Sailor Speak of the Week – Mess



  • A group within the ship’s company who live and eat together (e.g. junior officer’s mess).
  • A meal or food in general.


16th century Middle English, mes, and Late Latin, missum, meaning that which is put on the table.


Also a military term. Food takes on a whole new dimension for people in the service. Many foods, indeed entire recipes, have their own name. Entire sets of rules and etiquette have also been created solely for the act of messing. It tends to get more convoluted the more formal the setting becomes.


Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum.

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