ship of the line

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English[edit]

A drawing of the Mars, also known as the Makalös (Peerless), by Jacob Hägg. The Mars was a Swedish ship of the line built between 1563 and 1564.

Etymology[edit]

Contraction of line of battle ship, a warship large enough to be in the line of battle.

Noun[edit]

ship of the line (plural ships of the line)

  1. (nautical, military) A large square-rigged warship large enough to have a place in the line of battle. with up to 140 guns on at least two decks. A capital ship from the age of sail, superior to a frigate; usually, a seventy-four, or three-decker.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The OED records the terms line of battle ship, battleship, ship of the line and liner being used interchangeably up through the 19th century. In modern usage ship of the line is a wooden line of battle ship from the age of sail; battleship is an armoured and motorized warship of the late 19th and mid 20th centuries.

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Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.