Words related to boat

ship (n.)

Middle English ship, "seagoing vessel," especially a large one, from Old English scip "ship, boat, vessel of considerable size adapted to navigation," from Proto-Germanic *skipa- (source also of Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Gothic skip, Danish skib, Swedish skepp, Middle Dutch scip, Dutch schip, Old High German skif, German Schiff). Watkins calls this a "Germanic noun of obscure origin." OED says "the ultimate etymology is uncertain." Traditionally since Pokorny it is derived from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split," perhaps on the notion of a tree cut out or hollowed out, but the semantic connection is unclear. Boutkan gives it "No certain IE etymology."

Now a vessel of considerable size; the Old English word was used for small craft as well, and definitions changed over time; in 19c., a ship was distinguished from a boat in having a bowsprit and three masts, each with a lower, top, and topgallant mast.

French esquif, Italian schifo are Germanic loan-words. By 1590s as the name of a southern constellation (Argo Navis). When personified, ships usually were feminine at least from late 14c., but in 17c.-18c. masculine pronouns became more common, perhaps by influence of the use of man in names such as man-of-war, Dutchman, merchantman. In such combinations, man in the sense of "a ship" is attested from late 15c.

Phrase ships that pass in the night is from Longfellow's poem "Elizabeth" in "Tales of a Wayside Inn" (1863). Expression when (one's) ship comes in "when one's affairs become prosperous" is attested by 1851. The figurative use of nautical tight ship (the notion may be one in which ropes, etc., are tightly stowed) is attested by 1965; compare shipshape.

The model ship inside a bottle with a neck much narrower than the ship is attested by 1920. Ship of fools is in the title of the 1509 translation of Brant's Narrenschiff (1494).


Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to split," with derivatives in Germanic "referring to biting (hence also to eating and to hunting) and woodworking" [Watkins].

It forms all or part of: abet; bait (n.) "food used to attract prey;" bait (v.) "to torment, persecute;" bateau; beetle (n.1) "type of insect; bit (n.1) "small piece;" bite; bitter; bitter end; boat; boatswain; -fid; fissile; fission; fissure; giblets; pita; pizza; vent (n.).

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bhinadmi "I cleave," Latin Latin findere "to split, cleave, separate, divide," Old High German bizzan "to bite," Old English bita "a piece bitten off, morsel," Old Norse beita "to hunt with dogs," beita "pasture, food."

bateau (n.)

"light, long boat for river navigation," 1711, from Canadian French bateau, from Old French batel, from Germanic *bait- "a boat" (see boat (n.)).

boater (n.)

"stiff, flat straw hat," 1896, from boat (n.). So called for being suitable to wear while boating.

boat-house (n.)

"shed for storing boats and protecting them from weather," 1722, from boat (n.) + house (n.).

boatswain (n.)

mid-15c., bot-swein, "minor officer on a ship," from late Old English batswegen, from bat "boat" (see boat (n.)) + Old Norse sveinn "boy" (see swain).

BOATSWAIN. The warrant officer who in the old Navy was responsible for all the gear that set the ship in motion and all the tackle that kept her at rest. [Sir Geoffrey Callender, "Sea Passages," 1943]

He also summons the hands to their duties with a silver whistle. Phonetic spelling bo'sun/bosun is attested from 1840. Fowler [1926] writes, "The nautical pronunciation (bō'sn) has become so general that to avoid it is more affected than to use it."

dreamboat (n.)

"romantically desirable person," 1947, from dream (n.) + boat (n.). The phrase was in use about two decades before that. "When My Dream Boat Comes Home" was the title of a 1936 song credited to Guy Lombardo and "Dream Boat" was the title of a 1929 book.

It is rare indeed that a designer ever has the opportunity to build his dream boat. Chris Smith, all his life, had held in mind a boat of about fifty feet overall which would be the last word in yacht design and performance. [Motor Boating, December 1929]
flat-boat (n.)

also flat-boat, 1650s, from flat (adj.) + boat (n.).

gunboat (n.)

also gun-boat, "small boat fitted with guns for service inshore or up rivers," 1793, from gun (n.) + boat (n.). Gunboat diplomacy is from 1916, originally with reference to Western policies in China.

houseboat (n.)

also house-boat, "boat fitted out as a house," 1790, from house (n.) + boat (n.).