Bow/Stern/Port/Starboard : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

Ok, I know which is which, but why do they name them so? Do people always get on and off a boat on the port side? And why did someone a long, loooong time ago decide to call one side 'starboard.' I'm sure there are some really interesting answers to this question, unfortunately I'm in a land locked province and I admit that I'm ignorant!

-- Jen (, January 13, 1998


I saw the answer a short time ago but, I don't remember were. Sorry. The basics are this. Centuries ago, what we now refer to as a rudder was a lashed to the right side of the vessel. It was called a 'larboard.' When the vessel came into port, the captain didn't have much choice about which side to use since he could damage his steering gear if he had trouble. This, of course, led to port side and larboard side. A little verbal corruption over time and you have port and starboard.

Once the modern centerpost rudder was developed, it was no longer necessary to dock with the vessel's portside to port.

Cruise ships can be boarded from either side.

It is interesting to note that this practice carried over into aviation. Passengersalmost always enter planes from the left, or port, side even though aircraft now have full sized doors on both sides.

-- Lynn Macey (, January 14, 1998.

Whoever said that Port is the same as starboard or that larboard is the same as starboard is an absolute moron. Port and larboard are the same thing and they mean the left side when looking forward from the stern of the boat. Starboard means the right side when looking forward from the stern. Starboard is originally an anglo-saxon word literally meaning "right-side" or "right-board" and larboard is from the french baboard or the anglo-saxon búc-bord. Anyway, there are discrepancies about what how port came from larboard, but basically it has stuck becuase larboard was too easily confused with starboard. I admire Jen for asking and whoever answered this question prior to me needs to read up on their nautical knowledge a little bit. Sorry buddy.

-- Jimmie Wimmie (, November 15, 2001.

Well I am a complete idiot when it comes to remembering which is port and which is starboard and whilst I dont give a damn as to where the terms originate, this was the first website I happened across that gave me the answer. To me it would be a whole lot easier to say "left" and "right"

-- Alan Parker (, January 16, 2003.

It is believed that Christopher Colombus actually dubbed the name Port. When he discovered North America, he was looking over the left side of the boat, where he saw land. He anchored his ship there and swam out to the island, jumping off the boat on the left side of it. I am not sure where starboard came from but the Port theory is highly probable. I have heard it from some friends and even on a website I encountered a while back. It does not make complete sense to me, but I am sure it was named similar to that story.

-- Fred Clarke (, February 11, 2003.

Well, back when cruise ships were the biggest thing, they thought "hey, why don't we make this even more fun and serve alcohol?" So, Port, being the alcohol of choice to the high faluten chaps of that day, of course, got them a bit tipsy. Well, they would be walking on the right side of the ship and teeter off, being drunk as they were...and as they fell off they would drop their bottle of port on the deck and scream "POOOOORRRRT..." as they fell to their doom. Therefore.... The poor chaps.

-- bogus finkerbank (, February 17, 2003.

There are some interesting suggestions here. Some more accurate than others.Some more interesting than others. The nearest thing to the truth is that originally the steering equipment was on the right side of the ship. It was known as the Steer Board. Port side was indeed the favoured side to dock in port i.e. the side without the steering equipment as has been suggested. Steer Board has been corrupted into Starboard and there we have it.

Some people seem to get a bit heated in their refutations of the suggestions of others. Surely not necessary when discussing nautical etymologies.


-- (, February 26, 2003.

Someone said they have trouble remembering which is which. The letter "P" comes before the letter "S" in the alphabet so that's how I remember. If you're looking forward from the stern just go left to right, "P"ort and "S"tarboard. I personally have no idea where the terms originated. I guess that make *me* a moron too ;-)


-- Jerome (, March 23, 2003.

The Naval Academy Preparatory School answers this question fairly well. Find the answer at:

-- Chuck (, May 09, 2003.

"Left" has four Letters so does the word "Port".

-- S Bonnici (, May 30, 2003.

David's got it right. As far as rembering which side is which I use the 4 letter method for Port = Left. Now how do you remember the lighting scheme of Port and Starboard? The Port light of an approaching vessel is RED; (Red Port wine). The red light tells you to give way to the other vessel. The Starboard light is GREEN which means you have right of way.

-- Kurt Isaac (, June 23, 2003.

S Bonnici ("Left" has four Letters so does the word "Port". ) put it best in terms of memory aid--this is how I learned to remember the difference between port and starboard long ago (just as I learned the Baltic States descend north-to-south in alphabetical order: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).

-- Troy B (, July 28, 2003.

The Starboard is a walking board that hung off the right side of the boat. It The navigator of the ship used it to walk out where he could see the stars without the sails, masts and boat lights getting in the way. When the ship came in to Port, it could not port on the right side of the ship, or it would break the Starboard. So the left side of the ship was known as the Port side, and the right side was called the Starboard side.

-- mike barnes (, August 05, 2003.

At sea, an emergency can happen at any time, and it is vital that everything aboard can be clearly identified and described. Where "left" and "right" could lead to confusion, "port" and "starboard" are perfectly clear and unambiguous to a seafarer.

Starboard: Boats developed from simple dugout canoes. When the paddler steering a canoe is right handed (and the majority of people are right-handed), he or she naturally steers over the right-hand side (looking forward) of the boat. As canoes developed into larger vessels, the steering paddle grew larger and developed into a broad- bladed oar, held vertically in the water and permanently fixed to the side of the boat by a flexible lashing or a built-in moveable swivel.

The seagoing ships of maritime Northern Europe all featured this side- hung rudder, always on the right hand side of the ship. This rudder (in Anglo-Saxon the steorbord) was further developed in medieval times into the more familiar apparatus fixed to the sternpost, but starboard remains in the language to describe anything to the right of a shipís centreline when viewed from aft.

Port: If starboard is the right-hand side of the vessel, looking forward from aft, the left-hand side is port Ė at least, it is now! In Old English, the term was bścbord (in modern German Backbord and French b‚bord), perhaps because the helmsman at the steorbord had his back to the shipís left-hand side. This did not survive into Medieval and later English, when larboard was used. Possibly this term is derived from laddebord, meaning "loading side"; the side rudder (steorbord) would be vulnerable to damage if it went alongside a quay, so early ships would have been loaded ("laded") with the side against the quay. In time laddebord became larboard as steorbord became starboard. Even so, from an early date port was sometimes used as the opposite for starboard when giving steering orders, perhaps deriving from the loading port which was in the larboard side. However, it was only from the mid-19th century that, according to Admiral Smythís The Sailorís Word Book, published in 1867, "the left side of the ship is called port, by Admiralty Order, in preference to larboard, as less mistakeable in sound for starboard".

The above is from the national maritime museum. eA/conFaq/contentId/61/navId/005002006001002

-- Lawrence Dexter (, August 24, 2003.

Someone taught me how to remember things: "There is no port left in the bottle" or for the more optimistic: "There is still some port left in the bottle", leaving port and left in one sentence.

-- Petra Berninger (, October 05, 2003.

The post by Lawrence Dexter is correct.

-- Capt. Michael Davidson (, January 17, 2004.

Starboard comes from the Old English word for the paddles that Vikings used on the right side of their ships to steer: "steorbords."

In that spirit, the left side became "larboard"--from lade, "to load" and bord, "side" (ships were loaded from the left side). But later the English thought that larboard sounded too close to starboard so they arbitrarily changed it to "port."

-- Ryan Wilson (, January 17, 2004.

If you've gone through the "Pirates of the Caribbean " ride at Disneyland, pay attention to the pirate auctioning the wenches at in the town square. He tells the "stout-hearted, corn-fed " bride to, "Shift yer cargo dearie, show 'em your larboard side."

-- Jean LaFoote, the Barefoot Pirate (, February 22, 2004.

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