Naval Slang

The term “Chock-A-Block”, meaning ‘full’, is a naval expression. It comes from the days of sail when blocks and tackle were in common use in a ship’s rigging. When the lower block of a tackle was run close up to the upper one, so that the blocks were together and could be hoisted no higher, they were said to be “Chock-A-Block”. The term “Slush Fund” was also originally a nautical term: the slush was the fat or grease skimmed from the top of the cauldron when boiling salted meat. Ships’ officers would sell the fat to tallow makers, with the resulting proceeds kept as a “slush” fund for making small purchases for the ships’ company.

Over the years hundreds of naval words, terms and expressions have found their way into everyday vernacular, including well-known ones such as “the cat is out of the bag”, “above board”, “long shot” and “over a barrel”.

Many of the naval terms we use today have been used for hundreds of years. The word Admiral may be traced from the Arabic word ‘Amir-al-bahr’, meaning ‘Commander of the seas’. Romans used the term ‘Sarraccenorum Admiral’ inserting the letter ‘d’ that we know today.

Naval slang has been used since the formation of the RAN, much of it taken from the Royal Navy. The following is a brief collection of terms and sayings that may be heard in most RAN ships or establishments.

Adrift: Absent or late for a muster
Ahoy: A seaman's call for attention
All nighters in: All night in one’s bed/night without going on watch             
Aloft: Anything above the main deck of the ship
Alongside: Against the side of the ship, such as the wharf
Amidships: The centre part of a ship or boat
As you were: A warning to return to your original position
Avast: Stop what you are doing
Badges: Short name for continuous service badges
Bait Layer: A member of the cookery branch
Bandy: A musician
Banyan: A beach BBQ
Beagle: A steward
Below there: A call to a person below
Bight: A loop or slack in a length of rope
Birdie: A member of the aviation branch
Black Cat: A person with more impressive stories than you
Bravo Zulu: Well done (BZ)
Brew: A coffee or tea
Bright Work: Polished metal fittings
Buffer: Sailor in charge of the boatswain branch
Burgoo: Porridge
Buzz: A rumour
Common Dog: Common sense
Civvies: Civillian clothing or personnel
Deck Head: The roof
Dhobey: Washing/Laundry
Dhobey Dust: Washing powder
Dibbie: A member of the Boatswains branch
Dit: A story/book/movie
Double Duffer: A member of ships’ company who consumes two servings of dessert
Duff: Dessert
Fang Bosun: Dentist
Freshers: Fresh water
Gammas: Sunlight
Getters: Thongs
Goffer: A soft drink
Goffer Bits: Loose change
Gongs: Medals
Greenie: An electrical sailor
Grey Funnel Line: The RAN
Half a dog watch: A short amount of time
Heads: Toilet
Irish Pennant: A loose end of material hanging off a uniform
Jack/Jack Tar: A sailor
Jibbers: Sauce/cleaning product
Killick/Kellick: A Leading Seaman
Kit: Uniform
Maccas: Snacks or confectionery
Maggot Bag: Meat pie
Oppo: A friend or colleague
Pay Off: Discharge from the Navy
Pipe Down: Cease work for the day
Pit: Bed
Rack: Bed
Redders: Tomato sauce
Rocky: Naval Reserve member
Scab Lifter: A medical sailor
Scran: Food or a meal served at sea
Sculling: Anything left lying around
Scribe: A writer
Sin Bosun: A chaplain
Skipper: Captain of a ship
Sky Pilot: A chaplain
Skulk/Skulking: The act of knowingly avoiding work
Soggies: Cereal
Stoker: A marine technician - the term is derived from the days when ships were coal burners whose furnaces required frequent stoking.
Throw a Goffer: Salute
Tiddley Oggie: A pastie
Train Smash: A breakfast dish made from tomatoes
Under-armers: Deodorant
Uppers: Upper deck of the ship
Warm the Bell: To prepare for an early departure or end of a watch.



Nicknames also abound in the RAN, for instance, Rear Admiral Peter Hogarth Doyle was given the nickname ‘Daphne’ by his peers, and this stuck for the rest of his naval career. Rear Admiral Harold Bruce Farncomb acquired the nickname 'Fearless Frank' while commanding HMA ships Perth (I) and Canberra (I) during WWII. More generic nicknames include ‘Blue’ for a RAN member with red hair, or ‘Dutchy’ for a member with a surname beginning with ‘Van’. The following is a list (not comprehensive) of surnames and their associated moniker.

Bell: Dinga
Bennett: Wiggy
Brown: Bomber
Clark: Nobby
Evans: Dorry
Fleming: Fluff
Gale: Windy
Gordon: Flash
Gray: Dolly
Hill: Windy
Hudson: Rock
Jones: Spike
Lane: Shady
Martin: Pincher
Metcalfe: Chops
Miller: Dusty
Moore: Pony
Murphy: Spud
Neal: Scratcher
Payne: Whacker
Parker: Nosey
Patterson: Banjo
Reynolds: Debbie
Rodgers: Buck
Smith: Smouch
Taylor: Squizzy
Walker: Phantom
Webb: Spider
White: Knocker
Williams: Bungy
Wilson: Tug
Wright: Shiner