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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Skua \Sku"a\, n. [Icel. sk?fr, sk?mr.] (Zo["o]l.) Any jager gull; especially, the Megalestris skua; -- called also boatswain.


Jager \Ja"ger\, n. [G. j["a]ger a hunter, a sportsman. Cf. Yager.] [Written also jaeger.]

  1. (Mil.) A sharpshooter. See Yager.

  2. (Zo["o]l.) Any species of gull of the genus Stercorarius. Three species occur on the Atlantic coast. The jagers pursue other species of gulls and force them to disgorge their prey. The two middle tail feathers are usually decidedly longer than the rest. Called also boatswain, and marline-spike bird. The name is also applied to the skua, or Arctic gull ( Megalestris skua).


Tropic \Trop"ic\, a. Of or pertaining to the tropics; tropical.

Tropic bird (Zo["o]l.), any one of three species of oceanic belonging to the genus Pha["e]thon, found chiefly in tropical seas. They are mostly white, and have two central tail feathers very long and slender. The yellow-billed tropic bird. Pha["e]thon flavirostris (called also boatswain), is found on the Atlantic coast of America, and is common at the Bermudas, where it breeds.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

mid-15c., from late Old English batswegen, from bat "boat" (see boat (n.)) + Old Norse sveinn "boy" (see swain). Phonetic spelling bo'sun/bosun is attested from 1840.\n\nBOATSWAIN. 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]


alt. 1 (context nautical English) The officer (or warrant officer) in charge of sails, rigging, anchors, cables etc. and all work on deck of a sailing ship. 2 (context nautical English) The petty officer of a merchant ship who controls the work of other seamen. 3 A kind of gull, the jaeger. 4 The tropicbird. n. 1 (context nautical English) The officer (or warrant officer) in charge of sails, rigging, anchors, cables etc. and all work on deck of a sailing ship. 2 (context nautical English) The petty officer of a merchant ship who controls the work of other seamen. 3 A kind of gull, the jaeger. 4 The tropicbird.


n. a petty officer on a merchant ship who controls the work of other seamen [syn: bos'n, bo's'n, bosun, bo'sun]


A boatswain (, formerly and dialectally also ), bo's'n, bos'n, or bosun, also known as an unlicensed petty officer or qualified member of the deck department, is the senior rate of the deck department and is responsible for the components of a ship's hull. The boatswain supervises the other members of the ship's deck department, and typically is not a watchstander, except on vessels with small crews. Other duties vary depending upon the type of ship, its crew, and other factors.

Boatswain (disambiguation)

Boatswain or bosun may refer to:

  • Boatswain, a seaman's occupation and/or rank
  • Boatswain's mate (United States Navy), a job classification in the United States Navy
  • Boatswain's mate (United States Coast Guard), a job classification in the United States Coast Guard
  • Boatswain is a position on yacht racing crews
  • Boatswain, the highest petty officer in Sea Scouting
  • Boatswain (bird), any species of gull of the genus Stercorarius
  • Boatswain Bird Island, a small uninhabited island and nature reserve home to many endemic species of bird off the coast of Ascension Island
  • Bosun, the NATO reporting name for the Soviet Tupolev Tu-14 bomber
  • Bosun (dinghy) a type of sailing dinghy
  • Bosun's chair, a type of harness that allows a crewmember to climb into the rigging and work safely on the sails, halyards, or other rigging
  • Boatswain's call, a pipe or whistle used to issue commands onboard ship.
The arts
  • The Boatswain, a minor character in Shakespeare's The Tempest
  • Boatswain, a Newfoundland dog kept by Lord Byron, who honored him by the poem " Epitaph to a Dog"
  • Quinton Boatswain (born 1990), Montserratian cricketer

Usage examples of "boatswain".

Sir Francis extinguished the candle in the binnacle so that the ship showed no lights, then passed the keys of the arms chests to his boatswains.

There was no drummer on the Biter, no soldiers, no one at all to beat to quarters or inst il a fearful discipline in the crew, while Jem Taylor, boatswain, had an altogether lighter touch than Bentley thought was necessary in that office.

Naturally, with an action close to hand, Lieutenant Kaye stayed in command of Biter, with hands enough to man the guns and the boatswain to control them.

It was in the midst of such signs of expectation that the call of the boatswain was heard piping the side on board the Foudroyant, and four side-boys lay over on the accommodation-ladder, a mark of honor never paid to one of a rank less than that of a captain.

As the hour for morning colors approached, sailors in white uniforms removed the jack and ensign from their lockers, a bluejacket on the signal bridge hoisted the Blue Peter, and boatswains were set to pipe the preparatory signal at 0755.

The boatswain looked with a stupefied stare at the young novice addressed in a feminine name, but on a sign from James Playfair he went out.

As the ship was kept under her topsails and spanker, with two reefs down, no fresh sail was made, and the boatswain did not order the midshipmen to perform any duty.

Most of the men were hustled below by Ned and the other boatswains, while the rest were ordered to lie flat on the deck concealed below the bulwarks.

While the crew crowded the opening of the hatch above them Sir Francis and the boatswains went down, each carrying a lighted lantern, and knelt in the bottom of the hold to examihe the seals that the Dutch Governor of Trincomalee had placed on the entrance.

He started on the main deck and then, with his two boatswains, opened every hatch.

Copley Banks was chosen captain, but, as there are no mates upon a pirate craft, Birthmark Sweetlocks became quartermaster, and Israel Martin the boatswain.

Hoggett, the boatswain, and his two mates, Beedle, the unsmiling master-at-arms, Bunn, the ship's corporal, with the prisoner and Laidlaw, the surgeon, bringing up the rear.

His family consisted of a large black cat with one eye, and a parrot which he had caught and tamed and educated himself in the course of one of his voyages, and which uttered a variety of sea-phrases with the hoarse brattling tone of a veteran boatswain.

The boatswain gave the signal to weigh anchor, and leaping upon the middle of the gangway began to lay on to the shoulders of the crew with his courbash or whip, and to haul out gradually to sea.

It's your humble servant Boatswain Sam Bowles come to tend to your needs.