Language: jargon: sailing

Belay: Naut.

  1. To tie off or affix. She belayed the anchor cable to the bitts.
  2. To stop or cancel. He belayed dinner to catch the favourable tide.
  3. To order stopped or canceled, especially imp. Belay your gammoning!

Whenever a line is made fast to a cleat or pin, it is said to have been belayed. Belay once meant to stop, and a rope under tension will tend to move unless stopped, such as jammed in a cleat or fixed with a clove hitch.

The sailor's polyglot was necessary for crew of many language backgrounds to work together on a ship, but it also replaced many more common terms with sailing jargon which might be more readily understood. A Russian-speaking sailor might not understand his shore-leave was canceled, but having his shore-leave belayed was immediately understood as bad news!

Similarly, any action under way could be quickly interrupted by a peremptory "Belay that!"

  • Edwards, Fred; Sailing as a Second Language; International Marine Publishing Company; © 1988 Highmark Publishing Ltd.; ISBN 0-87742-965-0