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Elsewhere on this site, the subject of the Royal Navies unique language is to be dealt with. Such language is liberally populated with technical terms of all descriptions, many of which are based on acronyms, shortened or alternative descriptions of an object or thing. Which through common usage has become a proper word.

 There are many published dictionaries, which give reference to the various languages connected to the sea or glossaries of such naval terms. Occasionally these include within the body of text various nicknames by which individuals, friends and ships are referred to.

Such inclusion is technically incorrect, as nicknames are not by definition words, but rather consensual references. Yet their inclusion in such worthy volumes is also useful and interesting.

Yet again because of the speed at which this living language changes, the reason why those 'nicknames' flood in and out of fashion, is not generally known or appreciated. But some will have existed for centuries and others change in relation to public characters.

For certain, in the first instance, the use of a nickname, is based on convenience, affection and friendship. But more extensively within the service, there are times when you call another man Sir, or by using his rank or its accepted abbreviation , like Bosun, Chief or 'hooky' rather. than to call him by his full rank and surname. Whilst on other situations an affectionate label like laddie or oppo is preferred.

Further down the scale, in friendship, we should know his forename, but in the RN such forename is often replaced by a more generalized denominator, such as chalky, taff or scouse. Such familiar terms are easily worked out, when all you know of a person in uniform, is the name on his No 8 shirt pocket or the way he behaves or the accent he carries in his conversation. Whatever identifier you pick, there is a nickname to match.

Where your oppos are referred to by such term's so too are the ships in which we serve. Also listed here is a very incomplete table of the names which people speak of the vessels on which  the serve or have served. For others outside that group to be that familiar is judged on the context of the reference, but woe be tide anyone who uses such name in derision. 



Thus a mans nicknames were chosen to represent a physical quality, characteristic or the given name itself, or in direct contradiction or appreciation of opposites. Thus a very large man might earn the name 'tiny'. Whilst there are many people walking around known by names that do not appear on their birth certificates.

The profillic use of such nicknames in the RN, means that we seldom refer to anybody by their given fore names, and seek to apply some other identity. This may simply be the smoothing of a given surname by the addition of an 'E' sounding suffix or by a universally recognized alternative (vide chalky instead of White), & (Bill for Bailey). etc.

With such offering, made in humour or affection. Their use once given is universal and almost impossible to break.

At this current time it is not intended to provide a list of sailors nicknames. As there are many other places such things are listed.


What we apply to our 'oppos' so we also address to the ships we serve in. Nicknames given to ships, again have great historical connections, although the reasons why some names have been attached are often lost in time, but again, the RN sailor seldom questions such reference but tends to freely adopt it. Although more often affection ally earned, such names can be derogatory and scornful. If the vessel is considered to be unlucky.

Generally though a ships, nickname arises for various reasons, some of them obvious. Sometimes simply a shortening or humorous derivation though very often it is to simplify a difficult unpronounceable name. ON other occasions it is simply a matter of word substitution, such as Smoke for London. It is in that area, that we often have difficulty in recalling or remembering the original associations.

For example complex ships names, like those named after Greek Gods, are often simplified so the Bellerophon becomes the Billy Ruffian. In this way, the men, can at times of stress, get their tongues around the name and thus the rallying call 'Ruffins to me' - is straight forward and obvious, "What Ship" - 'The Billy Ruffian' - or ashore when talking to you mates it becomes the 'Belly R'

In certain cases, ships when very formerly spoken of are always proudly given their proper names, but are otherwise, always affectionately  referred to with the diminutive and affectionate nickname, thus Ark Royal becomes The Ark. The ship is seldom ever referred to in other terms. On the other hand another capital ship, The Invincible will in nearly every context, retain its formal name, but socially and affectionately referred to as the Invinci-bubble. This would also be true with the Nelson , which from a ships boat would always be referred to in full but perhaps after a run of shore a sailor might say, 'lets get back to the nel ' or 'old nelly'

How each form of address is applied in daily usage is generally obvious, and with a little familiarity and care is easily practiced, without error.

In postscript, some silly names like Pansy or Peony, are either carried in defiant pride or are completly altered, remembering of course, that ashore the sailors display the ships name on their tally. Other ships like HMS Western Super Mare are at all times too much of a mouthful, and are commonly and frequently altered or shortened by necessity. Humorously being changed to become Aggie on Horseback but usually referred to as just Aggie, although to avoid conflicting with the Sailors homes of Aggie Weston, might simply became the Old Mare.

Once a nickname is applied, it will be carried by successive ships of that name - However in some instances The reason or usage is commented on in the third coloumn of the table.

Naval Air Stations are always referred to by their geographical location and not by ship name - except in the formal sense - Air Station names are not nicknames. You can be drafted to RNAS Culdrose but never to Cul-D

P.S. When talking of an 'Oppo' it invariably will be said he served with "old ?? from the 'ood". Alternatively any old grandad 'sea daddy' or elderly PO, will be reputed to have served with "Old Fucky off the 'ood", to emphasize his age.

In compiling this table I owe thanks to L/S Nobby Hall who served 1979 -2002 for a list of 28 ships. These are annotated in the remarks column by (N)

Achilles Egg Shell.  
Adelaide (HMAS) delayed  
Agamemnon Aggie  
Agincourt Gin Palace  
Albion The Grey Ghost (of the Borneo Coast) circa 1962-64
Andromache Andrew Mack  
Andomeda Androm (N) c. 1980-90's
Amphitrite 'Am and Tripe  
Anson Annie  
Argus - The Hatbox;
The Diity Box
In reference to the original shape of the WW1 carrier.
Ark Royal The Ark Always The Ark unless Formal
Audacious 'Ow Dare She  
Aurora Roarer  
Avenger The Wrath/Raw or Raw Wrath (N) 1980-90's
Bacchante Bagshanty (N) 1980-90's
Barfleur Bellflower  
Battleaxe Old Biddy (N) 1980-90's
Bellerophon Billy Ruffian;
Belly R
Bermuda The Berma Doo (N) 1980-90's

The Bistro

Or - We-re The gravy Boys (Bisto)

(N) 1980-90's


Bonaventure (HMCS) Bonnie  
Brilliant Not so (N) 1980-90's
Brisbane(HMAS) Five Mile Sniper;
Steel Cat
Bulwark The Rusty 'B' circa 1960-1970's
Cardiff The Taff (N) 1980-90's
Centurion Century one  
Ceylon Tea Boat  
Charybdis The Cherry B. Also (N) 1980-90's
HM Dockyard Chatham- Tiddly Chats  
Drake (RN Barracks Plymouth) Jago's Mansions

1930's from Warrant Officer Jago who introduced cafeteria messing

(N) circa. 1990's

Chrysanthemum Christmas Anthem  
Churchill Winston (N) 1980-90's
Cleopatra Cleo (N) 1980-90's
Conqueror- Corn Curer  
Courageous- Outrageous  
RNAS Culdrose Cul-D  
Cumberland The fighting Snorker (sausage) (N) 1980-90's
Curacoa Cocoa  or Cocoa Boat Thanks to Albert (John) Solly who was aboard when the ship was rundown by the Queen Mary for supplying 'Cocoa'
Cyclops Old One-Eye  
Dido The Dildo or Rubber Hubby (N) 1980-90's but only usually when not serving aboard
Effingham Puffington  
Emperor of India E of I  
HMS Excellent Whaley (the Naval Gunnery School) From the island on which the Naval Gunnery School is located - Always referred to as Whaley, and never Excellent, unless in strictly formal situation, where you would use the HMS prefix.
Explorer Exploder  
Formidable- Formy  
Fraser (HMCS) Fraser Blade  
Furious Furibox;
Galatea The Black Pig (N) 1980-90's

The Glam
The Glamorous Organ

(Other related non complimentary terms)

(N) 1980-90's


Glorious Uproarious  
Gloucester Fighting G  
Hermione Ermy-one  
Hecate He-Cat  
Hood The Mighty Hood  
Hotspur Tottenham  
Howe Any Blooming (?) How  
Illustrious Lusty  
Indefatigable - Indefat or occasionally The Indy  
Indomitable Indom  
Inflexible Inflex  
Invincible The Invince but more often Invincibubble  
Iphigenia Niffy Jane  
Iron Duke Tin Duck  
Juno/Jupiter Raving or Dodgy J (N) 1980-90's
King George V'th Kay-Gee-Five  
RNAS Lee-On-Solent Always referred to as Lee and seldom anything else  
Liverpool The Pool - or affectionately The Crazy Red Chicken The later derived from the Liver bird emblem, sported on the funnel.
London The Smoke  
Lord Nelson Nelly  
Majestic Magic Stick (N) 1980-90's
Magnificent Maggie  
Manchester The Manky Twat/ Bastard (N) 1980-90's
Mersey Misery  
Minotaur Minny-tor  
Marlborough Marlyboro  
Nelson Nel
Newcastle The (wee) Geordie (N) 1980-90's
Nipigon (HMCS) Trawler Mauler  
Northumberland Northo  
Penelope Pepper-pot From the funnels of the early cruiser.

Jolly Roger



(N) 1980-90's

Polyphemus One eye  
Princess Royal Pretty Royal  
Queen Elizabeth Big Lizzie  
Repair Refit  
Resolution Reso  
Restigouche HMCS – Rusty Guts    
Rodney - Rodnol    
Royal Sovereign - Tiddley Quid    
Saguenay HMCS Saggy Pants  
Scylla Toothless Terror  
Seraphim Sea Orphan  
Sheffield Shiny Sheff From its Association with Sheffield Cutlery
Sirius Silly Ass (N) 1980-90's
Spartiate Sparty-arty  
Stuart (HMAS) Tartan Terror  
Superb Supr 'B' (N) 1980-90's
Tartar Lucky Tartar  
Thetis Tea Chest  
Trafalgar Raglafart ot Traffie  
Vengeance Lord's Own  
Venerable Archdeacon  
Victorious Victor  
Warspite Stodger;
the Old Lady;
The Grand Old Lady
Weston-Super-Mare Aggie-on-a-horseback;
The Old Mare
Wetaskiwin HMCS

Wet Ass Queen  
York The Yorkie (N) 1980-90's


ALL Other Words Gratefully received

Last Update - Dec.2012 a b c