Sailor Speak of the Week – Billet



  • A person’s berth and/or duty assignment. (Usually on a military ship.)


Probably earlier than the 18th century. From the Middle French word, billette, and via Middle English, bylet. Likely originally a soldier’s term.


More of a nautical and military term. Everyone aboard a warship has a billet that tells them where they’re supposed to be on the vessel.


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.


  1. Other uses of the term include billet head- as in the curved and carved wooden piece supporting a figurehead. Or by itself a carved less ornate fiddlehead ornament, or eagle head. Also a billet of wood.


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