Pirate Slang

Ahoy Matey!

Gee, can you tell I’ve just finished writing a pirate novel? I came across a few fun pirate words and phrases I thought I’d share with you.

Scurvy Dog was an experienced, prolific pirate. Sweet trade meant piracy, and to go ‘on the account‘ meant you were turning pirate. A  crimp was a swindler and shark bait was usually a lazy pirate or someone they wanted to feed to the fish. Dead man’s chest was a coffin,  and a bilge rat was a disgusting person since the bilge was the lowest part of the ship usually filled with smelly foul water.

landlubber was someone who was no good on a ship at sea, or better off on land. If you heard them talk of  ‘dancin’ the hempen jig’  – it meant to hang to death, since the ropes for hanging were usually made from hemp. To keelhaul someone, meant to tie a rope around them and drag them under the keel of the ship  and back up on the other side, usually getting scratched badly by the barnacles on the bottom of the boat.

And those pirates liked their rum of course. They also had grog, which was rum mixed with water to mask the taste of the bad water. (Water was usually no good in the olden days.) They also ate hardtack which were very hard crackers that if dry would last long, but if got wet would get maggots in them.

To swear, they would say something like ‘Damn yer eyes‘ and to threaten someone – ‘I’ll crush ye barnicles.’

Well, writing a 14th century pirate was not easy, let me tell you. The ships they had back then were not your normal pirate movie ships and they did not dress that way either. I really wanted to give my pirates a pair of breeches, but couldn’t. As is, trying to write something romantic in a time when the plague just knocked out half of Europe is a challenge in itself. Oh, and did I mention the fact it is my heroine who is the pirate? Yep, I like a challenge alright.

Lady of the Mist is the 4th and final book in my medieval, Legacy of  the Blade Series. So sit back on the poop deck with your feet up on a tun and grab a tankard of rum and enjoy!

Elizabeth Rose