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  • Writer's pictureIndy Language Center ILC

Talk Like a Pirate Day! Pirate Vocabulary & History

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Most people when they think of pirates, it's based on film and pop culture, like Pirates of the Caribbean. The hat, the jacket, the belt, swords and mustaches and a pirate on one shoulder. Pirates aren't just a creation from Hollywood, though. The history of pirates goes way back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and their infamous accents originated from West Country English (the Southwest of England).

But the familiar vocabulary we know (see below) was in fact solidified in films. Disney released a few pirate themed films in the 50's, such as “Treasure Island” (1950) and “Blackbeard the Pirate”(1952) and “Long John Silver” (1954). These films brought along that distinct piratey Arrrr flavor to the mainstream that we know today.

male pirate costume
Giancarlo, in pirate attire, ready to teach our new roster of swashbucklers.

Here's some common pirate vocabulary you can practice while fightin' off the scurvy.

  • Ahoy - Hello

  • Matey - friend

  • Booty - treasure, riches

  • Bilge-sucking - an adjective used an insulting way. A bilge is the bottom of a ship.

  • Chantey - a work song meant to be sung together while doing drudgery work like cleaning & maintenance.

  • Davy Jones' Locker - a superstition where a malevolent spirit dwells in the deeps of the sea and pulls pirates down to their doom

  • Jolly Roger - the easily recognizable pirate flag: black with a skull and crossbones

  • Landlubber - a person without any experience in sailing or seafaring, often clumsy or clueless

  • Scallywag - a condescending word used toward pirates who are new to the ship

  • "Shiver Me Timbers!" - an expression used for shock or surprise

  • "Thar She Blows!" - whale sighting, due to the blowhole spouting water

ARRR you lookin’ fer an authentic buccaneer language class? Do the rats on the bilge of ye ship not be understandin’ that landlubber tongue of yers? Avast! Comment “Aye aye, Cap’n!” below, ya sea plunderin’ lily-livered rapscallions!! And pay that tuition in booty! $395 (fer 20 hours of class) in gold ONLY or we’ll be sendin ya to Davy Jones’ Locker!

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