Etymology
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frigate (n.)

1580s, from French frégate (1520s), from Italian fregata (Neapolitan fregate), which with many names for types of sea vessels is of unknown origin. It is common to the Mediterranean languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan fragata). Originally a small, swift vessel; the word was applied to progressively larger types over the years.

[A] light nimble vessel built for speed; employed in particular for the gleaning of intelligence and the protection and assault of trade-routes. In battle the frigates took station on the disengaged side of the fleet, where they repeated signals, sped on messages, and succoured the distressed. [Sir Geoffrey Callender, "Sea Passages," 1943]

In the old sailing navy usually they carried guns on a raised quarter-deck and forecastle, hence frigate-built (1650s) of a vessel having the quarter-deck and forecastle raised above the main-deck.

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corvette (n.)

1630s, also corvet, "wooden ship of war, flush-decked, frigate-rigged, and having only one tier of guns," from French corvette "small, fast frigate" (15c.), perhaps from Middle Dutch korver "pursuit ship," or Middle Low German korf meaning both a kind of boat and a basket, or from Latin corbita (navis) "slow-sailing ship of burden, grain ship" from corbis "basket" (OED, but Gamillscheg is against this).

In late 19c. a class of cruiser-like ships in the British navy; in World War II a fast naval escort vessel used in convoy duty. The U.S. sports car was so named September 1952, after the type of warship, on a suggestion by Myron Scott, employee of Campbell-Ewald, Chevrolet's advertising agency. Italian corvetta, Spanish corbeta are French loan-words.

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cruiser (n.)

1670s, "one who or that which cruises," agent noun from cruise (v.), or, probably, borrowed from similar words in continental languages (such as Dutch kruiser, French croiseur). In older use, a warship built to cruise and protect commerce of the state to which it belongs or chase hostile ships (but in 18c. often applied to privateers).

Like the frigate of olden days the cruiser relies primarily on her speed; and is employed to protect the trade-routes, to glean intelligence, and to act as the 'eyes of the fleet'. [Sir Geoffrey Callender, "Sea Passages," 1943]

Meaning "one who cruises for sex partners" is from 1903, in later use mostly of homosexuals; as a boxing weight class, from 1920; meaning "police patrol car" is 1929, American English.

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marine (n.)

late 14c., "seacoast;" see marine (adj.). Meaning "collective shipping of a country" is from 1660s. Meaning "soldier who serves on a ship" is from 1670s, a separate borrowing from French marine, from the French adjective. Phrase tell that to the marines (1805) originally was the first half of a retort expressing disbelief in some statement made or story told:

"Upon my soul, sir," answered the lieutenant, "when I thought she scorned my passion, I wept like a child."
"Belay there!" cried the captain; "you may tell that to the marines, but I'll be d----d if the sailors will believe it." ["John Moore," "The Post-Captain; or, the Wooden Walls Well Manned," 1805]

The book, a rollicking sea romance/adventure novel, was popular in its day and the remark is a recurring punch line in it (repeated at least four times). It was written by naval veteran John Davis (1774-1854) but published under the pseudonym "John Moore." Walsh records that, among sailors, marines are "a proverbially gullible lot, capable of swallowing any yarn, in size varying from a yawl-boat to a full-rigged frigate."

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albatross (n.)

"large web-footed sea-bird of the petrel family," 1670s, probably from Spanish or Portuguese albatros, an alteration of alcatraz "web-footed sea-bird; cormorant," originally "pelican" (16c.). This name is perhaps from Arabic al-ghattas "sea eagle" [Barnhart]; or from Portuguese alcatruz "the bucket of a water wheel" [OED], from Arabic al-qadus "machine for drawing water, jar" (which is said to be from Greek kados "jar"). If the second, the name would be a reference to the pelican's pouch (compare Arabic saqqa "pelican," literally "water carrier").

The spelling was influenced by Latin albus "white." The name was extended by 17c. English sailors to a larger sea-bird (order Tubinares), which are not found in the North Atlantic. [In English the word also formerly was extended to the frigate-bird.]

These albatrosses follow ships for days without resting and were held in superstitious awe by sailors. The figurative sense of "burden" (1936) is from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) about a sailor who shoots an albatross and then is forced to wear its corpse as an indication that he alone, not the crew, offended against the bird. The prison-island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is named for pelicans that roosted there. In Dutch, stormvogel; in German Sturmvogel "storm-bird."

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