Navy Terms, Slang and Jargon

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Navy Terms, Slang and Jargon


  • 1MC - 1MC, "1 Main Circuit", shipboard public address system. Sometimes known as "Bitchbox"


  • Above or Abovedecks - A direction: Navy for "up." If you ascend to a higher deck on a Navy ship (using a ladder), you go "above." If you go all the way up to the weather decks, you go "topside"
  • Adrift - Not secured; scattered about; not properly stowed, or out of place.
  • Afterburner - A system in the engine(s) of many tactical aircraft which dramatically increases thrust at the cost of doubling (or more) the fuel consumption
  • Air Boss - The watchstander responsible for the safe operation of the carrier’s flight deck. His minions direct the placement of aircraft on the deck, monitor the operation of catapults and arresting gear, and direct firefighting efforts if a crash occurs.
  • Aloft : A location above the weather decks, such as the rigging or antenna farm. Usually heard in word passed every 15-minutes when personnel are working on radars aboard ship
  • Angled Deck - The landing area of a modern carrier, which is offset 10 degrees to port from the ship's centerline to provide for safe BOLTERs
  • Aweigh - (sometimes seen (improperly) as "away") When a ship raises (weighs) anchor, the anchor is said to be aweigh as soon as it is no longer in contact with the sea bottom. From the process of weighing anchor.
  • Apple Jack : Slang for 21 day wine made out of bug juice, sugar and yeast. Don't forget the boxed raisins (for texture). Tastes like crap but packs a powerful wallop
  • Athwartships: A direction perpendicular to the bow-stern axis of the ship. That is, moving port-to-starboard or starboard-to-port. A passageway that goes in this direction is called an "athwartship passageway."


  • Balls to the wall - Maximum speed, or maximum effort.
  • BAM - Originally this term meant Bad-Ass Marine. It has since come to mean Broad Ass Marine, a female marine
  • Batten Down - Make fast, secure, or shut. Originally, deck hatches did not have hinged, attached covers. Hatch covers were separate pieces which were laid over the hatch opening, then made fast with battens (pieces of timber).
  • BCG's : Birth Control Glasses. Standard Navy-issue corrective eyewear. So named because they are so thick and hideous that you are guaranteed never to have sex while you are wearing them. The only option for vision correction during boot camp, because contacts are not allowed and other frame choices are not offered. Nearly impossible to break, although many recruits dedicate much time and effort towards that end
  • Belay - (1) Stop. (2) Make fast. Derived from the practice of tying a line off (making it fast) using a belaying pin. (3) Disregard, as in "belay my last."
  • Bells - A system of marking the time aboard ship. Each bell represents half an hour, and bells are rung in pairs, so five bells in the morning watch (0630 hours, or 6:30 a.m.) would be rung as ding-ding, ding-ding, ding. Bells are normally rung over the 1MC during working hours
  • Benny : A treat or reward, derived from "Benefit"
  • Berthing: Living quarters for enlisted personnel. Aboard ship berthing is usually a relatively large space filled with three-deep racks, lockers, a couple of TV's, minimal furniture, and an attached head
  • Black Water - Sewage
  • BM - Boatswain's Mate
  • Boondockers - Navy issue work boots. They are made out of black leather with black rubber sole, come up to your ankle and have steel toes. They are the most uncomfortable shoes you could ever wear.
  • Bow: The front of the ship. When used by lookouts, it may be preceded by port or starboard when a contact is slightly to the left or right of the bow. For example, a surface contact on the 340 relative bearing would be on the port bow
  • Bosun’s Whistle (or Pipe) – A small metal whistle used to signal the announcement of important messages, or for ceremonial purposes.
  • Brass – Officers, especially senior officers
  • Brightworks: Any decorative metal that must be constantly shined with Brasso or Nevr-Dull to avoid tarnishing. This undesirable duty is often performed by the most junior personnel in the command. Example: the stainless steel rails in boot camp around the galley.
  • Brow – The proper term for what is often called the ‘gangway,’ the temporary bridge connecting the ship’s quarterdeck to the pier.
  • Brown-Shirt – A Plane Captain, so called because of the brown jersey he wears
  • Bug juice - A substance similar in appearance to Kool-Aid which is served as a beverage aboard US Navy ships. Its color has no bearing on its flavor. Largely composed of ascorbic acid. Used extensively as an all-purpose cleaner/stripper for bulkheads, decks, brass fire nozzles, and pipes.
  • Bug Out - 'Getting the hell out of Dodge.' An escape maneuver from an air-to-air fight
  • BUPERS - Bureau of Naval Personnel
  • BZ - Bravo Zulu (meaning Well Done)


  • CAP - Combat Air Patrol. Usually defensive in nature
  • Carrier Landings – A game involving a long flat table and, generally, a lot of beer. Participants run toward the table and dive onto it face-first. The goal is to arrive safely and not slide off the end. Refinements such as the need to engage "arresting gear" with one’s toes, "crash and smash" teams using pitchers of beer to extinguish post-crash fires, etc., are common
  • Chinese Fire Drill – Any evolution notable for its complete lack of coordination or military smartness
  • CF - Charlie Foxtrot Polite form of "Cluster Fuck"
  • Compartment – A room aboard ship
  • CNO - Chief of Naval Operations
  • CPO - Chief Petty Officer
  • Crow - The rate insignia of a US Navy Petty Officer (E-4 through E-6), so-called because of the eagle surmounting the rate chevrons.


  • Deck – What the civilian calls a floor
  • Deck Ape - Surface fleet personnel, usually Boatswain's Mates, that care for topside gear and equipment
  • Dixie Cup - The US Navy sailor's white hat
  • Doggie Dicks – Breakfast sausages


  • EM - Electrician's Mate<ref name=""/>
  • ENS - Ensign
  • Evolution : Navy preferred term for exercise


  • FAG - Fighter-Attack Guy. The pilot of an F/A-18
  • FC - Fire Controlman
  • FDO - Flight Deck Officer
  • Field Day - To scrub or otherwise clean a ship's spaces. Usually ordered when the COB or the XO thinks morale is low.
  • Flying Bravo – When a woman is menstruating, she is said to be ‘flying Bravo.’ The Bravo alphabet flag is all red
  • FOD - Foreign object damage (Debris and Detection also used in some cases). Can be used as a noun ("Look at the piece of FOD I picked up.") or a verb ("Dave FODded his engine last night.") Any object, including people, which might be sucked into, and thereby damage, a jet engine. FOD can also describe a worthless individual, i.e. "If Airman Smith isn't in this shop in 5 minutes, write that piece of FOD up."
  • FOD Walkdown - Unpopular activity aboard aircraft carriers where all personnel not on watch line up and walk the flight deck from end to end, picking up any object that might damage an engine or, if picked up by jet blast, an eye


  • Gig – Small boat carried aboard ship, e.g. the Captain’s gig
  • Goat Locker - Chiefs' Quarters and Mess. The term originated during the era of wooden ships, when Chiefs were given charge of the milk goats on board. Nowadays more a term of respect for the age of its denizens
  • Golden Rivet - The mythical last rivet which completes a ship. Generally found in the depths of the engineering spaces, a maneuver used to get a female guest to bend over. "And if you look 'way down there, you can see the golden rivet!"
  • Grog: Initially, this referred to the watered down rum ration given daily to sailors in the Royal Navy. Presently in the USN, it refers to the alcoholic brew offered at social events like "dining-ins" and "dining-outs." Depending on the wardroom and in particular on the person preparing the grog, it may be pleasant and delicious or one of the most foul and disgusting beverages ever conceived
  • GQ - General Quarters General Quarters. The call for all hands to man battle stations. Often used prepare the crew to react to a potential emergency. For example, a ship will call away general quarters for a major fuel or oil leak in the engineering spaces (to prepare in case a fire results)


  • Hangar Queen – An aircraft that never seems to be in flyable condition, it often sits in a corner and provides spare parts for serviceable aircraft instead.
  • Hardpoint – Location or locations on an aircraft’s wings and fuselage where weapons or other stores can be hung
  • Head – Marine toilet. In its original form, toilet facilities were found right forward in the bows, so that the smell would be blown downwind and away from the ship (since sailing ships could not lie directly into the wind when underway). The extreme fore part of a ship was known as the "beakhead," which may have been shortened to "head" over time.
  • Heave Out And Trice Up – Originally, a call for sailors to get out of their hammocks, roll them up, and trice (tie) them to the ship’s rail. Among other things, it reduced the splinters produced when a cannon ball hit the (wooden) rail. Today, it simply means it’s time for a sailor to get out of his or her bunk, making sure it is shipshape
  • Heave to – In a sailing ship, to come into the wind and essentially stop, with minimum sail area exposed. Used to wait out a squall or storm
  • HM - Hospital Corpsman


  • I&I – Intercourse and Intoxication. A takeoff on R&R


  • Jarhead - A Marine. Reportedly, due to the "high and tight" haircut favored by many marines; it looks as if someone put a bowl on the victim’s head and cut or shaved off all the hair that protruded.
  • Jury Rig – A temporary fix, or makeshift


  • Keelhaul – Ancient form of punishment from the days of sail, in which a sailor was thrown overboard and dragged under the ship to the other side with a line. Usually fatal, and if not, then causing serious injury due to the barnacles and other hard objects encrusting the hull


  • Let the Cat Out of the Bag – Originally, this term simply meant to remove the cat (cat o’nine tails) from its baize bag, generally preliminary to administering punishment. The term’s meaning today is to reveal a secret
  • Liberty Launch/Boat – Various small craft used to shuttle personnel ashore and back aboard when the ship is anchored out rather than moored alongside. May be operated by a civilian contractor or by ship’s personnel.
  • LSO - Landing Signal Officer. Aka 'Paddles'. A specially-qualified pilot who observes landing approaches aboard a carrier. A pilot's 'passes' (approaches) are critiqued and graded as follows: OK ('okay underline pass') is the elusive perfect pass, and counts as 4 points. OK ('okay pass') counts 3 points. A 'no grade pass' is worth 2 points; A 'bolter pass' (which grade can be assigned whether the aircraft traps successfully or not) is worth 1 point. A 'cut pass' counts zero points and is considered to have put ship, plane, and pilot in danger
  • LT - Lieutenant
  • LTJG - Lieutenant Junior Grade


  • Meatball: Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System, a visual landing aid used by naval aviators landing on a carrier
  • Mast: Preceded by Captain's or Admiral's, but these are generally not spoken. A form of non-judicial punishment in which a sailor finds himself standing tall in
front of the old man when he really screws the pooch. Green felt is usually abundant. In the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, an enlisted may also "request mast" to present a concern over the heads of immediate superiors
  • Mayday – Distress call via radio, anglicized from the French M’aidez (help me)
  • Messdecks – Crew’s eating area
  • Midrats - Food served at midnight for ongoing watchstanders, although the oncoming watch section commonly does not get up early enough to partake. Offgoing section gets the remnants, if any. Usually a combination of leftovers, plus something new to round out the service. A contraction of "midnight rations."
  • Missing Man Formation

A classic aircraft maneuver used to honor the dead or missing. The simplest type of missing man formation consists of four aircraft that begin in what's known as the "fingertip strong right" formation. That means they're in the shape of a V, with the right arm—from the pilots' perspective—longer than the left. If you think of the relative positions of your fingertips when you look at the back of your right hand; the leader (or middle finger) has two planes (the ring finger and pinkie) trailing off his right wing and one (the pointer) off his left. As the V passes overhead, the plane in the ring-finger position peels away into the sunset, sometimes trailing a cloud of smoke.

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  • Mustang – An officer who has 'come up through the ranks', i.e. started out as an enlisted man and earned a commission


  • NAS - Naval Air Station
  • NFO - Naval Flight Officer
  • Nonskid - An epoxy compound applied to deck surfaces to improve traction for feet and wheels. At the end of a cruise, when a flight deck's nonskid is mostly gone, not to mention oily and/or greasy, taxiing or landing can be even more of an adventure than usual. Usually applied to all weather decks of any ship
  • Nonskid Wax : A fictitious substance used for waxing non-skid decks. Usually something junior Sailors are sent looking for
  • NSY - Naval Shipyard


  • Oh Dark Thirty - Very late at night, or very early in the morning
  • OOD - Officer of the Deck
  • On Report : The initial discipline practice notifying an individual that he/she is being investigated for possible discipline
  • Operation GOLDENFLOW : A command-wide urinalysis test
  • Overhead – What a civilian would call the ceiling. Essentially, the underside of the deck above


  • Padeye - (1) A recessed tie-down point on a flight deck or a flight line. (2) Almost any anchor point on a bulkhead or deck
  • Pooped – Term used when a wave breaks over a ship’s stern


  • Rack - Bed, especially the combination bed and locker found as enlisted sleeping accommodations
  • R&R – Rest and Rehabilitation
  • RIO - Radar Intercept Officer


  • SAR – Search And Rescue (Mission). Pronounced as a word, not initials
  • Screw the Pooch – To make a mistake, especially a serious one
  • Scuttlebutt - (1) Drinking fountain; Originally, a BUTT which had been SCUTTLED, used to hold drinking water for crew access in sailing ships. (2) Gossip or rumors. Originated from the habit of crewmembers of talking while at the scuttlebutt
  • Shipshape – Also seen as "Shipshape and Bristol fashion." The desired condition of any ship or unit; the maintenance of seamanlike appearance. Every piece of gear stowed neatly, "a place for everything, and everything in its place."
  • Squid - Sailor. Frequently modified by the other services, especially Marines, with the adjective "fucking"
  • Squared Away – Originally, to "square away" meant to trim a ship’s sails to put her before the wind (i.e. get underway). Today, it means a ship that looks good, maneuvers smartly, etc., or refers to a sailor who is capable and smart in appearance and action
  • Stateroom – The room in which an officer lives. Originally, the term ‘stateroom’ referred to the better-quality lodging available aboard riverboats plying the rivers of the early United States; these rooms were named after various states of the Union. It has come to mean any motel-style room aboard ship (as compared to berthing spaces, which are barracks style)


  • TAD - Temporary Additional Duty, as when attending a school. Generally less than 6 months. Facetiously, 'Traveling Around Drunk.' See also TDY
  • TDY - Temporary Duty
  • Trap - Arrested landing aboard a carrier


  • VF - Fixed Wing Fighter (no longer used)
  • VFA - Fixed Wing Strike Fighter Squadron


  • Waveoff - A call by the LSO directing a go-around. Unlike most radio calls to a pilot, a waveoff is not advisory in nature
  • WTF - Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, usually an interrogative phrase, but may also be used in a declarative manner