Pirate Vocabulary

Booty: Plunder, loot, treasures illegally obtained

Buccaneer: Another word for pirate

Cutlass: Short, heavy, single-edged sword

Grog: A very potent alcoholic drink

Mutiny: When sailors rise up against the authority of their captain and seize the ship for their own

Privateer: An armed ship that sails under the commission of a king or queen and only fights against the sovereign’s enemies; also a sailor on such a ship.

Typical Pirate Ship

Officer Richard Glasspoole wrote of the Chinese pirate ships commanded by Madame Ching that “the afterpart [stern] is appropriated to the captain and his wives; he generally has five or six. Every man is allowed a small berth about four feet square where he stows his wife and family.”


Pirate Flag

The most popular pirate flag was the Jolly Roger.

The flag consisted of a skull and crossbones on a black background, which captains would draw in their ships’ logs to indicate that a sailor had died.


Women Pirates

Alfhild of Denmark took to pirating to avoid marriage. She dressed up as a boy and went off on her own to become a sea rover.

Grania O’Malley of Ireland took over her husband’s pirating business after he died. She remarried but soon after divorced her new husband, although they remained in a relationship until he died.

Madame Ching of China was the most successful pirate in the world, ruling two thousand boats and seventy thousand men.


How Women Pirates Dressed

Since most Western sailors wore their hair long, tied in a pigtail, and tarred, girls and women could pass easily. As for clothes, sailors usually wore baggy petticoat-breeches and a loose shirt under a jacket. The only time sailors removed their clothes in public was when a doctor undressed them to treat a wound.


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