All At Sea – Nautical Terminology – Part One

Throughout history, the world of sailing has been a great inspiration for culture and language. You may not know it, but there are plenty of commonly used phrases whose origins are nautical, and you probably use them every day. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the phrases that began at sea and have now become part of our everyday vocabulary.

By and Large

Meaning: generally speaking; on the whole.

The words ‘by’ and ‘large’ have their own nautical meaning, so they have been paired up to take on a new definition. If the wind is blowing in a ship’s direction of travel, it is said to be ‘large’, which refers to being able to use the largest sails for ease of travel. The word ‘by’ meant ‘the direction of’, so ‘by the wind’ would mean that you were sailing into the wind.

Taken Aback

Meaning: surprised or startled.

The word ‘aback’ was often used to refer to a ship’s sails when they are blown back into the mast by the wind. If the wind were suddenly to change direction, they would be said to be ‘taken aback’, and the vessel ran the risk of being dismasted.

Tide Over

Meaning: having a small allowance to last until stocks are replenished.

The phrase sounds pretty nautical due to the use of the word ‘tide’, but you may not know the reason for the phrase. In seafaring terms, the word ‘tide’ was often used to refer to time, so when spoken as a whole phrase, it meant that, when there is no wind to fill the sails, you would simply float with the tide until the wind picked up again.

Here at Offshore Supply, we are not just experts in sailing lingo, but we also know a thing or two about supplying boats and ships with everything they need to be sea-worthy. That’s why we’re leading boat chandlers, equipped to fit you out with anything from cabin to cleaning supplies. For more information about any of our services, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling 01524 862010 to speak to a member of our friendly team.