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Navy lingo decoded: Terms every Sailor should know

Becoming a Sailor means learning a lot of training skills and lessons. Without a doubt, learning to speak like a Sailor is similar to learning...

navy terms

Becoming a Sailor means learning a lot of training skills and lessons. Without a doubt, learning to speak like a Sailor is similar to learning a new language.

There are many Navy terms, jargon 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 words to help you get started:

Navy Terms

Adrift – Loose from mooring and out of control – also anything left lying about

Aft-end — near or toward the stern (rear of the ship)

Ahoy — call for attention from a distance

All Hands — the entire ship’s company or the entire command

Allotment – amount of money automatically taken from pay 

Astern —  behind a ship

Aye Aye – reply to a command or order – “I understand” (Aye) and I will comply (Aye)”

Avast – cease or stop

BAH —  basic allowance for housing

BAS —  basic allowance for subsistence; (meals) for service member 

Barracks – building where Sailors or recruits live

Below — beneath (“lay below” means to go downstairs, for example)

Brightwork – brass or shiny metal that is polished instead of painted

Bow — forward end of a boat or ship

Bridge — also pilothouse – room from which a ship is commanded

Brig — military prison on a ship or base

Bunk – rack or bed

BUPERS — Bureau of Navy Personnel

Carry On – order to resume work or duties

Cast Off – to throw off; “Cast off a mooring line”

Chain locker – room in forward part of the ship where the anchor chain is stored

Chit – official piece of paper indicating a special request or granted permission

Chow — food or meal

CMDCM —  Command Master Chief Petty Officer – rating for the most senior enlisted Sailor in a command; also abbreviated as CMC.

CNO —   Chief of Naval Operations

CO —   Commanding Officer; also known as the Captain of the ship

Colors —  ceremony for raising or lowering of the National Ensign Held at 0800 and at sunset

CPO – Chief Petty Officer

Deep Six – to dispose of by throwing over the side of a ship underway

DC —  damage control

Dead Ahead —   straight ahead

Deck – floor or ground

DEERS —  Defense Enrollment Eligibility  Reporting System

DoD —  Department of  Defense

DoN —   Department of the Navy

Ensign – National Flag; also commissioned officer with a paygrade of O-1 whose rank is between Chief Warrant Officer 5 and Lieutenant Junior Grade 

Fast – snugly secured 

Fathom – unit of length (equal to 6 feet) used for measuring the depth of water

Flag Officer – a commissioned officer with a paygrade of 0-7 or above

Forward —   toward the bow of a ship

FSA —    family separation allowance is an allowance that a Sailor may be entitled to when involuntarily separated from dependants; also Food Service Attendant for Sailors who are performing food prep duties on a ship

Galley – kitchen for preparing meals

Gangway – opening in the lifelines of a ship that allows access to the brow, accommodation ladder; also an order to clear the way

Gear Locker – storage room

Geedunk – candy, gum, snacks or a cafeteria

General quarters (GQ) — order to leave what you are doing to get to Battle Stations

Gigline – The straight line that runs down the front center of the torso formed by the alignment of the shirt, belt buckle and pants zipper.

Head – bathroom or toilet 

Helm —  steering wheel of the ship that controls the rudder 

Jacob’s ladder —   portable rope or metal ladder for accessing ships

Knot —   1 nautical mile per hour; also tying a line or rope to securely fasten 

Liberty – permission given to leave the ship or base 

Lifeline – lines around the weather decks of a ship to prevent personnel from falling over the side

Lay —   movement of a person or group of personnel

Log —   book in which data or events that happened during watch are recorded

Main deck —  uppermost deck that extends from the stem (the very forward-most point of the ship) to the stern (i.e. hangar bay on an aircraft carriers)Master-at-Arms —  ship security force member; also in basic training the recruit master-at-arms is the recruit who is responsible for monitoring good order

MCPO – Master Chief Petty Officer

MCPON – Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy

Mess Deck – designated area where Sailors eat meals 

Muster —  process for accounting for all members in a unit; roll call

MWR —  Morale, Welfare, and Recreation

NEX —  Navy Exchange

OPSEC —   Operational Security

Overboard —  over the side of the ship or boat

Overhead – ceiling or above 

Passageway – hallway or corridor

Paygrade – administrative classifications to indicate pay across the military service branches; i.e. E-1, E-2, etc.

PCS —   permanent change of station or transfer

PIR —  Pass in Review

PO1/PO2/PO3 —   Petty Officer 1st Class; Petty Officer 2nd Class; Petty Officer 3rd Class

PRT —   physical  readiness test

Quarterdeck — designated area by the CO for official use or ceremonies 

Quarters – formal assembling of All Hands for muster, instruction, and inspection

Rate – enlisted occupation and paygrade; a Boatswain Mate 1st Class would be abbreviated BM1 and a Electronics Technician Chief would be abbreviated ETC

Rating – enlisted occupations earned through A school or OJT ; an example would be a Fire Controlman (FC) or Damage Controlman (DC)

Reville – the time to wake up; will not be past 0600 

RDC —   Recruit Division Commander

Recruit – in basic training all trainees are referred to as recruit

SCPO —  Senior Chief Petty Officer

Scuttlebutt —   drinking fountain; a rumor

Secure – lock, put away, or cease work

Shift colors —  change arrangement of colors after getting underway

Sick bay —  area aboard ship that serves as a hospital or medical clinic

Sick call — time designated for personnel to seek non emergency medical attention 

SR/SA/SN—  Seaman Recruit; Seaman Apprentice; Seaman; 

Stem – forward most point of ship or vessel 

Stern — aftmost part of a ship or vessel

Swab – mop or the action of using a mop on the deck

Taps – bugle call to signal the end of the military day; also played at military ceremonies such as funerals and memorial services 

Tattoo – five minutes before Taps

Topside – weatherdecks of a ship; also upstairs

Turn In —  heading to bed

Turn To – begin work or to return to working

UA —   unauthorized absence

VCNO —   Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Watch —  period of time, usually a 4-hour periods, to where one mans a watch station and performs a particular duty; 

XO —  Executive Officer; second person in command

Start Talking Like a Sailor

You’ll want to start learning and practicing this language long before you head to the Recruit Training Command,Great Lakes.

You may not use all of these Navy terms every day onboard the ship, but you’ll be better prepared if you use them more often. Once you get a copy of your Recruit Training Guide and The Bluejacket’s Manual at basic training, you’ll also find additional military terms.

In the meantime, learn the terms and pass this list along to your family members, friends and supporters. 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.

What excites you most about basic training? Share with us in the comments below!

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