A Guide to Understanding Pirate Lingo

Front view of a pirate ship on misty waters.

If you’re pirate fans like we are, you probably already know how to talk like one. But what do all of these terms mean, where do they come from, and how are they used? While you’re playing bingo with us, it can help to get your head around some commonly used terms, even if it just makes you feel more inspired to find the booty!

10 of the most commonly used terms in pirate lingo

1. Booty

First up, let’s talk about the word “booty”. Depending on where you live, the modern-day usage of this term could involve talking about someone’s bottom or hand-knitted socks for babies, but when it comes to freebooters, this isn’t what this term is about at all!

When sailing the seven seas, the word “booty” means treasure, a prize or the ultimate reward for a long voyage across the ocean. When you’re playing online bingo, this can be translated into what you might win when you play.

2. Savvy

If you’re a fan of pirate films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series, you’ll know all about this term from Jack Sparrow. It means something like “understand?” or “do you get it?”, but it can also be used as a noun or an adjective, for example, “I am very savvy when it comes to finding games to play on a bingo site”, or “playing online bingo games requires a bit of savvy”.

3. Landlubber

Vector illustration of a pirate ship in the ocean during a storm.

As people who were very used to dealing with storms, ships and the unpredictable nature of the sea, anyone who didn’t have the skills obviously stuck out. These people were referred to as “landlubbers”, or people who spent so much time on land that they didn’t know anything about how to handle themselves out on the ocean.

4. Old salt

The direct opposite of a landlubber, an “old salt” is someone who’s spent so much time at sea that it almost becomes second nature to them (and perhaps they even smell a bit salty). Other related terms have the same sentiment, like “sea dog”.

When it comes to playing games, there could be an equivalent term for people who are very familiar with bingo games. We’ll let you think of a good term for that!

5. Privateer

Often used as another name for the word “pirate”, a privateer is actually a little bit different. As opposed to freebooters, who went in search of treasure for their own benefit, privateers were government-approved. So, privateers acted like pirates, but their intentions were to bring back the booty for the government that hired them.

6. Scallywag

Even if you’ve had very little to do with sea-marauding privateers in your life, you’ve likely heard this term. Apart from its quite different historic connotations in the US, it is similar to “landlubber”, and means “inexperienced” or “rookie”, and is considered an insult.

7. Shiver me timbers!

One of the most popular expressions in the world of buccaneers, cannons and ships, this expression is about feeling shocked or surprised. This comes from the fact that the timbers, or wooden structures of the ship, would move or “shiver” in a big storm, which would have been a scary experience!

Other similar terms are “sink me!”, to express surprise, which could be related to the shock and fear that might come with being on a sinking ship.

8. Buccaneer

This is a term that is commonly used to refer to a pirate, but actually refers to a specific type of freebooter who sailed the seas of the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th century, just like Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl. In more recent times, this word has also come to mean someone who is quite adventurous and ruthless in politics and or business.

This is quite similar to the word “swashbuckler”, which also has an adventurous connotation, especially when it comes to sword fighting.

9. Sea legs

Adjusting to life on a ship out at sea couldn’t have been easy at first, but after a while pirates got their “sea legs”, which applies to any sailor really. It means they’ve adapted to the rolling waves – and can not only keep their balance on deck and below, but avoid feeling seasick too! The phrase could also apply to becoming good at anything, although getting your “bingo legs” doesn’t really have quite the same ring to it — perhaps “bingo fingers” is better? We’ll let you decide!

10. Jolly Roger

Black and white skull and crossed swords pirate ship flag.

The Jolly Roger is the name given to the infamous black and white flag with the skull and crossbones (or crossed swords) that has become a symbol of everything related to buccaneers, sea marauding and taking the loot. But where does the name “Roger” come in, and how “jolly” was he?

According to legend, the design was used by the fearsome Blackbeard (probably not the jolliest of individuals), and various other freebooters in the 18th century. The word “roger” is also thought to come from the word “rouge”, French for red, which relates to the colour of the flags that French buccaneers used at the time.

Join us for some swashbuckling fun

If you’re ready to pull on your bucket boots after reading the glossary above, come and join us to find the loot!

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