Pirate Code: How To Talk Like A Scallywag

Parlay: The Pirate Code?

Surprisingly, there's little historical evidence linking the word parlay (or
) to real-life pirates. Seafaring scallywags occasionally followed a loose code of conduct, but it seems the Pirates of the Caribbean film series popularized this reinvention of parlay. 

Whatever it was called, there's no denying that pirate code is freaking cool. You'll be speaking like a grizzled sea captain after reading this list of pirate-themed words!


We know that pirates have a unique code of conduct, but hornswoggling is frowned upon by salty dogs and landlubbers alike. Hornswoggle means to swindle, cheat, hoodwink, or hoax. (Smart pirates probably know better than to hornswoggle anyone bigger and meaner than themselves.)


Dredgies are the ghosts of traitor pirates who've met a nasty end at the hands of another pirate. Spooky.

Pluck a Crow

To pluck a crow is similar to picking a fight: It isn't a physical brawl, but you definitely have a bone to pick with a fellow peg leg.


A man-o-war (or
) is a ship that's been prepared for battle. These days, you may hear this phrase when referring to the
Portuguese man-of-war
, which looks like a type of jellyfish, but is actually a colony of polyps. The colony has a sail-like structure that floats above the water and a stream of long, venomous tentacles beneath the waves.

Powder Monkey

A monkey is a small cannon on a ship, and a
powder monkey
 is someone employed on warships to carry gunpowder from the magazine to the guns. Pirates really like their primate references!


(or bosun) is a crew member in charge of the deck. When you hear "hoist the sails" (as we're sure you often do), it's the boatswain's job to get that done.

Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger
is the skull and crossbones flag flown from pirate ships. Of course, this ominous sign is a favorite fashion emblem, appearing on everything from hats to shoelaces.


a ship is to sink it intentionally, often by opening seacocks (or, valves) that let water into a ship's hull.

Hempen Jig & Hempen Halter

refers to something made from hemp, a plant with tough fibers excellent for making rope. So, then, a hempen halter is a hangman's noose, and to dance the hempen jig means to die by hanging.

Crack Jenny's Teacup

To crack Jenny's teacup is a euphemism that describes time spent in a house of...loose morals. Another pirate-y way of alluding to this scandalous act would be to say you were "visiting" Scarlet and Cassandra.

Feed the Fish

If Ol' One Eye snarls that you're about to feed the fish, he isn't referring to his pet goldie. He means you are literally going to feed the fish...by being chum...because he's going to end your life. To
feed the fish
can also refer to getting sick over the side of a boat, but no true pirate would admit to doing that.

No Quarter

Some pirates have a heart! If given quarter, it means you've been given another chance at life. No quarter, on the other hand, means that you're about to feed the fish.

The Head

The head is an old mariner's term, first recorded in the early 1700s, referring to the toilets. They were always located at the head of the ship, which was downwind when sailing. Smart.

The Poop Deck

Oddly enough,
the poop deck
has nothing to do with the toilet. It is actually an elevated deck above the
(seriously, that's what it's called), a structure on the stern of a boat. This clearly pirate-worthy term comes from the French pouppe, which means the stern (rear) of a ship.


is a pirate's rear end. Bum. Bottom. Buttocks. Derrier. Rump. Behind. Fanny. Keister. You get the picture.

Scallywag & Son of a Biscuit-Eater

A scallywag (or, scalawag) is an insult for any pirate deemed a rascal. Son of a biscuit-eater is also an insult, but literally refers to being the child of a sailor, or "biscuit-eater."


(also called bombards) are large drinking cups, originally made out of leather and stiffened with tar. Yum.

Grog & Bumbo

What good is a blackjack if it's empty? Pirates certainly know how to take advantage of a good drink. Back in the day, 
 was a mix of water and rum, the rum slightly disinfecting the dirty water found on the ship. Modern grog still exists, although it's more likely found in a tiki bar than on a pirate ship. Bumbo may be less common these days, but was a West Indies version of grog, containing a little sugar and nutmeg.


A fancy meal of
might be served when celebrating a successful plunder: chopped meats (whatever was handy) mixed with cabbage, salt, garlic, onions and vinegar. And cackle fruit (chicken eggs in pirate-speak). And anchovies. And herring. Bon Appétit?

Davy Jones’s Locker

Finally, every pirate has to know about
Davy Jones’s Locker
. This is a mythical place at the bottom of the ocean where dead pirates and sailors spend eternity.

So, avast, ye fearless sailors, heed these words before the grog might settle in, and watch for a slip of the hempen halter should you misbehave!

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