Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Glossary


"a poor old hulk on a lee shore": old, wrecked vessel helplessly driven ashore by a wind blowing in from the sea (a lee wind)

assizes: trial sessions, judicial inquests, held periodically in England during that time.

berth: nautical term for a bunk or built-in bed on a ship; a place to sleep

boatswain: officer on a ship in charge of the crew and the equipment; uses a whistle, called "piping," to communicate different orders

boom: long, thick spar, or pole, along the foot of a triangular sail

bowsprit: spar projecting forward and over the ship's front, or bow

Bow Street runner: detective

buccaneer: raider who attacked Spanish ships and colonies in the Caribbean during the 1600s

cannikin: small can or cup

capstan: nautical term for a big winch or pulley used to raise the anchor of a ship

chine: spine or backbone

conned the ship: gave directions to the seaman steering the vessel

coxswain: sailor or petty officer who steers a ship's boat; also in charge of its crew

cutlass: short sword with a strong, slightly curved blade and protective hilt

davy: short for affidavit, or sworn statement

dead-eye: nonmoving wooden block used to attach ropes to various parts of a sailing vessel

deuce: devil

dingle: deep hollow

Dry Tortugas: group of small islands off Florida, west of Key West

duff: kind of pudding made from boiled flour and eaten with molasses

figureheads: ornamental carvings placed at the front of vessels

galley: ship's kitchen

gallipot: small pot made from glazed earthenware or metal; used to describe an inconsequential little boat

Georges: gold guinea or half-crown coin

gig: long, narrow boat built for speed

glim: candle

grog: alcoholic drink one part rum, four parts water

gully: large knife

gunwale: top edge of a small boat's hull

hold water: use the oars as a brake

"I'll have to strike": I'll have to surrender; when a ship strikes its color, it lowers its flag to signify surrender.

"in a clove hitch": securely in a fix or jam; a clove hitch is a type of knot used to fasten rope to an object

jib-boom: boom that extends the length of the bowsprit

jolly-boat: light boat carried at the stern of a sailing vessel; used for general-purpose work

keel: spinelike construction that runs along the bottom of a vessel from bow to stern

lubber: awkward or clumsy sailor

lugger: vessel used for fishing and coastal trading

main hold: cargo area below deck and accessible by the main hatch

man in the chains: man using a rope to determine the soundings, or depth, of the water

"mast-headed on them mountings": hiding far up in the mountains; a masthead is the upper part of a mast, above the rigging used to attach the sails

mizzenmast: mast aft of a ship's mainmast

oilskin: waterproof cloth made of linen, cotton, or silk and treated with linseed oil

Old Bailey (Street): location of a courthouse where crimes committed at sea were judged

opening a vein: bloodletting

painter: rope that secures a ship's boat to the ship or a dock

peach: to impeach or tell on someone

peak: highest tip of the mainmast's sail

pitch: substance made from boiling tar and used to coat, seal, and waterproof various parts of a ship

"putting him in irons": confining a man in iron leg shackles

quadrant: handheld navigational instrument

raise Cain: make a serious and loud to-do about something

revenue officers: government employees assigned to intercept smugglers along the coast

rum: alcohol made from molasses, a waste product in sugar production

"sailed before the mast": was an ordinary seaman

schooner: sailing vessel with two masts and big fore and aft sails and square topsails

scuppers: regularly placed holes in the side of a ship to release water overboard from the deck

soundings: measurement showing the water's depth

Spanish Main: north coast of South America bordering the Caribbean Sea

"stake my wig": make a very expensive bet, as wigs were a very costly item

stone: British measure of weight equaling 14 pounds

swab: mop used for cleaning the deck of a ship; also, a useless person fit only to mop a deck

the mail: passenger coach sometimes also used to carry mail illegally

the waist: section of the top deck between the two masts

tiller: part of the steering gear of a vessel; used to turn the rudder

tinder box: small box containing a piece of flint, a piece of steel, and some tinder for starting a fire

"tip us a stave": give us a song

trim the boat: rearrange the weight of items in a boat to control how the vessel floats

trump: useful resource

"turned the chest out alow and aloft": searched the chest bottom to top

watches: work periods

"went dot and carry one": became irregular

widders: widows

Yellow Jack: slang term for yellow fever, a highly infectious disease

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