Sail the Seven Seas With These Pirate Words

2 min read

Pirates, rebels, and rogues — there are many names for a buccaneer, and there’s just as vast a vocabulary unique to pirates. If you’re looking for some pirate words to spice up your language, avast ye (pay attention)! We’ve got a bounty for you right here.


"Rover" is another word for a pirate or a buccaneer. All apply to the same people, so basically, pirates were a vain bunch with a multitude of words to refer to themselves. "Rover" was a multifunctional word. It could also mean a wanderer, and some pirates used it to describe their ships. It all depended on the context.


"Blackguards," or "blaggards," as some pirates slurred, are a particular type of scoundrel. They’re the Jack Sparrows, the Davy Joneses, and the Blackbeards of the seafaring world. In other words, they're figures known as untrustworthy — or as scurvy dogs.


Use of the word "picaroon" peaked around 1840, and for good reason. Back when pirates were everywhere, so were these rogues. Even other pirates didn’t trust them. You can also add the adjective "picaresque" to your roguish vocabulary.


Pirates would have referred to those fancy figures who walked around with extravagant feathers in their hats and colorful, ruffled clothes as "popinjays." "Popinjay" can also describe someone who is talkative and vain, or it can refer to an actual parrot.


The Pirates of the Caribbean movies were full of reaving — stealing, robbing, and raiding — done by Jack Sparrow’s and Captain Barbossa’s crews. It wasn’t just gold they were after. Real-life pirates stole spices, thread, ship parts, soap, and anything else they wanted from ships and port towns alike.


Nowadays, "swashing" is the way the ocean moves — peaceful waves on a sunny shore. For pirates, "swash" described an exaggerated swagger and elaborate swordsmanship. It’s also the mark of the swashbuckler — the chivalric, sword-bearing hero in adventure stories.


Not all pirates were criminals. Privateers were pirates with legal authority to be … well, pirates. They sailed private ships approved by the government to attack specific ships and commandeer their cargo — though they sometimes strayed from their appointed missions.


We’ve barely scratched the surface of names for pirates. "Freebooter" and "filibuster" (Dutch), "lotman" (Irish), "conquistador" (Spanish), and "corsair" (French) are all synonyms for these sea robbers. They plundered ships from countries all over the world, and the names reflect their equal-opportunity reaving.

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