Learn to Talk Like a Pirate

Jolly Roger Flag

Yo ho ho! Whether ye be pirate meat or needing to better understand yer pirate enemies, here lies some definitions to common words and phrases used by the Neverland crew that’ll help ye better understand the pirates!

Hempen Rope– A rope made from hemp fibers. May also mean the rope to hang people with.

Avast– an order to be quiet or stop

Belay– an order to stop an activity or else something bad will happen to you

Blackbeard Joe– Blackbeard was a pirate from Bristol who was large in stature, wore all black, had a beard down to his waist and tied his pigtails with colored ribbons. Joe may refer to the slang meaning man or guy.

Brine– salt and water, ocean and sea water

Brisket– the brisket bone is the sternum, a flat bone in the middle front area of the ribcage.

Caterwauling– long wailing cries, howling screeches, or other similar noises (most often associated with cat noises i.e. cats growling or threatening to fight).

Davy Jones– the nickname for the spirit of the sea. Sometimes seen as a male counter-part to mermaids, Davy Jones lure pirates down to the depth of the sea, but may also warn pirates of their fate. Davy Jone’s Locker means the final resting place for drowned sailors.

Doodle Doo– Peter’s crow sounds like a rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo. The pirates maybe imagining the idea of a bird just as the Lost Boys thought that “a Wendy” was a type of bird.

“Fire the Powder Magazine”– to set fire to the place where ammunition is kept (gunpowder, cannonballs). Powder refers to gunpowder and magazine is a storage house.

The Flag of Skull and Bones– The Pirate Flag for the Jolly Roger

Heave To – set sails to balance against each other so that the ship stays almost motionless

Jolly Roger– Captain Hook’s ship. Also an adaptation on the pirate flag with a skull and crossbones.

A Jonah- Someone or something that brings bad luck. In the book of Jonah, sailors blame Jonah for a storm that develops and throws him overboard in hopes of getting their ship ashore. Wendy is believed to be the cause of the Doodle Doo as there was a superstition that women onboard a pirate ship brought bad luck, despite cases of female pirates and wives accompanying their pirate husbands on voyages.

Lubber– clumsy, unskilled person

Messmates-Fellow pirates; mates. A mess is a quantity of food for a table that all pirates have to share. The table was a space where pirates both ate and slept.

Mice– cowardly people

“Odds, Bobs, Hammer and Tongs”– an expression taken from a sea ballad, Snarleyyow; or, The Dog Friend. The whole verse goes “Odds, bobs, hammer and tongs, long as I’ve been to sea,/I’ve fought ‘gainst every odds–and I’ve gained the victory.”

Pewling Spawn– a whining, childish person

Walk the Plank– Pirates would sometimes tie up victims hands and make them walk to the end of a wooden plank extended over the side of a ship.

“What Cozening is Here?”– “What trickery is this?” Cozen means to cheat, deceive, or trick.

“What ho bullies”– a form of greeting, “How goes it, crew?”

Yo Ho– A welcome greeting,  expression of cheer or delight


Now that yer pirate talk be improved, let’s piece together some of those words into a song:

Yo ho, yo ho, the pirate life, The flag of skull and bones, A merry hour, a hempen rope, And hey for Davy Jones!

With yer newfound understandin’ of pirates, ye may now learn a song about pirating adventures from Portside Pirates: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qAngsMJD3I

Want more stories and information on pirates? J.M. Barrie based much of his pirate knowledge off of Treasure Island!

Needing Proof that these Terms be True Telling?

Breverton, Terry. The Pirate Dictionary. Canada: Pelican Publishing, 2004.

Johnson, Captain Charles. A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. Intro. by David Cordingly. U.S.A.: Maritime Press, 1998.

Tatar, Maria. The Annotated Peter Pan. U.S.A.: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.

“Pirate Slang.” The Way of Pirates. http://www.thewayofthepirates.com/pirate-life/pirate-slang.php


One thought on “Learn to Talk Like a Pirate

  1. Can’t wait to see this show!

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