Sailor Speak of the Week – Lateen

A dhow with a lateen sail off Mozambique. They’re on a bad tack with the sail pressing against the mast.



  • A triangular fore-and-aft sail on a long yard which is at deck level forward and high aft.


Probably earlier than the 18th century. A British and French corruption of the word, Latin, meaning the Mediterranean.


The yard that the sail was suspended from is frequently longer than the vessel itself. Lateen refers to both the type of sail and the rigging. This type of sail is of ancient origin; its use dating from at least the 9th century and were frequently used on vessels, such as xebecs, settees, feluccas, and dhows, that sailed the Mediterranean.


King, D., Hattendorf, J.B, & Estes, J.W. (1997). A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O’Brian’s Seafaring Tales (2nd Ed.). Owl Books.

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

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