Sailor Speak of the Week – Jolly Roger

Definition

Noun

  • The traditional flag of pirates and buccaneers. Usually black with a macabre design such as a skull and crossed bones.

Origin

18th Century. Jolly is meant as a paradox (they were anything but). Rogers was a colloquialism for rogues at the time.

Comments

Long before Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride at Disneyland and a movie franchise, real pirates in history used this flag. In the West Indies and the Mediterranean, black is supposedly the traditional color of the renegade. There are many variations of this flag. In modern times, it has been used by submarines and various military units to invoke a rogue-like image.

Alas, modern pirates do not use this flag (at least to my knowledge), but that makes them no less brutal.

References

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

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