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From Middle English laddebord, referring to the side of the ship on which cargo was loaded. Changed to larboard in the 16th century by association with starboard.


larboard (usually uncountable, plural larboards)

  1. (archaic, nautical) The left side of a ship, looking from the stern forward to the bow; port side.
    • 1674, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 2,[1]
      [] harder beset
      And more endangered than when Argo passed
      Through Bosporus betwixt the justling rocks,
      Or when Ulysses on the larboard shunned
      Charybdis, and by th’ other whirlpool steered.
    • 1841, Edgar Allan Poe, “A Descent into the Maelström[2]
      The boat made a sharp half-turn to larboard, and then shot off in its new direction like a thunderbolt.
    • 1898, H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, Book One, Chapter 17,[3]
      Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and discharged a canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her larboard side and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away to seaward, an unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which the ironclad drove clear.
    • 2001, Dudley Pope, Ramage & the Rebels:
      "It means to turn to larboard."
    • 2004, Dewey Lambdin, Havoc's Sword:
      The schooner ploughed on Northerly for a minute longer, before tacking again to lay herself half a mile in advance of the nearer corvette, now up on their larboard quarter.
    • 2012, Paul Harris Nicolas, Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces:
      The Java, placing herself under the same canvas as her opponent, stood directly for her; and at 2 h. 10 m. P. M., when within half a mile, the Constitution opened a fire from her larboard guns, and a second broadside was discharged before the Java returned the fire from a position close upon the larboard-bow of her antagonist.
    • 2014, Barry D. Boothe, INFIDEL: Don’t Tread On Me:
      This time an almost defeated sigh was heard from both the larboard and starboard gun crews. Even though the larboard gun crew was up first, the starboard crew had seen what was eventually to be their next target as well.

Usage notes[edit]

In the Royal Navy it was not until 1844 that larboard was abandoned for port in reference to that side of the ship. The term port however had always been used when referring to the helm (ie. sailing direction), in order to avoid any confusion between starboard and larboard in such an important matter. (Reference: Ray Parkin, H. M. Bark Endeavour, Miegunyah Press, second edition 2003, →ISBN, page 56.)

In chapter 12 of Life on the Mississippi (1883) Mark Twain writes larboard was used to refer to the left side of the ship (Mississippi River steamboat) in his days on the river -- circa 1857-1861.