Sailors use traditional nautical terms:
ABEAM - directly to the side of the boat
ABOUT - on the opposite tack
AFT - at or near the stern
ALEE - to the leeward side
ALOFT - above the deck
APPARENT WIND - the direction and speed of the wind felt by the crew - a combination of the true wind and that created by the motion of the boat
ASTERN - behind the boat
BACKSTAY - any single wire supporting the mast from the stern
BATTEN - thin wooden strips fitted into pockets for stiffening the leech of a sail
BEAM - measurement of the width of a boat
BEAM REACH - sailing with the wind coming across the boat's beam
BEAM WIND - a wind at right angles to a boat's course
BEAR AWAY - to steer the boat away from the wind
BEAT - sailing against the wind by tacking (sailing a zigzag course towards the wind)
BEATING TO WINDWARD - sailing to windward close-hauled, tacking as you go, to reach an objective to windward
BEND - to connect two ropes with a knot
BLOCK - a pulley
BOLLARD - a short heavy post on a pier, or boat, used for fastening docking lines
BOOM - spar that takes the foot of a sail
BOW - the forward part of a boat
BROACH - turn sideways to wind and the surf
BROAD REACH - the point of sailing between a beam reach and a run, when the wind blows over the quarter
BUOY - floating navigational marker
CAPSIZE - to overturn
CENTER OF EFFORT (COE) - the point at which all the forces acting on the sails are concentrated
CENTRE OF LATERAL RESISTANCE (CLR) - the underwater centre of pressure about which a boat pivots when changing course
CENTERBOARD - retractable keel to stop a boat's leeward drift
CHAIN PLATE - metal fitting bolted to the side of a boat to hold the ends of stays and shrouds
CLEAT - fitting to which a line is secured, without knotting
CLEW - aft bottom corner of a sail, where the foot and leech meet
CLOSE-HAULED - sailing close to the wind with sails pulled in
CLOSE REACH - the point of sailing between close-hauled and a beam reach, when the wind blows forward of the beam
COME ABOUT - to change course so as to be sailing at the same angle but with the wind on the other side
COURSE - the direction in which a vessel is steered, usually given in degrees
CUTTER - single-masted fore-and-aft boat having an inner staysail and outer jib
DAGGERBOARD - centreboard that does not pivot
DINGHY - a small boat used to ferry people to a yacht; also used for sailing or rowing; also called a tender
DOWNHAUL - rope used to set up downward tension or haul down a sail or spar
EYE OF THE WIND - direction from which the true wind is blowing
FALLING OFF - turn away from the direction of the wind
FOOT - a sail's lower edge
FORE - at or toward the boat's bow
FORE-AND-AFT - lengthwise, in the direction of the keel
FOREMAST - mast nearest to the bow
FORESTAY - the foremost stay, running from the masthead to the bow
FURL - tightly roll up a sail
GAFF - spar that secures the head of a fore-and-aft sail
GALLEY - a kitchen on a boat
GENOA - large headsail, which overlaps the mainsail
GROMMET - rope or brass ring in a sail or piece of canvas
GUNWALES - upper edges of a boat's sides
GUY - adjustable steadying rope of a boat's rig
GYBING - changing direction with the wind aft; to change from one tack to another by turning the stern through the wind; also spelled jibing
HALYARD - line used for hoisting sails
HANK - fitting used to attach the luff of a sail to a stay
HARD-A-LEE - to put the tiller all the way down toward the leeward side of the boat
HEAD - a sail's top corner; also a boat's toilet
HEADSAIL - sail forward of the foremast
HEADSTAY - a forward stay
HEADWAY - moving forward
HEEL - a boat's angle to horizontal, to lean over to one side
HELM - tiller or wheel
HOIST - the length of the luff of a fore-and-aft sail
HULL - the body of boat
IN IRONS - to head into the wind and refuse to fall off
JIB - a triangular headsail set on a stay forward of the foremast
JIBSHEET - line that controls the jib
KEEL - centreline backbone at the bottom of a boat
LASHING - a rope used for securing any movable object in place
LATEEN - rig with a triangular sail secured to a yard hoisted to a low mast.
LEE - the side opposite that from which the wind blows; the opposite of weather
LEECH - outside edge of a sail
LEE HELM - the tendency of a boat to swing leeward unless held on course
LEEWARD - away from the wind; the direction to which the wind blows, down wind
LINE - any length of rope that has a specified use
LUFF - to get so close to the wind that the sail flaps; also the forward edge of a sail
LUFF UP - to turn the boat's head right into the wind
MAINMAST - principal mast on a boat
MAINSAIL - boomed sail projecting aft from the mainmast
MAINSHEET - line that controls the main boom
MAKE FAST - secure a line
MAST - vertical spar to which the sails and rigging are attached
MASTHEAD - top of the mast
MIZZEN - the shorter, after-mast on a ketch or yawl
ON THE WIND - close-hauled
PAINTER - the bow line by which a dinghy, or tender is towed or made fast
POINT - to head close to the wind
POINT OF SAIL - the different angles from the wind on which a boat may sail; the boat's course relative to the direction of the wind
PORT - the left-hand side of a boat, looking forward towards the bow (opposite of starboard)
PORT TACK - when a boat sails with the main boom to starboard and wind hits the port side first
PRIVILEGED VESSEL - a boat that has the right-of-way (ROW)
REACH - sailing on a tack with the wind roughly abeam, all sailing points between running and close- hauled
READY ABOUT - order to prepare for coming about
REEF - reduce the sail area by folding or rolling surplus material on the boom or forestay
RIG - arrangements of masts and sails
RIGGING - ropes and wire stays of a boat; securing masts and sails
RUDDER - vertical metal or wooden plate attached to the stern, whose movements steer the boat
RULES OF THE ROAD - right-of-way (ROW) regulations to prevent collisions between boats
RUN - to sail with the wind aft and the sheets eased out
RUNNING RIGGING - all of the moving lines, such as sheets and halyards, used in the setting and trimming of sails
SET - to hoist a sail
SHACKLE - a U-shaped piece of iron or steel with eyes in the ends, closed by a shackle pin
SHEAVE - a grooved wheel in a block or spar for a rope to run on
SHEET - line that controls a sail or the movement of a boom
SHIP SHAPE - neat, seamanlike
SHROUDS - transverse wires or ropes that support the mast laterally
SPAR - pole, mast, or boom, that supports a sail
SPINNAKER - a large, light, balloon-shaped sail set forward of the mainsail when running before the wind
SPLICE - to join ropes or wires by un-laying the strands and interweaving them
SPREADERS - horizontal spar attached to the mast, which extend the shrouds and stays and help to support the mast
STANDING RIGGING - the shrouds and stays which are permanently set up and support the masts
STARBOARD - right-hand side of a boat looking forward towards the bow (opposite of port)
STARBOARD TACK - tack on which the wind strikes the starboard side first and the boom is out to port
STAY - wire or rope which supports the mast in a fore-and-aft direction; part of the standing rigging
STAYSAIL - sail set on a stay inboard of the foremost sail
STEP - a recess into which the fell of the mast is placed
STERN - aft end of a boat
STRINGER - a fore-and-aft member, fitted to strengthen the frames
TACK - the lower forward corner of the sail, where the luff and the foot meet; also the diagonal made with the wind by a sailboat when close-hauled, (to change from one tack to another by coming about)
TACKING - working to windward by sailing close-hauled on alternate courses so that the wind is first on one side of the boat, then on the other
TELL-TALES - small lengths of wood sewn through a sail near the luff and leech to allow the air flow over the sail to be checked
TENDER - see dinghy
TILLER - short piece of wood by which the rudder is turned
TOPSIDES - the part of a boat's hull which is above the waterline
TRANSOM - a flat surface at the back of the hull to which the rudder is attached
TRAVELLER - a slide which travels on a track and is used for altering sheet angles
TRIM - to adjust the angle of the sails
TRUE WIND - the direction and speed of the wind felt when stationary, at anchor or on land
WAKE - a boat's track, behind
WATERLINE - the line along the hull at which a boat floats
WEATHER - windward, opposite of leeward
WEATHER HELM - boat with a tendency to swing into the wind unless held on course
WEATHER SIDE - the side of a boat on which the wind is blowing
WHISKER POLE - a light pole used to hold out the clew of a headsail when running
WINCH - a mechanical device, consisting usually of a metal drum turned by a handle, around which a line is wound to give the crew more "help" when tightening a line
WINDWARD - the direction from which the wind blows, towards the wind (opposite of leeward


In most cases, rope is the term used only for raw material. Once a section of rope is designated for a particular purpose on a vessel, it is generally called a line, as in outhaul line or dock line. A very thick line is considered a cable. Lines that are attached to sails to control their shapes are called sheets, as in mainsheet. If a rope is made of wire, it maintains its rope name as in 'wire rope' halyard.

Lines (generally steel cables) that support masts are stationary and are collectively known as a vessel's standing rigging, and individually as shrouds or stays. The stay running forward from a mast to the bow is called the forestay or headstay.

Moveable lines that control sails or other equipment are known collectively as a vessel's running rigging. Lines that raise sails are called halyards while those that strike them are called downhauls or cunninghams. Lines that adjust (trim) the sails are called sheets. These are often referred to using the name of the sail they control (such as main sheet, or jib sheet). Sail trim may also be controlled with smaller lines attached to the forward section of a boom; such a line is called a vang, or a kicker in the United Kingdom.

Lines used to tie a boat up when alongside a dock are called docklines, docking cables or mooring warps. In dinghies the single line from the bow is referred to as the painter.

Some lines are referred to as ropes:
arrow a bell rope (to ring the bell)
arrow a bolt rope (attached to the edge of a sail for extra strength)
arrow a foot rope (on old square riggers for the sailors to stand on while reefing or furling the sails)
arrow a tiller rope (to temporarily hold the tiller and keep the boat on course). A rode is what keeps an anchor attached to the boat when the anchor is in use. It may be chain, rope, or a combination of the two.