Some English Sailing Terms with Norse Antecedents: Weather side, luff, tack, beat to windward

By William Sayers, published March 2016


Key terms in the English vocabulary of sailing to windward appear anomalous in dictionaries organized by mainstream English headwords. The Old Norse language, with Anglo-Norse and Anglo-Norman French as linguistic intermediaries, along with early medieval Scandinavian sailing technology are proposed as the source for this important word cluster. The tacking terms of ‘weather’, ‘beat’, ‘tack’ and ‘luff’ are provided with discrete etymologies vis-à-vis mainstream English vocabulary and seen in their historical context enrich our knowledge of the language of the sea through a more accurate identification of lexical sources.

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Filed under: Medieval | Other (location)
Subjects include: Ship Handling & Seamanship

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