French and English boating dictionary from Hotels Afloat

French boating words and terminology

As do the English, the French also have many words and phrases for boating and nautical terms. Here are some of the common words you may encounter or have to use.

How to moor on the canal and river

A

l'amarage : mooring

l'amarre : mooring rope

amarrer : to moor

amont : upstream

l'ancre : the anchor

l'anneau : the ring (as in mooring ring)

l'arrière : the stern

aval: downstream

l'avant : the bow

B

le bâbord : the starboard side

la barre : the helm

le bolard : the bollard

le bief : the reach (stretch of water)

le bief de partage : the summit of a canal

la bitte d'amarrage : the bollard

C

la cale : the hold

la cale-sèche : the dry-dock

le canal : the canal, les canaux : the canals

le cap : the heading

le capitaine : the captaine

le chenal : the channel

le cloison étanche : watertight bulkheads

le coque : the hull

la corde : the rope

le courante : the current

la crue : the highest level of a river

D

la dérive : the drift

la digue : the dyke, breakwater

E

la (l')eau : water

l'eau douce : water (non salted as in rivers and lakes)

l'eau de mer : sea water

la (l')écluse: a lock, on the canal or river

l'estuaire : the estuary

F

la fleuve : the large river (for example the Rhône and Rhine)

le fond : the bottom

G

le gouvernail : the rudder

le groupe : (slang for generator)

H

l'hélice : the propellor

horsbord : outboard motor

l'huile : oil

I

J

K

L

M

le mal de mer : sea sickness

la manivelle : the handle, as those used on locks to wind the sluice gates

la marée : the tide, marée bas= low tide, marée haute=high tide

le matelot : the deckhand

la mer : the sea

le moulin : (slang for the main engine)

N

le naufrage : the ship wreck

le nœud : knot, as in reef-knot, also used for the knot as in speed

O

P

la péniche: the barge (pen - ish)

le plat-board : the gunwales

le pont: the bridge, also used to describe the bridge on the boat

le poupe : the poop

le poste de pilotage : the wheel house

la proue : the stem

Q

la quille : the keel

R

le remorqueur : the tug boat

la rivière : the small river (for example the Saone)

S

la salle de machine : the engine room

sas

T

le timonerie : the wheel house

le timonier : the helmsman

le treuil : the winch

le tribord : the port side

U

V

le voilier : sailing yacht

la voilure : the sails

la voutte : the tunnel, the summit

W

X

Y

Z

If you notice words which are not included, please let us know.

Other useful information about boats and barges