Lifeboats on gravity davits. Photo by Alexander Zvir on



  • a pair of cranes for hoisting or lowering a ship’s boats.


Early 17th century. A possible early spelling was David, after the person who invented them. Who he was is unknown.


Davits have existed on ships for some time and could be made of wood or metal with a roller or sheave at the end. Smaller vessels may mount their davits on the stern for hoisting or lowering of a boat. Two types of modern davits include luffing davits and gravity davits. These allow boats to be suspended from them without the davits hanging outboard of the vessel.


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

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.