- A privately-owned pleasure boat.
17th century. Several possible sources, but probably from the Dutch, jacht, and the later jagt. From their word jagten, meaning speed.
Yachts comes in many shapes and sizes, from sailing to motor vessels. Early yachts were vessels of state for use by royalty, nobility, and other dignitaries. There isn’t really a standard definition, but most yachts have specific accommodations or amenities for living aboard them. This is in contrast to a recreational pleasure craft, such as a jet ski or speed boat which is only meant to motor around for a short duration and return to a harbor.
Many of us associate the term yacht with the superyachts of the mega-rich (such as the one pictured above). Distinct from cruise ships, these large vessels seem to be more of a statement of overly-conspicuous consumption and gaudy opulence.
(Actually, one of my sick fantasies is to evacuate all of the people off of a superyacht, and then force them to watch as a warship puts a torpedo or anti-ship missile (or two) into it. Their bazillion-dollar boat will slowly sink beneath the waves, and we’ll send them back home aboard steerage accommodations. HeHe.)