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Stevedores on a New York dock loading barrels of corn syrup on to a barge on the Hudson River, photographed c. 1912 by Lewis Hine


From Spanish estibador (cognate with Portuguese estivador, and compare Medieval Latin stivator), from estivar, estibar (to load), from Medieval Latin stivare, stīpāre (compare Italian stivare, stipare), the present active infinitive of stīpō (to cram, fill, stuff), from Proto-Indo-European *steypos, from the root Proto-Indo-European *steyp-.[1][2] It is cognate with stiff through Proto-Indo-European.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was attested in 1788 in the early form stowadore (see the quotations). It was included in the 1st edition of Webster’s Dictionary (1828) as stevedore.[3]



stevedore (plural stevedores)

  1. A dockworker involved in loading and unloading cargo, or in supervising such work. [from 18th c.]
    • 1788 July 2, The Massachusetts Spy, Boston, Mass.: Zechariah Fowle, Isaiah Thomas, OCLC 2263907, page 3:
    • 1956, Maritime Cargo Transportation Conference (U.S.), “The Longshore Industry and Its Hazards”, in Longshore Safety Survey: A Survey of Occupational Hazards in the Stevedore Industry: By the Maritime Cargo Transportation Conference. As Part of a Program Undertaken at the Request of the Departments of Defense and of Commerce (National Research Council; publication 459), Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences; National Research Council, OCLC 16690516, page 15:
      The hatch foreman or gang boss supervises the longshore gang and directs their loading and discharge efforts. He assigns each member of the gang to a specific job, usually the same job each day or each shift; discusses operational problems with the stevedore superintendent who is in charge of the entire ship operation; inspects the stowage area; supervises the positioning and rigging of booms, etc. The stevedore superintendent and hatch foreman occupy strategic positions from a safety viewpoint.
    • 1969, John [Christopher] Lovell, “The Earliest Unions, 1870–89”, in Stevedores and Dockers: A Study of Trade Unionism in the Port of London, 1870–1914, London: Macmillan and Co., DOI:10.1007/978-1-349-00096-8, OCLC 462151899, page 77:
      Stevedores differed from most other strategically placed port workers in that they were to some extent mobile. [] A master stevedore would contract to load vessels for shipping-lines whose vessels might be berthed at a number of docks, or even in the river. In following up the work of their employers stevedores might be required to work sometimes at the Victoria Dock, sometimes at the East India Dock, and so on.
    • 1970 March, R. Layton Mank, “The Stevedore: Hope for Rescue”, in American Bar Association Journal, volume 56, Chicago, Ill.: American Bar Association, OCLC 50629671, page 254:
      For the past several years the stevedore [footnote: The term "stevedore" commonly refers to the contractor who employs longshoremen, who physically load and unload ships' cargo], one of the newest members of the maritime family, has found himself drifting helplessly onto the rocks of legal peril. [] However, recent developments appear to offer the stevedore new hope that may in time result in judicial deliverance.
    • 2003, Ralph De Wit, “The Concept of Statutory Rights of Action in Carriage of Goods”, in Eric Van Hooydonk, editor, English and Continental Maritime Law: After 115 Years of Maritime Law Unification: A Search for Differences between Common Law and Civil Law, Antwerp, Belgium; Apeldoorn, Netherlands: Maklu-Uitgevers, →ISBN, page 39:
      [T]he stevedore works for the account of he who has requested his services, and he is liable only to this person, who alone can bring an action as against him. Attempts to sidestep this statutory rule have been unsuccessful. For instance, a cargo owner tried to being a direct action as against a stevedore, who had been appointed by the sea carrier's agent in the port of loading and who had damaged the goods during loading. On the grounds that in appointing the stevedore this agent had acted on behalf of the cargo owner, the latter submitted that he had a direct contractual action ex lege as against the stevedore.

Alternative forms[edit]



  • French: stevedore



stevedore (third-person singular simple present stevedores, present participle stevedoring, simple past and past participle stevedored)

  1. (transitive) To load or unload a ship's cargo.
    • 1914, Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Panama Rail Road Company to the Stockholders, New York, N.Y.: Panama Rail Road Company, OCLC 7098325, page 11:
      During the year 334,242 tons of cargo were stevedored and 933,092 tons were handled and transferred.
    • 1963, Thomas Pynchon, V., a Novel, Philadelphia, Pa.; New York, N.Y.: J. B. Lippincott & Co., OCLC 463482294:
      [I]n Barcelona, when he was stevedoring at the docks []
    • 1976, Bruce Levene [et al.], Mendocino County Remembered: An Oral History, volume I (A–L), [Ukaih?] Calif.: Mendocino County Historical Society, OCLC 3214321, page 161:
      I stevedored [railway] ties, a lot of those devils. In the holds of ships. I was in the bow because I was small to get in there. I loaded a lot of these ties that came out of Navarro and that layout.


Further reading[edit]