Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, the only holiday on the calendar that encourages people to babble like buccaneers for the sheer, anarchic fun of it.

It’s been celebrated by millions of people on all seven continents – yes, even at the South Pole – and on the International Space Station!

The holiday was the brainchild (if that’s the right word) of John Baur and Mark Summers, two friends from Albany, Ore., who were playing racquetball when, for reasons that aren't clear to either of them now, they started insulting each other in pirate jargon.

They decided to start Talk Like a Pirate Day, and picked September 19th because it is Summers' ex-wife's birthday. The date was stuck in his head and he wasn't doing anything with it anymore, so it would be easy to remember, Summers said.

If you plan on playing along today and talking like a pirate, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with some pirate speak other than the tired old expression....Arr!!

Thanks to the Talk Like a Pirate webpage, here are some handy pirate phrases:


An interjection used to hail a ship or a person, or to attract attention.


An exclamation.


A command meaning stop or desist, from the Italian "basta", meaning stop.

aye (or ay)

Yes; an affirmation.


The state of a sailing vessel which cannot move due to a lack of wind.

bilged on her anchor

A ship holed or pierced by its own anchor.

black spot

A black smudge on a piece of paper used by pirates as a threat. A black spot is often accompanied by a written message specifying the threat. Most often a black spot represents a death threat.


An exclamation of surprise.

blow the man down

To kill someone.

bring a spring upon her cable

To come around in a different direction, oftentimes as a surprise maneuver.


To take a ship into shallower waters or out of the water altogether and remove barnacles and pests such as mollusks, shells and plant growth from the bottom. Often a pirate needs to careen his ship to restore it to proper speed. Careening can be dangerous to pirates as it leaves the ship inoperable while the work is being done.


A ship being pursued, or the act of pursuing a ship.

code of conduct

A set of rules which govern pirates behavior on a vessel.

come about

To bring the ship full way around in the wind. Used in general while sailing into the wind, but also used to indicate a swing back into the enemy in combat.

crack Jenny’s tea cup

To spend the night in a house of ill repute.


To procure (sailors or soldiers) by trickery or coercion, or one who crimps.

dance the hempen jig

To hang.

Davy Jones’ Locker

A fictional place at the bottom of the ocean. In short, a term meaning death. Davy Jones was said to sink every ship he ever over took, and thus, the watery grave that awaited all who were sunk by him was given his name. To die at sea is to go to Davy Jones' Locker.

dead men tell no tales

Standard pirate excuse for leaving no survivors.

fire in the hole

A warning issued before a cannon is fired.


To roll up and secure, especially a ship’s sail.


bilge rat

  1. A rat living in the bilge of a ship. It is considered the lowliest creature by pirates, but many pirates take to eating the animals to survive.
  2. An insulting name given by a pirate.

boatswain (also bosn or bosun)

A warrant officer or petty officer on a merchant ship who is in charge of the ships rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crew.


A pirate, especially one of the freebooters who preyed on Spanish shipping in the West Indies during the 17th century. The buccaneers were first hunters of pigs and cattle on the islands of Hispanola and Tortuga, but were driven off by the Spanish and turned to piracy. Buccaneers were said to be heavy drinking, cruel pirates.


A familiar term meaning friend.


One who drinks wassail and engages in festivity, especially riotous drinking.

chandler, or ship chandler

  1. A dealer offering supplies such as rope, lard, tools and galley supplies .

See also sutler.


A term of familiar address and fellowship among sailors.


One that trespasses on a trade monopoly, as by conducting unauthorized trade in an area designated to a chartered company; a ship used in unauthorized trade.

Jack Ketch

The hangman. To dance with Jack Ketch is to hang.

Jack Tar (or tar)

A sailor.


A servant boy or a dishonorable man. Also a Jack in a deck of cards.


A way to address a younger male.

landlubber (or lubber)

A person unfamiliar with the sea or seamanship. The term doesn't derive from "land lover," but rather from the root of lubber, meaning clumsy or uncoordinated. Thus, a landlubber is one who is awkward at sea for familiarity with the land. The term is used to insult the abilities of one at sea.


A way to address a younger female.


A person posted to keep watch on the horizon for other ships or signs of land.


A piratical way to address someone in a cheerful, if not necessarily friendly, fashion.


A scoundrel.


One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation; the opposite of a privateer.


A sailor with a letter of marque from a government. Technically a privateer was a self employed soldier paid only by what he plundered from an enemy. In this, a privateer was supposed to be above being tried for piracy. A privateer is theoretically a law-abiding combatant, and entitled to be treated as an honorable prisoner if captured. Most often, privateers were a higher class of criminal, though many became pirates.


The person responsible for discipline on board a ship.


A mischievous person; a scoundrel.

scallywag (also scalawag)

A villainous or mischievous person.

scourge of the seven seas

A pirate known for his extremely violent and brutal nature.


A promiscuous woman; a female prostitute.


A merchant in port, selling the various things that a ship needs for supplies and repairs.

swashbuckler (or swasher)

An adventurous, romantic swordsman who is also chivalrous, witty, and generally has a sense of humor. The term was coined in the 16th century when men used a buckle, or small shield, in one fist opposite their sword.


A young woman or peasant girl, sometimes a prostitute.


Source: Talk Like A Pirate

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