Sunday, 23 June 2013


Bilge, Addle, Muddy, Water, Dirty, Ship, Nautical, Mire, Filthy
"Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink."
(photo by Richard Casey)


Noun & verb. Also billage obsolete. Late 15th century.
[Probably variant of bulge.]

A1 noun The nearly hoizontal part of a ship's bottom; the lowest internal portion of the hull. L15

A2 noun The belly or widest part of the circumference of a barrel of similar vessel. E16

A3 noun In full bilge-water. The filth, stale water, etc., which collects inside the bilge of a ship. E17

A3b noun Nonsense, rubbish, rot. slang. L19

B1 verb trans. Stave in the bilge of (a ship). M16

B2 verb intrans. Spring a leak in the bilge. E18

B3 verb intrans. Bulge, swell out. E19

Also: bilgy adjective L19

If you've ever been told you're talking bilge (as I have), you know that it wasn't a compliment. Bilge-water is the repugnant liquid that slops about in the bilge of a ship, a heady mix of stale water, filth, urine, chemicals and any other number of undesirable substances that might have washed down from above. It would be a pretty dire place to work (far better to be driving a-poop), and circumstances on a ship would be truly dire if one were ever forced to drink the bilge-water.

Navy, Nautical, Bilge, Compartments, Decks


  1. Personally, I have only heard bilge being referred to as the part of a ship.
    It certainly is deserving of the nonsense, rubbish, rot, meaning though!
    Can't wait to tell hubby he's talking a lot of bilge!
    Ta Ed! :)

    1. It's something my Dad says, and rather well-to-do it sounds too: "Oh pish-posh! What utter bilge! I've never heard such piffle!"

  2. We always used to call Biology bilge when I was at school. It used to make our teacher pretty bilious, I can tell you.

    1. My biology teacher was rather scrumptious; no derogatory names for her lessons!

  3. "Talking bilge" and "utter bilge water" are the type of 'sayings' that immediately put me in mind of the stiff upper lip type of Britishness that I love. Also puts me in mind of Blackadder Goes Forth and sundry amusing sketches from French & Saunders.

    I should probably ask this on the A-poop entry, but is this where the saying: "I'm pooped" comes from? Did sailors all go to the back of the ship for a nap when tired? Not all at once of course, as that could be detrimental to the horizontability (yes, I think I made that word up) of the ship...

    1. Well, 'tis an interesting question. I consulted my trusty and wise OED and it would seem not. The 'poop deck' is so called as 'puppis' is Latin for 'stern'. The verb 'to poop', however, meaning 'to tire out' is given as mid-20th century colloquial US English of unknown origin. If there is a connection, it would seem that the word detectives haven't found it yet : o )

      If anyone else knows more on this, however, do please feel free to comment : o )

    2. I just also had a look at Wikipedia (I'm sure you won't approve!) and after doing a little of that childish laughing that you mentioned before whilst looking at definitions of "poop" (not becoming in a 48 year old), also found that: ""To be pooped", [is] nautical parlance meaning to have a wave come over the stern from abaft". "Abaft"!! Now there's another new word (for me)! :o)

      I like the idea of mid 20th century colloquial US English of unknown origin though - it conjured up in my mind a delightful exchange between characters akin to those found on 'Duck Dynasty' (which is just about my favourite show on TV at the moment) talking about being "pooped". Excellent :0)

    3. I *love* Wikipedia! If I'm researching an unfamiliar subject, it will usually be my first port of call. I try not to rely on it, however, without supporting references.

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