Sailor Speak of the Week – Officer

Definition

Noun

  • A person holding a specific license, commission, warrant, or office with certain responsibilities and/or the authority to take command of a vessel.

Origin

16th century in the maritime sense. From Old French, official, and the Late Latin, officiarius, meaning officer or leader.

Comments

A fairly self-explanatory word. In the naval service, there are commissioned officers, warrant officers, chief petty officers, and petty officers. All have different responsibilities and degrees of authority. However, in general usage, the term officer usually refers to the first two given that the others are enlisted personnel. In the Merchant Marine, officers are those who hold a mariner’s license and are above the unlicensed ratings.

Everyone hopes to have good officers aboard a ship. God help you if you run afoul of the bad ones. No doubt many of us have had the unpleasant experience of knowing those “special entitled individuals” who put the “Sir” in officer. Haha.

References

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

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