Origin of yardarm

First recorded in 1545–55; yard1 + arm1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for yardarm

Historical Examples of yardarm

  • Above, along the yardarm and up the ratlines swarmed his bowmen.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • The wind flapped their small sail and the yardarm wobbled badly.

    The Trail of a Sourdough

    May Kellogg Sullivan

  • Arbuthnot was hanged from the yardarm of his own schooner; Ambrister was shot.

    Union and Democracy

    Allen Johnson

  • Be smart now and rig-out that clewline there to the brace-block at the end of the yardarm.

    Crown and Anchor

    John Conroy Hutcheson

  • A fortnight later Parker swung from the yardarm of that ship.

British Dictionary definitions for yardarm


  1. nautical the two tapering outer ends of a ship's yard
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 yardarm

also yard-arm, 1550s, from yard (n.2) + arm (n.1). In 19c. British naval custom, it was permissible to begin drinking when the sun was over the yard-arm.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper