Pirate Glossary

Pirate Spyglass

Pirate Glossary

Different Names for a Pirate

BARBARY PIRATE
This be the name for pirates who sailed the Barbary Coast, which be in North Africa. Here they’d catch many a ship (especially the British ones), then they’d go off and sell all the fit sailors they caught as slaves. 

BUCCANEER
These tough men lived on Caribbean Islands (around 1600 - 1700s), catching all kinda wild animals, that they then cooked to eat or sell. The barbecue they cooked on be called a ‘boucanier', which could well be where the name ‘buccaneer’ came from. 

Although these men spent most of their time on the islands when they’d be bored (or if they were hired to) they’d board their own ships, set sail and live the life of a pirate.

CORSAIR
Mediterranean pirates be called ‘Corsairs’ because the word be French for ‘chaser’, and... well... pirates do do lots of chasing.

FREEBOOTER
This be Dutch for pirate, probably because ‘freebooter’ be Dutch for ‘a person who wanders wherever they want to while looking for something to steal.’



FILIBUSTER
Simply Spanish for ‘pirate’.


MAROONER
‘Cimarrona’ means ‘runaway’ in Spanish. Then, since many pirates were slaves who’d runaway or sailors wanting to runaway (from their harsh life at sea) it also came to mean ‘pirate’. 

Later still ‘maroon’ also came to mean ‘leaving somebody alone on a desert island’. 

PIRATE
(also spelt ‘pirat' and ‘pyrat')
Comes from the word ‘peirato’, first said to be used in 140BC by the Greek writer Polybius.


PRIVATEER
Back in the 1600s the English government desperately needed a bigger navy to fight off the Spanish attacks, but they didn’t have the money to pay for extra sailors. So… they told all the British men out robbing ships (the pirates) that they would stop trying to catch them, as long as the government were given some of the treasure and gold they’d be stealing from the ships they were attacking! 

In other words… the British royal family made it legal to be a pirate, if the government got paid by the pirates they would otherwise have sent to prison! 

‘Privateer’ came from pirating now being a ‘private’ business.

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