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Navy Terms and Definitions


Navy Terms and Definitions

What does all this Navy talk mean? Your sailor will say things that make no sense, ask and we will explain.

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Comment by David Wells on July 31, 2010 at 8:41pm
The origin of the word "scuttlebutt," which is nautical parlance for a rumor, comes from a combination of "scuttle" — to make a hole in the ship's hull and thereby causing her to sink —- and "butt" — a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water. The cask from which the ship's crew took their drinking water — like a water fountain — was the "scuttlebutt". Even in today's Navy a drinking fountain is referred to as such. But, since the crew used to congregate around the "scuttlebutt", that is where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Thus, then and now, rumors are talk from the "scuttlebutt" or just "scuttlebutt".
Comment by David Wells on July 31, 2010 at 8:39pm
Pea Coat -
Sailors who have to endure pea-soup weather often don their pea coats but the coat's name isn't derived from the weather. The heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from "pilot cloth" — a heavy, course, stout kind of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. The cloth was sometimes called P-cloth for the initial letter of "pilot" and the garment made from it was called a p-jacket — later, a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth.
Comment by E.G. - ND's Creator/Admin on July 29, 2010 at 9:47pm
David, Otto,

Thanks for the terms and definitions in this group. I recently started something similar in the about us links on the right "Navy Lingo & Slang". If either of you know of terms or slang that should be added to that link, please pass them along to me or post here in the group.

I think it's a must for the new Navy families to learn to speak their language. So what y'all are doing is very beneficial to the site.

Comment by Otto Mueller on July 29, 2010 at 9:05pm
Guess now they will be called E-chit....darn technology is taking all the fun out of things!

"MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- The Navy announced the implementation of its new Electronic Leave (E-Leave) system in a message July 27.

According to NAVADMIN 252/10 all shore commands will use E-Leave to request, track and manage leave once their Command Leave Administrator (CLA) completes initial setup within the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System (NSIPS) application.

The Navy requires all PSDs, CSDs and shore commands to be fully using E-Leave by Oct. 31. Sailors, reviewers and approvers can access E-Leave through NSIPS at "
Comment by David Wells on July 29, 2010 at 8:30pm
Chit - One tradition carried on in the Navy is the use of the chit. It is a carry over from the days when Hindu traders used slips of paper called citthi for money, so they wouldn't have to carry heavy bags or gold and silver. British sailors shortened the word to chit and applied it to their mess vouchers. Its most outstanding use in the Navy today is for drawing pay and a form used for requesting leave and liberty. But the term is currently applied to almost any piece of paper from a pass to an official letter requesting some privilege.
Comment by David Wells on July 21, 2010 at 3:46pm
Bravo Zulu - The term originates from the Allied Signals Book (ATP 1), which in the aggregate is for official use only. Signals are sent as letters and/or numbers, which have meanings by themselves sometimes or in certain combinations. A single table in ATP 1 is called "governing groups," that is, the entire signal that follows the governing group is to be performed according to the "governor." The letter "B" indicates this table, and the second letter (A through Z) gives more specific information. For example, "BA" might mean "You have permission to . . . (do whatever the rest of the flashing light, flag hoist or radio transmission says) "BZ" happens to be the last item in the governing groups table. It means "well done".
Comment by Otto Mueller on July 16, 2010 at 2:16pm
Very good, David. This will no doubt be a popular group. I will 'clean up' my lists and add a few from time to time. Hopefully, people will ask about a term or phrase they've heard instead of waiting to see what gets posted. BZ! (ok, BZ stands for Bravo Zulu basically stating "job well done")
Comment by David Wells on July 16, 2010 at 1:35pm
Dog Watch Dog watch is the name given to the 1600 1800 and the 1800 2000 watches aboard ship. The 1800 2000 4 hour watch was originally split to prevent men from always having to stand the same watches daily. As a result, sailors dodge the same daily routine, hence they are dodging the watch, or standing the 'dodge' watch. In its corrupted form, dodge soon became dog and the procedure is referred to as "dogging the watch" or standing the "dog watch." (P.S. It is always FIRST and LAST Dogwatch, never FIRST and SECOND)
Comment by David Wells on July 16, 2010 at 12:50pm
Five minutes before Taps and Lights out, the announcement is made: "Tattoo, Tattoo, lights out in five minutes". Why Tattoo?
- During the 100 years war in the ‎17th century British military garrisons in the low countries (Belgum and the Netherlands) would send drummers into towns and villages to play at 21:30 (9:30 PM) informing soldiers that it was time to return to the billits for 22:00 (10:00 PM) curfew. It was called ‘Doe den tap toe’ (Old Dutch for ‘turn off the tap’, or quit selling beer.) Over the years it was shortened to ‘taptoe’, then ‘taptoo’, then later ‘tattoo’. Now the call is 'Tattoo, Tattoo, lights out in 5 minutes"
In some outfits, bugles replaced drums for the TapToe call at night, the bugle call eventually evolved into 'Taps'.

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