Geordi La Forge as a 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 be 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.
  • 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.)
  • Stow: to place goods or belongings in their appropriate storage areas.

Other terminology

  • Berth: a parking space
  • Capsize: to tip over
  • Damage control: the act or task of performing emergency repairs to parts of a ship damaged by combat or accident.
  • Decommission: to retire
  • Dock: to place the ship into a facility for repair, service or rest.
  • Jury rigging: to cobble a repair
  • Leave: an approved absence from duty usually for rest and relaxation or convalescence.
  • Mooring: to attach the ship to a bulkhead to prevent drifting.
  • Mother ship
  • Tacking: to change course by turning 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 Romulan D'deridex-class warbird

Dorsal shield failure

Display graphic, highlighting the dorsal side of the Enterprise-E

Ventral shield failure

Display graphic, highlighting the ventral side of the Enterprise-E

  • 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



  • 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).



  • Circumnavigate
  • 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 2271. (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.
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 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".


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)

"Able-bodied crewmen"
"Above board"

On or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding anything.


Floating freely in space, possibly damaged, with no pilot in control at the helm. (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", "The Forgotten", "The Council", "United")

"(Run) aground"
"Ahead full"
"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.

"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.
"Back full"
"Batten down the hatches"

To secure a ship for inclement weather.

"Below decks"
"Blow the hatch"
"Bon voyage"
"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. (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"
"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"
"Come to"
"Cut and run"
"Dead ahead"; "dead astern"
"Dead in the water"
"Disembark"; "permission to disembark"

To leave the ship or station.

"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"
"Hand over fist"
"Have the conn"; "take the conn"

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"

A form of punishment.


Someone unfamiliar with the sea.

"Leading edge"
"Learn the ropes"

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

"Long shot"
"Loose cannon"
"Maiden voyage"
"Make sail"; "set sail"
"Man overboard"
  • In early 2154, Erika 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.

  • When Tom Paris took immense interest in USS Voyager's discovery of the Waters, Captain Janeway took note of all his maritime knowledge, telling him that she "had no idea you were such an old salt." (VOY: "Thirty Days")
"(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")

"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"
"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"
"Ship out"
"Shipshape (and Bristol fashion)"

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

"Shore leave"
"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"
"Skeleton crew"
"Smooth sailing"
"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 the colorful metaphor, "son of a bitch." [1]

"(On) (hot) standby"

To prepare an individual or item for potential use.

"Steady as (we) go"

A request by a commander of a vessel to maintain course and speed without deviation. (TOS: "The Cage", et al.)

"Struck the sails"
"To the bitter end"
"Toe the line"
"Turn a blind eye to (something)"
"Under the weather"
"Under way"

The condition of a ship moving under its own power.

"Walk the plank"
"(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. (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")

External link

Community content is available under CC-BY-NC unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+