Long Island Veterans’ Bulletin: Everyday Words With Naval Origins


The Navy has had a significant influence on everyday language. Many common words and phrases have their origins in naval terminology, reflecting the maritime history and traditions of the Navy.

Here are 10 everyday words with naval origins:

Admiral: An admiral is a high-ranking naval officer responsible for commanding a fleet or a group of ships. The term “admiral” is derived from the Arabic word “amir,” which means commander. It was adopted into European languages and later into English.

Deck: In a naval context, the “deck” refers to a platform on a ship’s surface. This term has been adopted to describe any horizontal surface or platform, such as the “deck” of a house or a “deck” of playing cards.

Bunk: A “bunk” is a narrow bed often found in cramped quarters on naval vessels. The term is now used more broadly to describe any type of bed or sleeping arrangement.

Boatswain: The “boatswain” or “bosun” is a senior crew member responsible for the maintenance of a ship and its equipment. The term has been adapted to describe supervisors or overseers in various industries.

Maroon: To “maroon” originally referred to the act of leaving someone stranded on a deserted island, often as a form of punishment. The term “maroon” has since evolved to describe being abandoned or isolated in any context.

Scuttlebutt: In naval slang, the “scuttlebutt” is a drinking fountain or water cooler. Sailors would gather around the scuttlebutt to exchange rumors and gossip while getting a drink. Today, “scuttlebutt” is synonymous with casual conversation or hearsay. You might hear someone say, “What’s the scuttlebutt around the office?”

Brace: To “brace” in a naval context means to prepare for impact or turbulence by securing oneself or equipment. In everyday language, “brace” is used to convey readiness or preparation for a potentially challenging situation.

Sonar: “Sonar” is an acronym for “sound navigation and ranging.” It’s a technology developed for underwater navigation and communication. Today, sonar is used for various purposes, including underwater exploration and fishing.

Grog: “Grog” was a diluted rum ration provided to sailors in the British Navy. It has come to refer to any alcoholic beverage. It’s a slang term used to describe a drink, often in a casual or informal setting.

Mayday: “Mayday” is an internationally recognized distress signal used in emergencies, particularly at sea. It derives from the French phrase “m’aidez,” meaning “help me.” In everyday language, “mayday” is synonymous with a cry for help or a desperate plea.

These everyday words with naval origins serve as reminders of the Navy’s enduring impact on language and culture. The rich history and traditions of naval forces continue to influence our vocabulary, even in contexts far removed from the sea.

Upcoming events

Wednesday, Sept. 27—Stand-up Comedy Class for veterans at 7 p.m. every Wednesday at Project9Line, Islip

Thursday, Sept. 28—The Wall That Heals at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens with 24-hour access through Oct. 1

Thursday, Sept. 28—Wine on the Harbor charity event to celebrate Pal-O-Mine from 6 to 9 p.m. at Harbor Club at Prime, Huntington

Saturday, Sept. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 1—Project Thank You letterwriting campaign for active troops at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish Church, Hicksville

Thursday, Oct. 5, through Oct. 8—The Wall That Heals with 24-hour access at Tanner Park, Copiague

Friday, Oct. 6—1st Annual Heroes At Home Gala from 6 to 10 p.m. at Smithtown Landings Country Club, Smithtown

Saturday, Oct. 7—WWII Veteran Rich Gruber’s 100th Birthday Celebration at 4 p.m. at Miller’s Ale House, Commack

Sunday, Oct. 8—8th Annual PTSD Awareness Motorcycle Ride by Rolling Thunder NY Chapter 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Marine Corps League, Massapequa

Friday, Oct. 13—Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Assoc. Scramble Golf Tournament from 7 a.m. at Cherry Creek Golf Links, Riverhead

Saturday, Oct. 14—Chili Cook-off and Fall Festival to benefit mental health and veteran care from noon to 4 p.m. at Association for Mental Health and Wellness, Ronkonkoma

Saturday, Oct. 14—Outdoor concert fundraiser to support autism education from 2 to 6 p.m. at VFW Post 9592, Levittown

Saturday, Oct. 14—Roslyn Rocks for Wounded Warriors from 7 p.m. at Roslyn High School, Roslyn

Saturday, Oct. 21—Blue Star Mothers Garage Sale to benefit veterans from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bethpage Railroad Station

Saturday, Oct. 21—23rd Annual VA Hospital Motorcycle Run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Marine Corps League, Massapequa

Saturday, Oct. 21—Legion Auxiliary fall crafting fundraiser at American Legion Post 1033, Elmont

Saturday, Oct. 28—Full Moon Halloween Dance from 7 to 11 p.m. at VFW Post 414, Center Moriches

Thursday, Nov. 9—NY Helmets To Hardhats Service Luncheon at U.S.S. Intrepid, Manhattan

Saturday, Nov. 11—Family Festival and Car Show from noon to 5 p.m. at Samanea Mall, Westbury

Sunday, Nov. 12—Jimmy’s Run/Gold Star Memorial at 7 a.m. hosted by Ranger Lead The Way, Manhasset

Tuesday, Nov. 14—Services For Those Who Served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Centered Mind Body Spirit, Commack

Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18—Mike Del Guidice: A Concert Weekend for Veterans at The Paramount, Huntington

Saturday, Nov. 25—Veterans’ Comedy Showcase at 7 p.m. at Project9Line, Islip

Visit www.facebook.com/livetsbulletin for more details, flyers and contact information for the above listed events. 

–Christy Hinko is a managing editor at Anton Media Group and a U.S. Navy veteran


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