Sailor Speak of the Week – Chow



  • Food or a meal.


Probably earlier than the 19th century. Possibly a corruption of the South China pidgin word chow-chow, meaning food.


This likely stems from the days of clipper ships making runs to and from China in the 19th century. Nowadays, it’s a general naval and military term for food of any sort (or at least what passes for food in the service). Any resemblance to actual food is purely coincidental. Whether or not it’s edible is another matter entirely.


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


  1. I actually liked Navy food. It always impressed me the lengths the services would go to to ensure that the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were complete, hot, and ample for as many sailors & Marines as was humanly possible.


    1. Indeed. I was being rather facetious in my comments about the food. In my experience, “most” of it has been good, if not passable. It’s not a 5-star meal to be sure, but it’s better than field rations (I don’t know if what they feed the infantry can be called food).

      Liked by 1 person

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