Sailor Speak of the Week – Xebec

A square-rigged xebec from the late-18th to early-19th century.



AKA xebeque, jabeque, sciabecco, and chebeck

  • A small, fast, three-masted (originally two-masted) vessel with a shallow draft and prominent overhanging bow and stern.


Similar words with similar meanings appear in Catalan, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, and Turkish.


The sail plan of xebecs varied depending on the time period. By the 18th and early-19th centuries, a large xebec would have a square rig on the foremast, but lateen sails on the others. Xebecs were infamously used by corsairs (pirates) in the Mediterranean. Some xebecs could accommodate crews up to 400 and as many as 24 guns.


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.

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