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From a- (on) + Middle English baft, baften, biaften, Old English beæftan; be (by) (modern English by) + æftan (behind) (modern English after).[1][2] See also aft.




  1. (nautical) Behind; toward the stern relative to some other object or position; aft of. [First attested around the late 15th century.][3]
    Synonym: abaft of
    The captain stood abaft the wheelhouse.
    • 1620, Miguel de Cervantes, chapter 63, in Thomas Shelton, transl., The Second Part of the History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant, Don Quixote of the Mancha[1], London: Edward Blount, page 432:
      [] two drunken Turkes, that were in the Frigot with twelue others, discharged two Calieuers, with which they killed two Souldiours, that stood abaft our Gally.
    • 1773, James Cook, An Account of a Voyage Around the World, Book 3, Chapter 5, in John Hawkesworth (ed.), An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty: for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, Volume 3, p. 558,[2]
      [] we could hear the water rush in a little abaft the foremast, about three feet from the keel: this determined me to clear the hold intirely.
    • 1869, Mark Twain, chapter 3, in The Innocents Abroad[3], Hartford: The American Publishing Company, page 35:
      [] Read the sign up there—NO SMOKING ABAFT THE WHEEL!”
    • 1959, Robert A. Heinlein, chapter 13, in Starship Troopers[4], New York: Ace, published 2010, page 260:
      The bulkhead that separates ladies’ country from the rough characters who shave is not necessarily No. 30 but, by tradition, it is called “bulkhead thirty” in any mixed ship. [] Male officers had a lounge called the cardroom just abaft thirty.



abaft (comparative more abaft, superlative most abaft)

  1. (nautical) On the aft side; in the stern. [First attested in the early 17th century.][3]
    We drifted with the wind abaft.
    The mate sleeps abaft.
    • 1599, Nicholas Downton, “The firing and sinking of the stout and warrelike Carack called Las Cinque Llaguas”, in Richard Hakluyt, editor, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation[5], London, Volume 2, Part 2, p. 200:
      The Exchange also being farther from the fire, afterward was more easily cleared, and fell off from abaft.
    • 1785, John Rickman, Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage[6], London: E. Newbery, Part 1, p. 103:
      By clapping the sails to the mast, and lightening the ship abaft, we swayed her off with little damage.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “Chapter 95”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 452:
      Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas proceeding from the Captain’s round-house abaft;
    • 1954, Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception[7], New York: Perennial, published 1970, page 72:
      We cover our anterior nakedness with some philosophy—Christian, Marxian, Freudo-Physicalist—but abaft we remain uncovered, at the mercy of the winds of circumstance.
  2. (nautical, obsolete) Backwards. [Attested from around (1150 to 1350) until the late 15th century.][3]


Related terms[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morris, William, editor (1969) The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New York, NY: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., published 1971, →ISBN, page 1
  2. ^ Urdang, Laurence, editor (1975) The Random House College Dictionary, New York, NY: Random House, Inc., published 1984, →ISBN, page 1
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors (2002), “abaft”, in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 2.