Jolly Roger

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A traditional depiction of a Jolly Roger
The Jolly Roger of the pirates Edward Low and Francis Spriggs (see the 1724 quotation)

Possibly from jolly + Roger (dialectal nickname for the Devil).[1]



Jolly Roger (plural Jolly Rogers)

  1. The traditional flag used on European and American pirate ships, often pictured as a white skull and crossbones on a black field; the blackjack. [from early 18th c.]
    Synonym: Roger
    • 1724, Charles Johnson, “Of Captain Spriggs and His Crew”, in A General History of the Pyrates, [], 2nd edition, London: Printed for, and sold by T. Warner, [], OCLC 2276353, pages 411–412:
      A Day or two after they parted, [Francis] Spriggs was choſe Captain by the reſt, and a black Enſign was made, which they called Jolly Roger, with the ſame Device that Captain [Edward] Low carried, viz. a white Skeliton in the Middle of it, with a Dart in one Hand ſtriking a bleeding Heart, and in the other, an Hour Glaſs; when this was finiſhed and hoiſted, they fired all their Guns to ſalute their Captain and themſelves, and then looked out for Prey.
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Narrative Resumed by Jim Hawkins; the Garrison in the Stockade”, in Treasure Island, London; Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, OCLC 702939134, part IV (The Stockade), page 151:
      The Hispaniola still lay where she had anchored; but, sure enough, there was the Jolly Roger—the black flag of piracy—flying from her peak.
    • 2003, Donna Marie Robie, chapter 53, in The Cuban Connection: Operation Sugar Cane, Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse, →ISBN, page 241:
      Havana was closely guarded by the dual castles; the more famous of them being the Morro Castle. The castles' purpose long since disregarded, stood as a reminder to the Cubans to keep foreigners at bay. Years ago to accomplish just that—keeping foreigners at bay, chains had been hung between the two castles to keep marauding pirates out. But over the years, money and greed had been able to seep through these chains, and now the pirates no longer came in their schooners, flying jolly Rogers, but as capitalistic businessmen carrying the almighty dollar. During [Fulgencio ] Batista's regime, these United States capitalists were welcomed with open arms and left to loot the Cubans of their lands and properties.
    • 2005, Michele Torrey, “Author’s Note”, in Voyage of Plunder: Chronicles of Courage, New York, N.Y.: Yearling, Random House Children's Books, published March 2007, →ISBN, page 184:
      [I]t is a documented fact that pirates captured treasures of jewels and gold while Jolly Rogers or bloody flags flew atop their mainmasts (although they were more likely to capture a "treasure" of socks, molasses, and flour).



Further reading[edit]