Naval slang has been used since the formation of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), much of it taken from the Royal Navy. The following is a brief collection of terms and sayings that may be heard in most RAN ships or establishments.

Over the years, hundreds of naval words, terms and expressions have found their way into everyday language. Some of these include ‘the cat is out of the bag’, ‘above board’, ‘long shot’ and ‘over a barrel’.

The term ‘chock-a-block’, meaning ‘full’, is a naval expression. It comes from the days of sail, when blocks and tackle were in common use in a ship’s rigging. When the lower block of a tackle was run close to the upper one and could not be hoisted higher, they were said to be ‘chock-a-block’. 

The term ‘slush fund’ was also originally a nautical term. The slush was the fat or grease skimmed from the top of the cauldron when boiling salted meat. Ships’ officers would sell the fat to tallow makers and the proceeds kept as a ‘slush’ fund for small purchases for the ship’s company.

Adrift: absent or late for a muster

Ahoy: a seaman's call for attention

All nighters in: all night in one’s bed/a night without going on watch             

Aloft: anything above the main deck of the ship

Alongside: against the side of the ship, such as the wharf

Amidships: the centre part of a ship or boat

As you were: a warning to return to your original position

Avast: stop what you are doing

Badges: short name for continuous service badges

Bait layer: a member of the cookery branch

Bandy: a musician

Banyan: a beach barbecue

Beagle: a steward

Below there: a call to a person below

Bight: a loop or slack in a length of rope

Birdie: a member of the aviation branch

Black cat: a person with more impressive stories than you

Bravo zulu: well done (BZ)

Brew: a coffee or tea

Bright work: polished metal fittings

Buffer: sailor in charge of the boatswain branch

Burgoo: porridge

Buzz: a rumour

Common dog: common sense

Civvies: civilian clothing or personnel

Deck head: the roof

Dhobey: washing/laundry

Dhobey dust: washing powder

Dibbie: a member of the boatswains branch

Dit: a story/book/movie

Double duffer: a member of ships’ company who consumes two servings of dessert

Duff: dessert

Fang bosun: dentist

Freshers: fresh water

Gammas: sunlight

Getters: thongs

Goffer: a soft drink

Goffer bits: loose change

Gongs: medals

Greenie: an electrical sailor

Grey funnel line: the RAN

Half a dog watch: a short amount of time

Heads: toilet

Irish pennant: a loose end of material hanging off a uniform

Jack/Jack Tar: a sailor

Jibbers: sauce/cleaning product

Killick/Kellick: a Leading Seaman

Kit: uniform

Maccas: snacks or confectionery

Maggot bag: meat pie

Oppo: a friend or colleague

Pay off: discharge from the Navy

Pipe down: cease work for the day

Pit: bed

Rack: bed

Redders: tomato sauce

Rocky: Naval Reserve member

Scab lifter: a medical sailor

Scran: food or a meal served at sea

Sculling: anything left lying around

Scribe: a writer

Sin bosun: a chaplain

Skipper: Captain of a ship

Sky pilot: a chaplain

Skulk/skulking: the act of knowingly avoiding work

Soggies: cereal

Stoker: a marine technician—the term is derived from the days when ships were coal burners whose furnaces required frequent stoking.

Throw a goffer: salute

Tiddley oggie: a pastie

Train smash: a breakfast dish made from tomatoes

Under-armers: deodorant

Uppers: upper deck of the ship

Warm the bell: to prepare for an early departure or end of a watch


Nicknames also abound in the RAN. Generic nicknames include ‘Blue’ for a RAN member with red hair, or ‘Dutchy’ for a member with a surname beginning with ‘Van’. The following is a list of common surnames and their associated monikers.

Bell: Dinga

Bennett: Wiggy

Brown: Bomber

Clark: Nobby

Evans: Dorry

Fleming: Fluff

Gale: Windy

Gordon: Flash

Gray: Dolly

Hill: Windy

Hudson: Rock

Jones: Spike

Lane: Shady

Martin: Pincher

Metcalfe: Chops

Miller: Dusty

Moore: Pony

Murphy: Spud

Neal: Scratcher

Payne: Whacker

Parker: Nosey

Patterson: Banjo

Reynolds: Debbie

Rodgers: Buck

Smith: Smouch

Taylor: Squizzy

Walker: Phantom

Webb: Spider

White: Knocker

Williams: Bungy

Wilson: Tug

Wright: Shiner