too low is said to "trim by the bow." (2) A mechanism or system of an aircraft or ship (especially submarines) which compensates for imbalances fore and aft or port and starboard, so as to maintain level attitude. Can be a noun (for the system or static tendency) or a verb, to use the system to change longitudinal (fore and aft) or lateral (side to side) balance. In aircraft, trim is usually accomplished by the adjustment of small surfaces (‘tabs’) on the flight control surfaces, although an entire control surface is moved on some types. In submarines, trim is usually accomplished by pumping fluids (water, usually) from one tank to another, or by moving weights such as stores from one compartment to another.

Trim Party – A prank often perpetrated on a newly-qualled Dive Officer or Chief of the Watch, where men and other weights are shifted fore and aft to affect the trim of the boat.

Tunnel (The) - Room either above or next to the reactor compartment (depending on the class of sub) that allows fore/aft travel past that space.

Turd Herder – Personnel assigned to the ship’s sewage handling plant.

Turn Count - Estimating a vessel's speed by counting screw (propellor) rpm via sonar.

Turn To – Begin working, or "Get to work!"

Turn Turtle – Capsize.

Tweak - See TWIDGET.

Twelve O'clock Reports - Reports on fuel and water, magazine temperature, and position. These reports are made to the OOD (Officer of the Deck) by the engineering officer, the weapons officer, and the navigator, respectively. The OOD then reports to the CO.

Twidget - Any of the electronics/computer/communications technicians.

Two-blocked - To reach the maximum limit of something. Can also mean just right, or perfect. The term originates in the use of block and tackle for hoisting. When the two blocks touch, lifting can proceed no farther. RN/RCN is "chock-a-block" or "chokers," though these forms are more restricted to the "maximum limit" definition.

Two-and-a-half - (RN) Lieutenant Commander.

UA - Unauthorized Absence. The Naval/Marine equivalent of AWOL (Absent Without Leave).

Uder - (RN, pronounced like the cow's appendage) The stoker in charge of the fuel tanks, fresh water, and fuels reports.

Under Way – Sometimes seen as "under weigh." The term refers to a ship which is not physically connected to solid ground, i.e. neither moored, anchored, nor aground. Often confused with "MAKING WAY" (q.v.), though legally very different.

UNREP - UNderway REPlenishment. The transfer of supplies, fuel, and munitions from one ship to another while at sea. Also seen as RAS (Replenishment At Sea), esp. RN/RCN.

Unsat – Unsatisfactory.Up Homers - (RN) Being invited to someone's home, especially a female's.

Upper Works – The structure of a ship which lies above here weather decks. Also known as "superstructure."

Up the Hawsepipe – (UK) An officer commissioned from the lower deck (enlisted ranks). Similar to the USN’s Mustang.

US – (RN/RCN/RAN) UnServiceable.

USMC – United States Marine Corps. Cynically, ‘Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.’

Ustafish - (1) General term for a previous submarine command one has served in. Often used as "That's not how we did it aboard the USTAFISH." Generally followed by various short, forceful comments from others present. (2) A rogue virtual submarine manned by members of the sci.military.naval newsgroup.

VA – (1) Veteran’s Administration. (2) Designation for an Attack squadron.

Vampire – Radio codeword for an antiship cruise missile.

Vasco - (RN) Ship’s navigator.

VAQ – Electronic warfare squadron.

VC – (1) Vietcong. (2) Composite squadron (i.e. a unit flying multiple types of aircraft).

Veer – (1) To pay out line or chain, as in increasing the scope of the anchor. (2) A change of wind direction in the clockwise direction (as one looks into the wind).

Vertical Envelopment – Landing troops ashore via helicopter.

VertRep – VERtical REPlenishment. Bringing stores aboard ship by use of a helicopter.

VF – Fighter squadron.

VFA – Fighter-Attack squadron.

VFR - Visual Flight Rules. An FAA-specified series of flight rules used when an aircraft is not under positive radar control. When flying VFR, an aircraft's pilot has sole legal responsibility for safe flight and collision avoidance.

Vittled In - Something good. "OS Bloggins really vittled in when he cut the MESS MOTHER'S grass at the PIG OF THE PORT contest."

Vittler - (RCN) The stores rating who looks after issuing rations to the cooks and takes care of the ordering and storing of food onboard. From the word ‘victual’ (which is pronounced ‘vittle’).

VMA – Marine attack squadron.

VMAQ – Marine electronic warfare squadron.

VMC - Visual Meteorological Conditions.

VMFA – Marine fighter-attack squadron.

VS – Anti-submarine warfare squadron.

Vulture's Row - The catwalks and galleries along the island of an aircraft carrier, where crewmembers often congregate to watch flight operations. RN/RCN form is "goofers" (goofing stations).

XO - Executive Officer. Second-in-command of a vessel.

WAA - Wide Aperture Array. An advanced passive ranging sonar.

Wafoo, Wafu - (RN) Naval aviator; Fleet Air Arm personnel. Aka 'AIRY-FAIRY'. Originally an abbreviation for "Weapons And Fuel Users." May also mean "Wet And Fucking Useless."

Wakeup – The cry of the short-timer, often intensely annoying to those around him. If a sailor will be leaving the service in ten days, he is said to have "nine days and a wakeup."

Walter – Walter One-Way, the guy who always does for himself, and never helps you. See CHECK VALVE.

Wardroom – (1) A compartment aboard ship where the officers eat. May also be used for meetings, briefings, etc. (2) The complement of officers aboard ship.

Warning Red (Yellow, White) – Reports the threat status. ‘Red’ signifies attack imminent, or ongoing. ‘Yellow’ means attack is likely. "White" signifies attack unlikely.

Waste Heat Boiler – A boiler which uses the waste (otherwise nonfunctional) heat of an engine system to make steam for hotel or other usage. Often associated with a gas turbine or diesel propulsion plant.

Watch – The standing of duty shifts. The practice varies, but in the US Navy, the watch rotation is as follows:

0000-0400 – Midwatch

0400-0800 – Morning Watch

0800-1200 – Forenoon Watch

1200-1600 – Afternoon Watch

1600-1800 – First Dogwatch

1800-2000 – Second Dogwatch

2000-2400 – Evening Watch (aka First Watch)

The purpose of the dogwatches is to permit the watchstanders to eat the evening meal. These watches are said to be "dogged."

Water Buffalo - (1) A water tank on wheels used by SeaBees and/or other ground forces to carry drinking water. (2) Someone who uses excessive water, such as by taking HOLLYWOOD SHOWERS (submarines).

Water Wings - Warfare qualification pin for a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO), or Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS). Represented as the bow of a ship superimposed on crossed swords (SWO) or cutlasses (ESWS).

Wave – (Aviation) The actions of an LSO when he directs and monitors the landing operations aboard a carrier. Also seen as "Wave Aboard."

Waveoff - A call by the LSO directing a go-around. Unlike most radio calls to a pilot, a waveoff is not advisory in nature.

Weather Deck – Literally, any deck of a ship which is exposed to the weather, i.e. outside the skin of the ship.

WEPS - The weapons officer.

WestPac Widow – The spouse of a deployed sailor, if he or she strays from the marital bed in their absence.

Wets - (RN) Drinks.

WETSU – We Eat This Shit Up. A derisive statement, usually regarding working or living conditions.

WFW - "Waaah Fucking Waaah". Used to tell someone to quit whining.

Wheel Book – A small notebook, usually used by Division Officers to keep track of daily events and reminders.

Whifferdil – (Aviation) Random or uncontrolled maneuvers.

Whinge – (UK) To whine with extreme overtones of self-pity.

Whitehat – Enlisted personnel (E-1 through E-6).

WILCO - WILl COmply. May only be used by unit commanders (ship COs, aircraft commanders, etc.).

Willy Pete – Ordnance which contains White Phosphorus. From the old phonetic alphabet, ‘William Peter.’

Winchester – Radio proword for "out of ammunition," whether completely, or for a particular ammunition type, e.g. "Cowboy two-six is Winchester twenty mike-mike (20mm gun ammo)."

Wind Tunnel - Typically, an area of a ship where the ship’s movement and natural winds combine with ship's architecture to cause significant air movement. Commonly used on old '27-Charlie' aircraft carriers, but also applied to more modern vessels.

Winger - (RCN) Mate, buddy, or pal.

Wings - The insignia of an aviator. Represented as wings flanking a shield surmounting an anchor, or in the case of NFO's, two crossed anchors. "Getting (one's) wings" – achieving the status of a qualified aviator.

Wire - (1) Nautical term for what a civilian would call a cable or wire rope. (2) Cross-deck pendants of the arresting gear aboard a carrier. Numbered from aft forward, 1 to 4. In older, straight-deck carriers (ca. WWII and Korean War), there could be as many as 20 or more wires.

Wire Rope – Wire strands wound around a core of rope. Not as strong as cable, but more flexible.

Wog – (1) short form of POLLYWOG (q.v.). (2) (UK) Term of derision for non-white native personnel.

Woop – USNA slang for West Point cadets. Rhymes with "poop."

WOXOF - Pronounced "walks-off". FAA/Aviation weather report terminology for 'visibility zero, ceiling zero, sky obscured by fog'. See CLOBBERED.

Wrap - (RM) Give up. "He's just wrapped his tits."

WTD - WaterTight Door.

WTF - "What/who/where the fuck?" Sometimes spoken as "What the fuck, over?" (WTFO), or spoken phonetically, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."

XBT – eXpendable BathyThermograph. A device for measuring water temperature profiles, and thereby predicting sound velocity differences and sonar performance.

Yankee Station - One of the two positions typically occupied by an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam. 'Yankee' was the northern station, tasked with disruption of commerce and logistics.

Yanking and Banking – (Aviation) Literally, the roll-and-pull stick movements used to turn or otherwise maneuver an aircraft. More generally, accelerated flight, when the pilot puts G on the aircraft ("pulling Gs"). Also seen as "Banking and Yanking."

Yellow Gear - Flight deck support gear, such as power or start carts, crash gear, etc.

Yoyo – (USN Aviation) (1) An energy-management maneuver in which a tactical aircraft in a turn either decreases angle of bank while maintaining backstick (G), resulting in a climb, reduced closure, and tightened radius of turn (‘High Yoyo’) or increases angle of bank, resulting in a descent, increased speed, and increased closure ("Low Yoyo’); (2) Shorthand for "You’re On Your Own." Think of calling 911 and getting a busy signal.

Z’s – Sleep, or snoring. "Let’s go bag some Z’s."

Zed Shed - (RM) A classroom, or any area where a lecture takes place. Probably from the British phonetic 'Zed' for 'Z' (snoring).

Zero – Derogatory term for officer. Comes from the "O" in the paygrade designation.

Zero Dark Thirty - See OH DARK THIRTY.

Z-Gram – Messages to the Navy sent by Admiral Zumwalt, CNO in the 70s.

Ziplip - Carrier flight operations conducted under radio silence.

Zone 5 - Maximum afterburners. Afterburners on most modern aircraft can be modulated from minimum (zone 1) to maximum.

Zoomie – (1) Air Force personnel. (2) (USN) A nickname for Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, then-CNO, in the 70s.

Zulu 5 Oscar - Personnel making a deliberate attempt to board a ship unauthorized, usually at the direction of higher authority to test security procedures. The standard intruder drill.

ZULU Time - Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Used in radio traffic when the origin of a dispatch is expressed in GMT, i.e. "1700 ZULU".

Non-trivial trivia:

Volumetric measure:

4 gills make a pint
2 pints a quart
2 quarts a pottle
2 pottles a gallon
8 gallons a firkin
2 firkin a kilderkin
2 kilderkin a barrel
2 barrels a hogshead
2 hogsheads a pipe
2 pipes or three puncheons a tun

In brief, then, a gill is a quarter of a pint, where a Pint is 20 fluid ounces in the UK and 16 fl. Oz. in the USA


Fathom: 6 feet

Rod: 16.5 feet (also called a pole or perch)

Chain: 4 rods, or 66 feet

Furlong: 10 chains, or 660 feet. 1/8 of a statute mile.


On land, 120 fathoms, or 720 feet.

At sea, 101 fathoms, 606 feet. 1/10 of a nautical mile

League: (same as a shot)

Land: 3 statute miles

Sea: 3 nautical miles

Note: in the US Navy, anchor chain is measured in "shots," but these are shots of 15 fathoms’ length (90 feet). The same measure in UK service is referred to as a "shackle."


Aircraft Nicknames

A-3D Skywarrior: Whale, All Three Dead (it had no ejection seats!)

A-4 Skyhawk: Scooter, Heinemann’s Hotrod (for Ed Heinemann, its designer)

A-5 Vigilante: Vigie, Viggie (both pronounced with short ‘i’ and soft ‘g’)

A-7 Corsair II: SLUF (Short Little Ugly Fucker)

AC-130H/U Specter: Spooky, Puff The Magic Dragon, Dragon. These "noms de guerre" are shared with the AC-130’s Vietnam-era predecessor, the AC-47.

AD-1 Skyraider: Spad

AH-1G Cobra: Snake

AH-1W: Whiskey

B-1 Excalibur: Bone (from "B One")

Buccaneer: Banana Bomber

EA-3 Skywarrior: Electric Whale

EA-6B Prowler: Queer (from the ‘VAQ’ squadron designation)

F-3D Skyknight: Drut (now try that backwards)

F-4D Skyray: Ford

F-4 Phantom: Lead Sled, Double Ugly, Rhino, Flying Footlocker

F-5: Freedom Fighter, Skoshi Tiger, Dinky Toy

F-14 Tomcat: Turkey, Tomkitty, Cat, Tomgrape

F-15 Eagle: Beagle (E variant, contraction of "Bomb Eagle"), Mudhen (dark gray –E variant), Albino (light gray –C variant)

F-16 Fighting Falcon: Lawn Dart, Icepick, Viper

F/A-18 Hornet: Plastic Bug, Bug

F-100: Hun, Clunk (because of the sounds it would make while sitting in the hangar with no one near it)

F-102 Delta Dagger: Deuce

F-104 Starfighter: Zipper

F-111 : Aardvark

F-117 Nighthawk: Cockroach (they run away when the lights come on), Stinkbug

HC.4 Sea King: Junglie

LOH-58 Kiowa: Loach (from the Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) designation)

MH-6 Cayuse: Little Bird

S-2F Tracker: Stoof

S-3 Viking: Hoover

SH-60 Seahawk

T-2 Buckeye - Guppy

T-37 : Dog Whistle, Converter (converts fuel to noise), Tweety Bird, Tweet

UH-1 Iroquois: Huey

US-2B: Used to be stoof

UH-60 Blackhawk: Crashhawk

WF-1 Tracer: Willy Fudd, Stoof with a roof

This FAQ created and maintained by Jeff Crowell
Copyright © 2002, Jeff Crowell
Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.