about ship

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From the imperative phrase used as an order aboard sailing ships.



about ship (third-person singular simple present about ships, present participle about shipping, simple past about ship or about shipped, past participle about shipped)

  1. (intransitive) Tack; to cause to turn into the wind and through the other side ending with a full 180 degree turn.[1]
    • 1807, A Journal kept at Nootka Sound, John R. Jewitt, page 27
      The ships fired grape shot but to no effect. They about ship and went to sea.
    • 1841 October 17, Amanda Green, "Life of the Nymphs 11", The Sunday Flash, quoted in The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York, page 148
      This Amanda refused and was about shipping to the other side, when the gentleman sprang out, clasped her in his arms, lifted her in, whistled to his horse and the next moment was flying about like mad [...]
    • 1857, A Voyage to Australia and New Zealand, John Askew, page 251
      The captain saw that no further progress could be made with safety, so he about ship, and ran for Newcastle.
    • 1857, From Bombay to Bushire, and Bussora, William Ashton Shepherd, page 193
      "Jones fired first and broke its leg, so he charged; Noland hit him in the back, so he about ship and wanted to make mince meat of him for his trouble; when the Doctor sent a shot through his shoulder, and he sprawled," coolly replied the boatswain's mate, as he was cutting the animal's throat, to the numerous inquiries.
    • 1858 Fraser's Magazine, edited by James Anthony Froude and John Tulloch, Volume 58, Page 23
      We are told repeatedly that the King advised, restrained, coerced, conceded; that he alone saw the end from the beginning, and that in his hand only the helm of the State "about-shipped" or stood still at the right moment.
    • 1859, Ancient dominions of Maine, Rufus King Sewall, page 82
      They stood for the land, and as they could not fetch in before dark, they about ship, and lay "a hull, all that night," finding abundance of fish, "very large and great" [...]
    • 1863 March 24, Edward Redington, transcribed letter to his wife, Wisconsin Historical Society, page 81:
      So we about shipped and started back (did not the steamboat men swear some then)?
    • 1863, African hunting from Natal to the Zambesi, including Lake Ngami, the Kalahari Desert &c. from 1852 to 1860, William Charles Baldwin, page 14
      as the sea and the wind were so dead ahead that they found they could make no way, and the boat was at times half full of water, so they about ship and ran before the wind, much to their delight, living on geese and water melons (capital things on a hot day); spent a very comfortable night before the fires, without any blankets [...]
    • 1875, anonymous soldier, The Campaigns of Walker’s Texas Division, Lange, Little & Co., page 151:
      She “about-shipped,” and returned up the river again.
    • 1928, Johannes Carl Andersen, Myths & legends of the Polynesians, page 86 (1969 reprint)
      Birds in the air, and seaweeds in the water, indicated the nearness or absence of lands; and there is actual record of one voyage aiming at Rarotonga from the north knowing he had missed it by the coldness of the sea; without delay he about ship, and soon made the island.
    • 1993, The Irish: A treasury of art and literature, edited by Leslie Conron Carola, page [191]
      Then, his men sweating and straining and reloading, he about ship and did it again and again.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Usually used as an order or command.


  1. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], →ISBN), page 5