Sea Legs - Coast Guard Glossary

Coast Guard Terms

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"A" SCHOOL - school where enlisted members go to receive basic technical training for their rating.
ADVANCE PAY - an advance on your base pay for a move. This must be repaid.
AFT - in, near, or toward the stern of the ship.
ALLOTMENT - assignment of part of military pay directly to a person or bank.
ALOFT - above the ship's uppermost solid structure, overhead or high above.
ALONGSIDE - by the side of the pier or ship.
ANCHOR - the hook used at the end of a chain and dropped to the sea bottom to hold a ship in one particular place.
ANCHORAGE - suitable place for ship to anchor; a designated area of a port or harbor.
ANCHOR’S AWEIGH - said of the anchor when just clear of the bottom.
AWASH - so low in the water that the water is constantly washing across the service.
AYE-AYE - term used to acknowledge receipt of a command or order from senior.

BARRACKS - a building where military personnel live.
BEAM - greatest athwart ships width of a vessel.
BELAY - to cancel an order; stop; firmly secure a line.
BELOW - below decks or below main deck.
BILLET - an individual’s position in the ship’s organization.
BOATSWAIN'S MATE OF THE WATCH (BMOW) - is responsible to ensure all watches are properly manned and in order.
BOW - most forward part of a ship.
BRAVO ZULU or BZ! - Well Done!
BRIG - military jail.
BROW - large gangplank leading from a ship to a pier, wharf or float; usually equipped with handrails.
BULKHEAD - one of the upright, crosswise partitions dividing a ship into compartments.


Coast Guardsman with shopping carts at the commissaryCABIN - the Commanding Officer's living quarters.
CAPTAIN - rank of a senior officer, or title given to commanding officers of a cutter.
"C" SCHOOL - school member attends to receive advanced technical training.
CENTER LINE - imaginary line running from ship's bow to stern.
CG PORTAL - Coast Guard intranet site accessible to the military member.
CHECK - to slack off slowly, to ease off a line a little.
COMMISSARY - grocery store on base where service members and families can purchase food, beverages, etc., at prices usually lower than in civilian stores.
COMMISSION - to activate a ship or station; written order giving an officer rank and authority.
COMMISSIONING CEREMONIES - ceremonies during which a new ship is placed in service. It is customary to invite friends of officers and others interested to attend the ceremony, along with the sponsor who christened the ship.
COMPARTMENT - space enclosed by bulkheads, deck and overhead, same as a room in a building.
CONUS - the Continental United States (48 states and the District of Columbia).
COURT-MARTIAL - military court for trial of serious offenses.

DAVIT - shipboard crane that can be swung out over the side.
DECK - a floor or platform extending from end to end of a ship.
DEERS - Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System. The DEERS database lists everyone entitled to active duty and retired pay and his or her family members.
DEPENDENT - a legal term used for a person receiving all or a portion of their necessary financial support from the active duty member.
DETAILER - the person responsible for deciding your Coast Guardsman's next duty station.
DIRECT ACCESS - Coast Guard computerized Human Capital Management System.


ENGINEERING OFFICER OF THE WATCH (EOW) - an officer in charge of the engineering department while on watch.
EXCHANGE - department store run by the military.
EXECUTIVE OFFICER (XO) - regardless of rank, the officer second in command.
EYES IN THE BOAT - look straight ahead at the position of attention.

FAST - snugly secure.Finance
FATHOM - in measuring depth of water, six feet.
FENDER - a piece of equipment, such as an inflated ball, when inserted between the vessel and another object will absorb shock and prevent damage.
FLAG AT HALF-MAST - begun in times of mourning in old sailing days, indicated that grief was so great it was impossible to keep things shipshape. Half-masting of colors is the survival of days when slack appearance characterized mourning on shipboard.
FLAG OFFICER - Rear Admiral, Lower Half; Rear Admiral, Upper Half; Vice Admiral; and Admiral are flag officers.
FORE - towards the bow of the ship.
FORECASTLE - pronounced “fowk-sul.” In the days of Columbus, ships were fitted with castle-like structures fore and aft. The structures have disappeared, but the term forecastle remains; refers to upper deck in forward part of ship. Abbreviated fo'c'sle.

GALLEY - the cooking compartment or "kitchen" on a vessel.
GEOGRAPHIC BACHELOR - refers to a member who moves to a new duty station unaccompanied by choice, also known as “geo-bach”, or “geo”.
GUNWALE - upper edge or rail of a ship or boat’s side, pronounced “GUN"nle.


HATCH - a square or rectangular opening in a deck.
HAWSER - a thick rope or cable for mooring or towing a ship.
HEAD - nautical term for rest room, washroom or toilet.
HEADING - the direction a ship points at any given moment.

INBOARD - toward the center of the ship.

KEEL- center of the hull. Lowest in water where weight is most carried.

LADDER - steps from one deck to another..
LEAVE - paid vacation earned at the rate of two-and-a-half days per month of active duty.
LEEWARD - direction away from the wind.
LIBERTY - authorized absence of individual from place of duty, not chargeable as leave. No period of liberty shall exceed a total of 96 hours.

Coast Guard termsMAST - Captain’s mast or merely mast means type of hearing with commanding officer presiding in which any punishment administered is nonjudicial in nature and is an alternative to court martial.
MESSDECK - the compartment where enlisted personnel eat.
MILITARY CLAUSE -  protects you from paying the rest of a rental home’s lease, if you are asked to move due to military orders.
MILITARY TIME - The easiest way to remember military or Coast Guard time is for any time prior to 10:00 a.m. simply add a zero before the hour, example: nine o’clock in the morning would be spoken as “zero nine hundred” and written as 0900. For any time after 12:00 noon simply add twelve to the time.
MILITARY TREATMENT FACILITY - military facility where members and dependents receive medical care.
MUSTER - to assemble crew; roll call.


OFFICER OF THE DAY / DECK (OOD) - an officer who is in charge of a vessel or station for the day or watch.
OMBUDSMAN - spouse of a member of the command who is appointed by the Commanding Officer to serve as official liaison between the Command and family members.
OUTBOARD - away from the center of the ship.
OVERHEAD - the ceiling on a vessel/compartment.

PASSAGEWAY - corridor or hallway on ship.
PORT - left side of ship looking forward.

RACK - a sailor's bed. 

SCULLERY - compartment for washing and sterilizing eating utensils.
SCUTTLEBUTT - (1) a drinking fountain. (2) a rumor.
SPONSOR - (1) the active duty member from whom you are a dependent; (2) someone assigned to assist you when you PCS.
STARBOARD - right side of ship looking forward.
STERN - aft part of ship.
STRIKE - lower or bring down.
SWAB - rope or yarn mop used for cleaning.


Coast Guard terminologyTURN TO - an order to begin work.

UNDERWAY - a military vessel that is not presently moored to a pier, or at anchor.

VOID - an empty compartment below decks..

WAKE - the track of disturbed water left behind a moving ship.
WATCH - period of duty, usually of four hours’ duration.
WINDWARD - side of the vessel wind is coming from.