Language is a fascinating thing. There are certain phrases that have crept into everyday usage over time that have origins that we’re completely unaware of. You’d probably be surprised to learn how many phrases you use on a regular basis have their origins on the high seas.

If you’re lucky enough to own a boat, or you’re going to be hitting open water this summer, you might want to arm yourself with some appropriate nautical slang you can share with your friends.

Read on as we share five sailing terms you can easily drop into conversation.

Batten Down the Hatches

In modern parlance, the phrase “batten down the hatches” has come to refer to any means of preparing for an unwanted or adverse experience. However, in nautical terms, it is an instruction to the crew to secure a ship’s tarpaulins, usually because a storm or choppy waters are ahead. Securing tarps over the ship protect items onboard from damage or being washed away.

All Hands on Deck

The abbreviated phrase “all hands” is often used in corporate settings these days to denote a situation to which everyone is expected to show up for or contribute. In boating terms, the meaning is pretty close to this.

The full phrase is of course “all hands on deck,” and it means every crew member needs to report to the upper deck to perform a certain duty such as retrieving anchor chains.

Three Sheets to the Wind

There are few things that go together better than boating and beer. But if you and your shipmates accidentally overindulge, you might find yourself needing to use this phrase.

When as many as three sheets become unfastened, the sail becomes ineffectual and the ship can begin to move around in an unwieldy way as a result.

In the Doldrums

To be in the doldrums means to be stuck in a rut or in a situation where not much change is happening. The doldrums are actually a term for an area of the sea where no wind is blowing. In the olden days, when ships relied on their sails to move, this meant the vessel would come to a standstill.

Plain Sailing

Hopefully, this is a term you’ll have occasion to use the next time you take your boat for a spin. It means a smooth, uninterrupted transit for your boat and all on board.

Nautical Slang You Can Use in Everyday Conversation

The above phrases have become so common that you can use them even when you’re not on the water. However, using nautical slang when you’re actually on a boat can add some fun to the experience.