Becoming a sailor means learning a lot of new habits, skills, and lessons. Without a doubt, learning to talk like a sailor is like learning a new language.
There’s a lot of slang and acronyms.
But with a little practice, you’ll have it down in no time.
You’ll hear a lot of specific terminology aboard a ship, but you’ll also hear some Navy terms around military establishments like bases or government buildings. If you’re getting ready to head off to Navy boot camp, reviewing these terms will give you an advantage over your peers.
There are many more terms you’ll learn than what’s listed here, but these are some of the main military terms you’ll want to know right away.
Below, we’ve included a list of 73 words to help you get started:
Abaft — farther aft
Aft — toward the stern
Ahoy — call for attention
All hands — the entire ship’s company
ASN — Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Astern — behind a ship
BAH — basic allowance for housing
BAS — basic allowance for subsistence
Below — beneath (“lay below” means to go downstairs, for example)
Billet — location where a sailor is assigned
Bow — forward end of a boat or ship
Bridge — room from which a ship is commanded
Brig — jail on a ship
BUPERS — Bureau of Navy Personnel
CENTCOM — Central Command
Chow — food
CIC — combat information center
CJCS — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs
CMAA — chief master-at-arms
CMC — Command Master Chief (general)
CMDCM — command master chief petty officer
CNET — chief master-at-arms
CNO — Chief of Naval Operations
CO — commanding officer; AKA “Captain” of the ship
Colors — the national ensign; the ceremony to lower and raise the ensign
Davy Jones’ locker — bottom of the sea
DC — damage control
Dead Ahead — straight ahead
DEERS — Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
DoD — Department of Defense
DoN — Department of the Navy
Forward — toward the bow
FOUO — for official use only
FSA — family separation allowance
General quarters (GQ) — full readiness for battle
Helm — steering the wheel of the ship
IC — interior communications or internal communications
IFF — identification of friend or foe
Jetty — structure built out from shorelines to change water currents
Jacob’s ladder — portable rope
Knot — 1 nautical mile per hour
Lay — movement of a person
Log — book in which data or events that happened during watch are recorded
Main deck — uppermost complete deck (in aircraft carriers, this is the hangar bay)
MARCENT — U.S. Marine Forces Central Command
Master-at-Arms — ship police force member
Mate — fellow shipmate
Muster — roll call
MWR — Morale, Welfare, and Recreation
NEX — Navy Exchange
OCS — Officer Candidate School
OPSEC — Operational Security
Overboard — over the side of the boat
PCS — permanent change of station
PIR — Pass in Review
PO — petty officer
Pollywog — one who has never crossed over the equator
PRT — physical readiness test
Quarterdeck — deck area designated by the CO as the place to host official events
RDC — recruit division commander
SCPO — senior chief petty officer
Scuttlebutt — drinking fountain; rumor
Shellback — person who has crossed the equator
Shift colors — change arrangement of colors after getting underway
Shipshape — neat, clean
Sick bay — area aboard ship that serves as a hospital or medical clinic
SR— Seaman Recruit
Stern — back part of a vessel
Turn in — heading to bed
UA — unauthorized absence
VCNO — Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Wake — Trail left by watercraft moving through water
Watch — usually a 4-hour period into which a day is divided; a particular duty
XO — executive officer; second person in command
YN — yeoman
Start Talking Like a Sailor
You’ll want to start practicing this lingo long before you head to the Recruit Training Command Center in the Great Lakes.
You may not use these Navy terms every day aboard the ship, but you’ll want to know titles and ranks quite well.
Once you get a copy of The Bluejacket’s Manual at boot camp, you’ll also find an updated dictionary with military terms to refresh your memory.
In the meantime, learn the lingo and pass this list along to family members and friends. That way they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about once you start exchanging letters while you’re in boot camp!
If you have a loved one at RTC Great Lakes, be sure to join our RTC Great Lakes Facebook group by clicking here!
What excites you most about basic training? Share with us in the comments below!