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Geordi La Forge as an 18th century naval officer on the holodeck

Nautical terms, known colloquially as sailor talk or as navy phrases, were a collection of traditional sea-going references. These references were often later used for modern starship operations.


Both naval traditions and maritime traditions existed well into the 24th century, and were commonplace within Starfleet. (DS9: "Rapture", "Behind the Lines"; Star Trek Nemesis)

Miles O'Brien liked to sing "ancient Human sea chanties" in his kayaking holoprogram, which he felt was "necessary to establish a smooth paddling rhythm." Upon learning this fact from Odo, the Female Changeling (who was posing as Kira Nerys) expressed that she "never pictured O'Brien as a nautical type." (DS9: "Heart of Stone")

Key personnel on a ship[]

The crew were the individuals, or shipmates, who served aboard a ship and collectively made up the complement.

Crewmembers or personnel generally consisted of officers and crewmen, as well as civilians. These were also referred to as the ship's "hands".

See also[]


  • Abandon ship
  • Battle stations: ship's crew reported to their assigned combat duty stations; could also refer to the location where a particular crewman reported for combat duty.
  • Belay
  • Flank speed: the fastest speed a ship was capable of, pushing its engines to their maximum output.
  • General quarters: a state of alert aboard ship.
  • Hail: to call, invite, or beckon, initiate means of communication.
  • Heave: (TAS: "The Terratin Incident"; Star Trek: Insurrection; DS9: "Rocks and Shoals")
  • Ready: to prepare something for immediate potential use.
  • Secure: to check to see that something was properly "stowed" or otherwise in its proper place or condition. (Example: to "secure" a door/hatch would be to ensure that it was properly closed and/or locked; to "secure" a room would be to see to it that everything within was properly stowed, or alternately that it was properly locked up.); Also meaning "to Secure" as in ensure tactically sound conditions of readiness such as free from intruders, potential enemies.
  • Stow: to place goods or belongings in their appropriate storage areas.

Other terminology[]

  • Berth: an allotted space for a ship to dock. Also a place for a bed/sleeping for personnel aboard a ship
  • Damage control: the act or task of performing emergency repairs to parts of a ship damaged by combat or accident.
  • Decommission: to retire, or discontinue a ship's service life.
  • Dock: to place the ship into a facility where it is secured for repair, service or rest.
  • Jury rigging: to cobble a repair using whatever means are available.
  • Leave: an approved absence from duty usually for rest and relaxation or convalescence.
  • Mooring: to attach the ship to a fixed berth or dock to prevent drifting and keep secure.
  • Mothball
  • Mother ship: A primary ship whose capability is to carry or serve smaller ships within or in proximity to itself
  • Tacking: to change course by turning into the wind, or other natural propellant (e.g. light) (DS9: "Explorers", "Tacking Into the Wind")
  • Watch: a duty shift.



Ship-board facilities[]

  • Bay: a stowage facility for auxiliary vessels, consumables, or goods such as "shuttlebay" or "cargo bay".
  • Bridge: the main command center of a ship where course was set and essential operations of the ship were monitored.
  • Brig: a secure area where prisoners were held.
  • Engine room: area that contained the ship's engines and power generators.
  • Flight deck: an alternate term for launch/landing area (also called a "shuttlebay").
  • Hangar deck: an alternate term for small craft storage (also called a "shuttlebay").
  • Head: the bathroom facilities on board a ship.
  • Mess: the dining facilities on board a ship
  • Quarters: sleeping area(s) for the crew.
  • Ship's hold: a location where cargo was held
  • Sickbay: the ship's hospital; called an infirmary on planet- or base-side facilities.

Relative on-board positions[]

Haakona, port

Port side view of a D'deridex-class warbird

Galaxy-class, starboard view

Starboard side view of a Galaxy-class starship

Dorsal shield failure

Display graphic, highlighting the dorsal side of a Sovereign-class starship

Ventral shield failure

Display graphic, highlighting the ventral side of a Sovereign-class starship

  • Ventral: the bottom of a vessel.
    • The ventral plating team stated they would be finished with their work on Enterprise NX-01 in three days in April 2151. (ENT: "Broken Bow")
    • During Shinzon's attack on the Enterprise-E in 2379, all ventral phasers were fired in a single maneuver. In addition, the starship's ventral shielding failed on deck 29 as the result of a focused attack. (Star Trek Nemesis)

Operational components[]

  • Anchor: A heavy weight meant to keep a ship from drifting
  • Ballast
  • Bulkhead: A wall within a ship meant to define room parameters and act as structural support and rigidity
  • Compass: A navigational tool that uses magnetic pole locations to situate directional heading
  • Deck: a floor or level of a ship usually oriented horizontally; often used to describe the walking surface of floors within a ship or the outermost habitable section of a ship.
  • Hatch: A door; usually one that can be sealed off from a hostile environment.
  • Keel
  • Porthole: A window for outside view
  • Rudder
  • Sails
  • Sextant
  • Ship's bell
  • Spar
  • Turret: A rotatable weapons mount that permits a given weapon to fire in the direction it can rotate or move
  • Wheel



  • Course: the direction of travel of a ship or object; courses could be described by destination ("Set course for Starbase 375…"), by heading (see below), or by bearing (see below).
  • To set a course was to either (as an order) command the ship to be turned to that course, or (as an action) to actually turn the ship to the prescribed course.
  • Azimuth
  • Bearing: the direction of an object in relation to the ship's heading; the ship's direction was automatically assumed to be zero and the vector of the other ship's angle was calculated in two 360° arcs that described the object's position along the horizontal and vertical planes of a vessel. The position was described using the horizontal angle in degrees, followed by that of the vertical plane, both measurements separated by the word "mark." (TNG: "Datalore")
  • Heading: the direction of the ship in relation to the center of the galaxy broken down into a 360° arc on the X-axis (yaw); another 360° arc was the direction separated by saying "mark", which was the Y axis (pitch). For example, if a commander of a starship wanted a heading of 180 mark 0, he'd want to turn the ship to the southernmost section of the galaxy while keeping the Y axis of the ship parallel to the plane of the galaxy.

Sometimes a crewman reported the bearing of a ship or object or the heading of the ship with inconsistent numbers, like "heading 12 mark 820", which was an overlooked error by the writers of the show.


Graphical representation of Pitch, roll, and yaw

  • Pitch: The orientation of a ship's bow and aft ends respectively (up and down).
  • Roll: The orientation of the ventral and dorsal sides of the ship respectively.
  • Yaw: The orientation of the port and starboard sides of the ship respectively (side to side).


  • Knot: a measure of velocity, equal to one nautical mile per hour
  • Nautical mile: a measure of distance


  • Circumnavigation
  • Back full / full astern: Full speed in reverse (TOS: "Balance of Terror"; TNG: "Relics", "Descent")
  • Closing: the act of approaching a particular place or object, typically another ship.
  • Come about: an order to change course to that given after the order.
  • Collision course: a course designed to make the ship assuming the course collide with a particular target, often another ship.
  • Ramming speed: the fastest speed a ship could attain while still retaining sufficient maneuverability to remain on a collision course with a target.
  • Conic intersection flight path: a course designed to bring one ship close to another in a way that was not intended to appear threatening to the other vessel; such a course was used by the USS Enterprise to approach V'Ger in the mid-2270s. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
  • Docking maneuvers: maneuvers that allowed a ship to to physically link up with another other body (typically at airlocks), or to allow a ship to be brought into its slip in a dock, or to bring a small craft into its bay.
  • En route, on course: referred to a vessel proceeding on course to a destination.
  • Evasive course or maneuver: one designed to allow the ship to either miss or be missed by another object. Often an Order for a ship to move in such a way to evade a potentially hazardous impact or maneuver to avoid enemy weapons.

Evasive maneuvers were either given as course changes or as a set of changes called a "pattern". The Starfleet "Pattern Delta" was a maneuver that involved rocking a starship hard, from port to starboard, to shake pursuing starships. (DS9: "Shattered Mirror")

Relative positions[]

Class 8 probe, abeam


  • Alongside: to be "alongside" another ship was to be positioned next to it (typically "abeam") and moving in the same direction and speed; to order a helmsman to "bring us alongside" was to order him to assume this position regarding another vessel.

Shore locations and facilities[]

  • Port: a location where personnel and goods could be transferred to and from a ship while not under way; frequently, construction and repair facilities could be found in these type of ports; also known as a "base" or "yard".
  • Drydock: a specific type of dock where ships were protected from typical external environments where they could be repaired or constructed.
  • Docking berth: a place in a port where a ship could be secured. May have also be known as a "dock" or a "slip".
  • Shipyard: A construction facility where ships were built.
  • Wharf: A level facility to which ships can moor for the loading and unloading of goods, cargo and personnel.


The following is a list of primarily nautical idioms, slang, or other figures of speech.

"Abandon ship"

An order for all hands to evacuate a vessel due to an imminent catastrophic event which threatened to destroy the ship. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; TNG: "11001001", et al; DS9: "Emissary", et al; VOY: "Projections", et al; Star Trek; Star Trek Beyond)

"Able-bodied crewmen"

Healthy crewmembers capable of performing their duties.

"Above board"

On or above the deck; also a metaphor for honesty where information is in plain view, not hiding anything.


Floating freely in space, possibly damaged, with no pilot in control at the helm or propulsion system inoperable. (TNG: "The Battle", "Elementary, Dear Data", "Yesterday's Enterprise", "Suddenly Human", "Night Terrors", "Hero Worship", "Time's Arrow", "Ship In A Bottle", "Phantasms", "Force of Nature", "Genesis", Star Trek: First Contact; DS9: "Return to Grace", "In the Cards", "Valiant", "Treachery, Faith and the Great River", "Chimera"; VOY: "Macrocosm", "Unity", "The Raven", "Hunters", "Hope and Fear", "The Fight", "One Small Step", "Ashes to Ashes", "Flesh and Blood", "The Void"; ENT: "Dear Doctor", "Shuttlepod One", "Desert Crossing", "Judgment", "Anomaly (ENT)", "The Forgotten", "The Council", "United")

"(Run) aground"
"Ahead full"

To move a ship in a course at its fullest speed in its front oriented direction.


A greeting.

"All hands"

A collective term for all personnel aboard a starship or starbase. A ship-wide announcement could be addressed to "all hands." A ship that had been lost with no survivors was said to have been "lost with all hands." (TOS: "A Piece of the Action"; TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise"; DS9: "Broken Link")

"All stop"; "full stop"

An order given aboard a vessel to stop all engines from moving either fore or aft. Often answered with "Answering all stop, captain", "Reading all stop, sir", or even just "aye sir".

"Anchor's aweigh"

A response to the order that the anchor had be lifted, often used to announce a vessel's readiness for immediate departure.

"Attention on deck"
"Aye"; "aye, sir"; "aye, aye, sir"; "aye, aye, captain"; "aye, aye, doc(tor)"

An acknowledgment of an order.

In formal usage, a single "aye" would be preceded by a cite-back of the just given order to confirm comprehension, as in "standard orbit, aye sir." such as in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

"Batten down the hatches"

To secure a ship for inclement weather or hazardous conditions; to inform the crew to act within parameters maximizing ship and crew safety.

"Below decks"

To be under the decks; often used in naval terms for the decks of a ship below the waterline where less prominent but essential services were performed.

"Blow the hatch"
"Bon voyage"

French litertally translated as "Well Trip" a old custom for wishing one a safe/enjoyable trip


A damaged area of ship's hull whereby exposed to hazard external environments

"Brine in the veins"

A Monean expression "used to describe someone who has special connection to the Waters."

"By your leave"
"(Captain goes) down with the ship"

An adage of maritime custom whereby a ship's captain is honor bound for the responsibility of the ship and those embarking; whereby the crew/passengers are given priority and captain forgoes departure to be the last person to leave the ship barring a potential sinking, catastrophe or total destruction. (TNG: "Symbiosis"; DS9: "Rocks and Shoals")

  • A variation on that theme was stated by Admiral Kirk to Saavik, following her failed attempt at the Kobiyashi Maru scenario. Following the departure of the trainee crew she remained to discuss her performance with Kirk, who upon initially noticing her asked, "Well, Mister Saavik, are you going to stay with the sinking ship?" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  • Kathryn Janeway considered this one of three things to remember about being a starship captain. (VOY: "Year of Hell, Part II", "Dark Frontier")
"Clean bill of health"

A medical official providing guarantee the examined patient is healthy, therefore capable of performing their duty

"Clear the bridge"

To have all bridge crew or just non-essential personnel leave the bridge. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; TNG: "Half a Life"; DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach")

"Come about"

To change direction, usually opposite of present course

"Come to"
"Cut and run"
"Dead ahead"; "dead astern"
"Dead in the water"

Ship is unable to move; due to circumstance.

"Disembark"; "permission to disembark"

To leave the ship or station.


A ship in a fleet primarily serving as the command vessel carrying the highest ranking commanding officer (usually admiral)

"From stem to stern"; "from bow to stern"

The full length of a ship, from front to back; generally used in terms of defining the full ship. (TOS: "The Squire of Gothos"; VOY: "Waking Moments", "Hunters", "Hope and Fear"; TAS: "The Practical Joker"; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

"Give way"

To yield in order for someone/something else to move

"Hand over fist"

To do so in quick fashion

"Have the conn"; "take the conn"

To take control of a ship's maneuvering controls. The conn was a line officer who was in command of the bridge. During the 23rd century, the phrase was utilized in the traditional sense, where the following officers were said to have had the conn:

During the 24th century, it was said in reference to the conn officer or the actual helm itself, where the following officers have been said to have the conn (position):

"Heave to"

To come to a stop.

"Hit the deck"

Order/warning for one to immediately drop oneself as low as possible due to a avoid or prepare for a potential impact, danger or hazard. On land it is referred to as "Hit the Dirt"


Metal shackles/cuffs meant to restrain a potentially dangerous person


A ancient form of punishment in martime days. To punish severly.


Someone unfamiliar with the sea.

"Leading edge"
"Learn the ropes"

To understand the basic work performed.


When a vessel began to roll or lean too much to one side, which could lead to a ship capsizing.

"Long shot"

A difficult circumstance to achieve. A potential solution that has low probability of success.

"Loose cannon"

One who is highly unpredictable or uncontrollable, refuses to abide by rules and is therefore a potential danger to others.

"Maiden voyage"

The First trip of a vessel in its intended duty, often the very first deployment after its construction.

"Make sail"; "set sail"

To prepare a vessel for its given destination.

"Man overboard"

Ship is decommissioned/retired from service but stored in a state of conducted maintenance should the need arise to put the ship into service once again.

  • In early 2154, Hernandez asked Jonathan Archer, who was arguing against continued space exploration, if he thought Starfleet should "put our starships in mothballs". Archer said that they should be put to use defending Earth instead. (ENT: "Home")
  • Following the signing of the Federation Charter in 2161, T'Pol informed Captain Archer that Admiral Douglas was asking for Archer's approval for begin the decommission protocols from Enterprise NX-01. Archer asked that they finish one thing at a time, and that "after the charter's signed, I'll give him whatever he needs to put Enterprise in mothballs." Prior to this, Trip Tucker wished to purge the injectors on the ship, but Malcolm Reed didn't see the point, as the ship was going to be "joining the mothball fleet" the following week. (ENT: "These Are the Voyages...")

"Mother ship"
"Now hear this"

A term used to preface ship-wide announcements aboard Starfleet starships to call the listener's attention. The announcer then issued orders to the entire crew or directed an individual crewmember to report to a particular location. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

The phrase was used by Captain Jean-Luc Picard on at least two occasions during the Farpoint Mission in 2364 (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint") and by an unidentified crewmember on board the USS Enterprise-D in the alternate timeline in which the Federation was at war with the Klingon Empire. (TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise")

"Old salt"

A seasoned sailor.

"(Admiral) on deck"; "(captain) on (the) deck"
"(Admiral) on the bridge"; "(captain) on the bridge"

Mentioned in the Starfleet manual; often acknowledged with "as you were", "at ease", or "carry on". (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; TNG: "The Measure Of A Man"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly"; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part I", "Chain Of Command, Part II"; DS9: "The Adversary", "Favor the Bold", "Tears of the Prophets", "The Changing Face of Evil", "What You Leave Behind"; VOY: "The 37's", "Night", "Relativity", "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy", "Live Fast and Prosper", "Workforce"; DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow")

"On leave"

To be on shore leave, medical leave, or a leave of absence. (ENT: "Horizon"; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; TNG: "Samaritan Snare", "Rightful Heir"; DS9: "Tribunal", "Crossfire"; VOY: "Course: Oblivion")

"Over a barrel"

In a helpless or dangerous position.


One who is obsessively controlling

"Port of call"

A port where a ship stopped.

"Safe harbor"
"Safe haven"

To purposely sink a ship.


Rumors spread aboard ship.

"Sea dog"

To be worthy for service at sea.

"Shakedown cruise"

A ship's voyage where all its systems and hardware are monitored and the performance is measured before the ship is put into active service. Shakedown cruise is meant to test a ship's capability and address potential design flaws, maintenance issues and service errors.

"Ship out"

The Deployment of personnel from a base to a frontline or active situation

"Shipshape (and Bristol fashion)"

Term meaning "everything in perfect order". (TNG: "The Icarus Factor", "Final Mission"; VOY: "Prophecy")

"Shore leave"

An allotted timeframe whereby a ship's personnel are permitted to leave the ship for recreational pursuits

"Shove off"

To literally shove a boat off of or away from the shore, ship, or dock.

"Show the flag"

To make an official visit to a foreign port.

"Silent running"

To operate in a stealthy/covert manner to avoid detection

"Skeleton crew"

A bare minimum crew attachment capable of running a ship. A reduced workforce

"Smooth sailing"

Ideal conditions with no difficulty

"Son of a gun"

Originally referred to a son being born of questionable legitimacy between the ship's cannons; it later became a euphemistic variation of "son of a bitch." [1]

Space legs is a term derived from the naval phrase sea legs.

"(On) (hot) standby"

To prepare an individual or item for potential use.


cargo storage aboard a ship, namely the necessary equipment/parts and resources to keep it up and running

"Struck the sails"
"To the bitter end"
"Toe the line"

Conform to rule/authority

"Turn a blind eye to (something)"

To willfully ignore

"Under the weather"


"Under way"

The condition of a ship moving under its own power.

"Walk the plank"

A old maritime form of punishment whereby one was slowly forced off the ship's edge presumably for execution. Later used as a euphamism for threat of substantial reprisal or punishment.

"(Warning) shot (across the bow)"

The use of a weapon in the direction of a target, but not intended to hit the target. This could be done for many reasons, but was commonly done to send the message that direct fire would occur if the target did not give an appropriate response. (ENT: "Unexpected", "Minefield"; TOS: "The Lights of Zetar"; TNG: "The Survivors"; DS9: "Armageddon Game", "The Way of the Warrior"; VOY: "Night", "Dark Frontier")

"Wide berth"

Term instructing a pilot to avoid or make sure adequate space is given for other ships to pass. Also a personal term meaning to give someone a degree of personal space. (TOS: "The Ultimate Computer"; TNG: "Samaritan Snare"; DS9: "The Search, Part II", "The Adversary", "The Way of the Warrior"; VOY: "Infinite Regress"; ENT: "Dead Stop")

"Women and children first"

Admonition for the more vulnerable passengers of the ship to evacuate before the able-bodied grown men. (TOS: "I, Mudd")

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