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Galleass \Gal"le*ass\ (?; 135), n. [F. gal['e]asse, gal['e]ace; cf. It. galeazza, Sp. galeaza; LL. galea a galley. See Galley.] (Naut.) A large galley, having some features of the galleon, as broadside guns; esp., such a vessel used by the southern nations of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. See Galleon, and Galley. [Written variously galeas, gallias, etc.]

Note: ``The galleasses . . . were a third larger than the ordinary galley, and rowed each by three hundred galley slaves. They consisted of an enormous towering structure at the stern, a castellated structure almost equally massive in front, with seats for the rowers amidships.''


alt. (context nautical historical English) A type of rowable vessel of the 16th and 17th centuries, similar to a galley but larger, and normally equipped with sails. n. (context nautical historical English) A type of rowable vessel of the 16th and 17th centuries, similar to a galley but larger, and normally equipped with sails.


The galleass were ships developed from large merchant galleys. Converted for military use they were higher, larger and slower than regular ("light") galleys. They had up to 32 oars, each worked by up to 5 men. They usually had three masts and a forecastle and aftcastle. Much effort was made in Venice to make these galleasses as fast as possible to compete with regular galleys. The gun-deck usually ran over the rowers' heads, but there are also pictures showing the opposite arrangement.

Galleasses usually carried more sails than true galleys, and were far deadlier; a galley caught broadside lay all but helpless, since coming broadside to a galleass, as with a ship of the line, exposed an attacker to her gunfire. Relatively few galleasses were built — one disadvantage was that, being more reliant on sails, their position at the front of the galley line at the start of a battle could not be guaranteed — but they were used at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, their firepower helping to win victory for the Holy League fleet, and some sufficiently seaworthy galleasses accompanied the Spanish Armada in 1588 (e.g. La Girona). In the 15th century a type of light galleass, called the frigate, was built in southern European countries to answer the increasing challenge posed by the north African based Barbary pirates in their fast galleys.

In the Mediterranean, with its less dangerous weather and fickle winds, both galleasses and galleys continued in use, particularly in Venice and the Ottoman Empire, long after they became obsolete elsewhere. Later, "round ships" and galleasses were replaced by galleons and ships of the line which originated in Atlantic Europe. The first Venetian ship of the line was built in 1660.

In the North Sea and western Baltic, the term refers to small commercial vessels similar to a flat-sterned herring Buss.

Usage examples of "galleass".

In the port of Palmas the archepiscopal party and their baggage were all transshipped to a waiting Genoan galleass, Spaventoso, all bristling with cannon.

Indeed, on my voyage to Sicily, the Genoan galleass on which Archbishop di Rezzi and I were traveling was attacked by three Moorish feluccas and was compelled by their ferocity to sink two of them.

Though express after express had been sent off praying that ammunition might be sent, none had arrived, and the two fleets lay six miles apart without action, save that the galleasses came out and skirmished for a while with the English ships.

Drake with his division of the fleet, and Seymour with the squadron from the Thames, weighed their anchors and stood off after them, while Howard with his division remained off Calais, where, in the morning, the largest of the four galleasses was seen aground on Calais Bar.

The helmsman drowsed against the binnacle with the wheel clamped in the friction brake as the galleass drifted under the limp billows of her staysails.