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How did some of the rigging terms get started? References??


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As I am going along making and learning, I am also curious how some of the common terms or names came about. For example, 'ratlines'.

Now I am sure rats never used those lines to climb up to nowhere. They would go down where the goodies were. Perhaps some landlubber saw men climbing up those 'ladders' and thought they looked like rats.

Besides, why is the ratline pronounces as 'rattlin' (or something like that)?


We can all think of terms like that, but I wonder if there is a good source, book or other reference that can explain the source. I don't want the explanation of what it is, but how it came to be called that. More examples:


halliard, probably related to 'haul that line'. Try to pronounce it the correct way.


Topgallant ????


Leech and buntlines ???






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halyard (n.) dictionary.gif "rope for hoisting sails," 1610s, from Middle English halier "a halyard" (late 14c.), also "a carrier, porter" (late 13c. in surnames), from halen "to haul" (see hale (v.)). Spelling influenced by yard"long beam that supports a sail.


Rat Line Middle English radelyng

First Known Use: 15th century
Bunt (line)
1.  a :  the middle part of a square sail
       b :  the part of a furled sail gathered up in a bunch at the center of the yard
2:  the bagging part of a fishing net
Origin of BUNT
perhaps from Low German, bundle, from Middle Low German; akin to Old English byndel bundle
First Known Use: circa 1582
Leech (line)
1.   :  either vertical edge of a square sail
:  the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail
Variants of LEECH
leech also leach
Origin of LEECH
Middle English leche; akin to Middle Low German līk boltrope
First Known Use: 15th century
Edited by popeye2sea
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John Harland is not only a scholar in the thing as such, but also in the related etymology:


HARLAND, J. (1985): Seamanship in the Age of Sail.- 320 p., London (Conway Maritime Press).


BTW, rats (and mice) can climb up to the most impossible places - this is why large metal discs are being put half-way along mooring ropes.



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Thank you gentlemen for the references. That gives me a good start.

And Wefalck, indeed those little critters can climb into or along the most precarious places. I am familiar with the metal disks to prevent them from coming aboard. But, as I mentioned, I think they are more interested in going below deck rather than climbing the masts, unless someone left some of their lunch on the platforms (crows-nests, a term that I can understand).

Edited by Modeler12
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