a hard, saltless biscuit, formerly much used aboard ships and for army rations.

Origin of hardtack

First recorded in 1830–40; hard + tack2
Also called pilot biscuit, pilot bread, ship biscuit, ship bread.

ship biscuit

[ship bis-kit]


Sometimes ship bread.

Origin of ship biscuit

First recorded in 1790–1800
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ship-bread

Historical Examples of ship-bread

  • Winthrop gives us the memorandum of his order for the ship-bread for his voyage in 1630.

  • They were short of provisions, and we gave them a barrel of ship-bread, and seventy pounds of beef.

  • Hard-bread or ship-bread is a kind of hard biscuit commonly baked in large cakes and much used by sailors and soldiers.

    Canoeing in the wilderness

    Henry David Thoreau

  • The ham on the table was of excellent quality, and the two mates ate heartily of it, with the ship-bread.

    A Victorious Union

    Oliver Optic

  • He also kneads up the bread, or "soft-tack," as it is called in contradistinction to the ship-bread, which is called "hard-tack."

    Round Cape Horn

    Joseph Lamson

British Dictionary definitions for ship-bread



a kind of hard saltless biscuit, formerly eaten esp by sailors as a staple aboard shipAlso called: pilot biscuit, ship's biscuit, sea biscuit
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ship-bread



1836, "ship's biscuit," from hard (adj.) + tack (n.3); soft-tack was soft wheaten bread.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper