Sailor Speak of the Week – Ratlines

A person climbing the ratlines.



  • (AKA Ratlins, Rattlings) Small ropes or rods tied between the shrouds to form the rungs of a ladder. Used for going aloft.


15th century. From the earlier spelling, raddlelines, and the Middle English word, radelyne.


Pronounced ratlin. These are still found on square-rigged ships and some larger fore-and-aft rigged ships. The crew will climb the ratlines to go aloft to work on maintenance, conduct repairs, and a work on the sails.


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

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