Sailor Speak of the Week – Bunker


Noun or verb

  • A compartment for fuel.
  • The fuel of a vessel.
  • (verb) To take on fuel for a vessel.


Possibly the 19th century. Unknown origin, but possibly from the Norwegian or Danish word, banke, meaning hold.


The word can also be used as a verb, as in “bunkering,” or “to bunker fuel.” In other words, to take on fuel. It’s a generic term for both the compartment that holds the fuel and the fuel itself. In the early days of steam propulsion, the word referred to coal, but now refers to oil.


Kemp, P. (1994). The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Oxford University Press.

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

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