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Pirates Glossary
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- The Pirate code - a set of rules governing conduct aboard a pirate ship. Agreed by all, sworn to on a bible and/or a hatchet. Signed in blood.


Buccaneers - Also known as Boucanniers, took their name from a fierce breed of men living on the island of Hispaniola who survived by hunting and attacking Spanish ships. They were named after the buccan, a fire they used to smoke meat. Some of the buccaneers, like Jean L’Onnais and Rock Braziliano were renowned for their cruelty, and gave me a model for Bartholome the Brazilian.


Going on the account - becoming a pirate.


Jolly Roger -The name is a corruption of Jolie Rouge, the ironic name of the pretty red flags flown by the original buccaneers. The colour probably originated from the red warning flags flown by ships with plague on board, but rapidly came to mean ‘no quarter’, no mercy shown.


Pirate Flags - Pirate flags, also known as ‘hoists’ or ‘jacks’, were flown to signal intent and to instil fear and dread. Pirates didn’t want a fight; they wanted to take a ship with minimum risk and damage. Originally red, these flags later became black, but the name stayed the same. Some captains and crews added their own designs which carried various meanings:

Skull and crossed bones – the meaning is obvious, the derivation more obscure, but it could have come from the sign in a ships’ log to show a death on board.

Skeletons - death or dancing with death.

Hour glasses - your time is running out.

A drinking glass - toasting death.

A red heart - no quarter.

Swords and darts - all may expect to put to the slaughter.

Many of these devices were well known and would occasion immediate surrender. Not many captains of merchantmen would want a fight with Black Beard or Black Bart Roberts.

The icons used on this website were inspired by known images used on pirate flags.


Privateers - Attacked enemy vessels in time of war after being given a letter of marque by their government.


Quartermaster - Appointed by the crew. In charge of discipline on a pirate ship and to go between the men and the captain.