Junks in Guangzhou, China.



  1. Old rope.
  2. Any of several types of Chinese sailing vessel.
  3. Salted beef served in the forecastle.


(Definition 1) Probably the 12th century. From Middle English, jonke, of the same meaning. (Definition 2) The 16th century. LIkely from the Portuguese-Mindinao word, junce, meaning their name for this type of vessel. Possibly also from Javanese, djong, meaning ship, and the Malay word, adjong, meaning boat. (Definition 3) The 18th century. Likely a slang term used by sailors in reference to the first definition.


While not the most nautical of terms, apart from the slang for salted meat, the type of vessel known as a junk, with its distinctive battened sails, is very characteristic of Chinese, and more broadly, East Asian cultures.


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.