Great Lakes Navy

Navy Lingo Decoded: 73 Navy Terms Every Sailor Should Know

Becoming a sailor means learning a lot of new habits, skills, and lessons. Without a doubt, learning to talk like a sailor is like learning a new language.

There’s a lot of slang and acronyms.

But with a little practice, you’ll have it down in no time.

You’ll hear a lot of specific terminology aboard a ship, but you’ll also hear some Navy terms around military establishments like bases or government buildings. If you’re getting ready to head off to Navy boot camp, reviewing these terms will give you an advantage over your peers.

There are many more terms you’ll learn than what’s listed here, but these are some of the main military terms you’ll want to know right away.

Below, we’ve included a list of 73 words to help you get started:

Navy Terms

Abaft — farther aft

Aft — toward the stern

Ahoy — call for attention

All hands — the entire ship’s company

ASN —  Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Astern —  behind a ship

BAH —  basic allowance for housing

BAS —  basic allowance for subsistence

Below — beneath (“lay below” means to go downstairs, for example)

Billet — location where a sailor is assigned

Bow — forward end of a boat or ship

Bridge — room from which a ship is commanded

Brig — jail on a ship

BUPERS — Bureau of Navy Personnel

CENTCOM — Central Command

Chow — food

CIC — combat information center

CJCS —  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs

CMAA —  chief master-at-arms

CMC —  Command Master Chief (general)

CMDCM —  command master chief petty officer

CNET —  chief master-at-arms

CNO —   Chief of Naval Operations

CO —   commanding officer; AKA “Captain” of the ship

Colors —  the national ensign; the ceremony to lower and raise the ensign

Davy Jones’ locker —  bottom of the sea

DC —  damage control

Dead Ahead —   straight ahead

DEERS —  Defense Enrollment Eligibility  Reporting System

DoD —  Department of  Defense

DoN —   Department of the Navy

Forward —   toward the bow

FOUO —    for official use only

FSA —    family separation allowance

General quarters (GQ) — full readiness for battle

Helm —  steering the wheel of the ship

IC —  interior communications or internal communications

IFF —   identification of friend or foe

Jetty —   structure built out from shorelines to change water currents

Jacob’s ladder —   portable rope

Knot —   1 nautical mile per hour

Lay —   movement of a person

Log —   book in which data or events that happened during watch are recorded

Main deck —   uppermost complete deck (in aircraft carriers, this is the hangar bay)

MARCENT —  U.S. Marine Forces Central Command

Master-at-Arms —  ship police force member

Mate —   fellow shipmate

Muster —  roll call

MWR —  Morale, Welfare, and Recreation

NEX —  Navy Exchange

OCS —   Officer Candidate School

OPSEC —   Operational Security

Overboard —  over the side of the boat

PCS —   permanent change of station

PO —   petty officer

Pollywog —   one who has never crossed over the equator

PRT —   physical  readiness test

Quarterdeck —   deck area designated by the CO as the place to host official events

RDC —   recruit division commander

SCPO —  senior chief petty officer

Scuttlebutt —   drinking fountain; rumor

Shellback —  person who has crossed the equator

Shift colors —  change arrangement of colors after getting underway

Shipshape —  neat, clean

Sick bay —  area aboard ship that serves as a hospital or medical clinic

Stern — back part of a vessel

Turn in —  heading to bed

UA —   unauthorized absence

VCNO —   Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Wake —   Trail left by watercraft moving through water

Watch —   usually a 4-hour period into which a day is divided; a particular duty

XO —   executive officer; second person in command

YN —  yeoman

Start Talking Like a Sailor

You’ll want to start practicing this lingo long before you head to the Recruit Training Command Center in the Great Lakes.

You may not use these Navy terms every day aboard the ship, but you’ll want to know titles and ranks quite well.

Once you get a copy of The Bluejacket’s Manual at boot camp, you’ll also find an updated dictionary with military terms to refresh your memory.

In the meantime, learn the lingo and pass this list along to family members and friends. That way they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about once you start exchanging letters while you’re in boot camp!

What excites you most about basic training? Share with us in the comments below!

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