RNS Regulations require that all officers of the watch give orders in the "customary phraseology of the service." This is not merely a matter of preserving tradition but of ensuring that orders are clearly understood and promptly obeyed. For example, when the officer conning the ship gives an order to change engine speed, he begins with which engine to change (starboard, port, or all), whether forward or back, and by how much (flank, full, one-third, etc.). An engine order might thus be given "Starboard ahead one-third, port back one-third;" the lee helmsman, who operates the engine order telegraph that sends the instructions to the engine room, repeats the order, adding "aye aye, sir (or ma'am)."

Customary phraseology is also used in other situations, far beyond the mere issuance of orders. For example, naval vocabulary is often quite different from that of civilian life. Even in shore side establishments, it is common for these terms to be used. For example:

Wall Bulkhead
Floor Deck
Room Compartment
Ceiling Overhead
Stairs Ladder
Room Compartment
Windows Ports
Door (Deck to Deck) Hatch
Go Downstairs Lay Below
Go Upstairs Go Above
Water FountainScuttlebutt

In written correspondence, juniors close the letter "very respectfully", whereas seniors close their letters to juniors "respectfully." The letter should be signed with initials and last name only, not full name. When responding on behalf of the commanding officer, a junior officer will sign his initials and last name without rank, and add underneath, "By Direction" to make clear that he acts on the authority of the commanding officer.

If sending an oral message, a junior officer presents his "respects," whereas a senior officer presents his "compliments." For example, Captain Jones might order a midshipman, "Mister Midshipman Jones, my compliments to Lieutenant Bloggins, and would he lay below and see that his specialists swab the decks before the admiral arrives."

When speaking to a senior officer, a junior officers "invites" attention. A senior officer may "call" or "direct" attention. Likewise, a senior may "direct" a junior to act, whereas a junior can only "request." When receiving an order, a junior answers "aye, aye." When receiving information, he says, "Yes, sir/ma'am." A senior responds to information from a junior by saying "Very well." Junior officers should never respond to a senior officer with "very well" or even "very well, sir."

Glossary of TermsEdit


A Edit

  • Abaft: aft of the beam of the boat; towards the stern.
  • Abeam: to the side of
  • Able Spaceman: a knowledgeable sailor
  • Aboard: on/in a vessel
  • Above: upward, higher, as to "go above"
  • Adrift: floating unsecured and out of control
  • Aft: toward the stern
  • Ahead: movement of a vessel in the direction of its bow
  • All Hands: the entire ship's company
  • Alongside: beside; next to another boat or dock
  • Amidships: the mid section of a vessel
  • Armament: the full compliment of weapons on a vessel
  • Astern: movement of a vessel in the direction of its stern
  • Athwartships: at a right angle to the centreline of the ship, side-to-side
  • Aye, Aye, Sir: an acknowledgement of orders by a subordinate

B Edit

  • Batten Down: to secure all sealable hatches in case of hull breach
  • Beam: the maximum width of a vessel
  • Beamy: a wide vessel
  • Bear a Hand: to lend a hand to
  • Below: downward, beneath, as to "lay below"
  • Berth: a bed, also a docking location
  • Bow: the forward most part of a vessel
  • Box Haul: to make a sharp turn
  • Break Out: to take out for use
  • Bridge: the compartment from which a vessel is operated
  • Brig: a secure compartment used as a jail
  • Broadside: to simultaneously fire all guns to one side at a target
  • Bulkhead: vertical plating that separates a vessel into compartments, never referred to as walls

C Edit

  • Cable: heavy rope
  • Carry On: an order to resume duties
  • Chart': a map, but never referred to as such
  • Colours: the national ensign
  • Commanding Officer: first in command of a vessel, can be abbreviated CO
  • Compartment: a room within a vessel
  • Complement: refer to Ship's Company
  • Course: a vessels direction of movement

D Edit

  • Deck: plating dividing a vessel into layers, never referred to as a floor

E Edit

  • Executive officer: second in command of a vessel, can be abbreviated XO

F Edit

  • Frame: an athwartship beam which provides structural strength
  • Fore: toward the bow

G Edit

  • Galley: the compartment in which food is prepared, never referred to as a kitchen

H Edit

  • Hand: a member of the ship's crew
  • Hatch: an access within a deck
  • Haul Away: move away
  • Head: a bathroom, but never referred to as such
  • Helm: the mechanical equipment used to steer a vessel
  • Hull: the outer shell of a vessel

L Edit

  • Ladder: a flight of steps, never referred to as stairs
  • Landsman: an inexperience sailor
  • Larboard: antiquated reference to port
  • Launch: a small vessel used for transportation
  • Liberty: shore leave granted for 48 hours (72 on three day holidays) that does not count against a sailors leave time account

M Edit

  • Magazine: a compartment dedicated to the storage of ammunition
  • Man: to put the proper number of men on a detail so that the work can be done
  • Mess: a compartment in which meals are eaten

O Edit

  • Ordinary Spaceman: a sailor with limited experience
  • Overhead: the underside of an overhead deck, never referred to as a ceiling

P Edit

  • Pass the Word: to repeat an order or information to the crew
  • Passageway: a corridor for movement on a deck
  • Pinnace: a small vessel often used as a tender
  • Port: left of centreline when facing toward the bow, identified by colour red on a vessel's running lights, also refers to a location at which a vessel may dock

Q Edit

  • Quarterdeck: an area of the ship designated by the Commanding Officer where official and ceremonial functions are carried out when the ship is in port.
  • Quarters: a compartment used as living space for personnel

R Edit

  • Rank: Grade of official standing of commissioned officers
  • Rate: Grade of official standing of Specialists
  • Running Lights: illuminated markings on a vessel to aid in identifying its heading, used only from dusk to dawn in atmospheric flight but in constant use in space unless at war

S Edit

  • Scuttle: a sealed opening in a hatch
  • Scullery: a compartment in which dishes are washed
  • Secure: to hold down, make fast, as to secure a line to a cleat
  • Ship's Company: permanently assigned personnel aboard a vessel, also referred to as Complement
  • Sickbay: compartment used as a hospital or medical centre
  • Square away: to put things in their proper place, keeping things in order
  • Starboard: right of centreline when facing toward the bow, identified by colour green on a vessel's running lights
  • Stern: the aftermost part of a vessel
  • Stow: to put gear in its place

W Edit

  • Wardroom: officer's messing compartment

Aerospace Service TermsEdit

A Edit

  • AAA: Anti-Aircraft Artillery. Rapid-firing cannon or machine guns, often aimed by computers and radar
  • ACM: Air Combat Manoeuvres, dogfighting
  • Air Wing:The entire complement of aircraft fielded by the carrier in battle
  • AGL: Above Ground Level, refers to heigh over terrain
  • Angels: term used in reference to altitude in increments of one thousand feet from mean sea level; "Angels 20" would be 20,000 feet MSL
  • AoA: Angle of Attack; the angle between an aircraft's chord to its flight path, excessive Angle of Attack will result in a stall

B Edit

  • Ball: A visual device that helps guide a fighter into the flight bay
  • Bandit: A targeted aircraft that is confirmed to be hostile
  • Bingo: Minimum fuel for a comfortable and safe return to base. Aircraft can fly and fight past bingo fuel in combat situations, but at considerable peril

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