Why Is It Called Port And Starboard?

Ever wondered why the terms “Port” and “Starboard” are used to denote Left and Right side on ships? Well, we wondered and went on to find the answer for you. Read on to know the interesting story behind it…

During earlier days, boats/ships used to have rudders on their centre line. Boats/ Ships were controlled using a steering oar. As it is very common that most of the people are right handed in the world. Similarly most of the sailors were right handed, so the steering oar used to control the ship was placed over or through the right side of the stern.

Thus most of the sailors used to call the right side as the “Steering Side”, which soon became “Starboard”. The word “Starboard” is formed by combining two old words: stéor (meaning “steer”) and bord (meaning “the side of a boat”). As the size of ships grew, so did the steering oar, making it much easier to make fast a ship to a dock on the side opposite the oar. This side was known as “larboard”, or “the loading side.” As the time passed, it became evident that “larboard” is very easily confused with “starboard” during communications. Hence it was replaced with the word “port” as this was the side that faced the port, allowing cargo to be loaded or discharged. That is how the terms “Port” and “Starboard” came in existence. Since “Port” and “Starboard” never change. They are unambiguous references that are independent of a mariner’s orientation. Thus removing the chances of any ambiguity. Hence Sailors prefer to use these nautical terms instead of left and right to avoid confusion.

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2 thoughts on “Why Is It Called Port And Starboard?

  1. Interesting.
    Far more likely valid than explanation I learned decades ago.
    What I learned, and now believe erroneous, was the following:
    “Port” because that was the side the ship was made fast to port docks for loading and unloading. Persons onboard and on the port side had a very limited view of the sea, usually watching the loading and unloading operations with a view of the land and buildings.
    “Starboard” because when a ship is docked, the starboard side looked out over the sea and onboard persons could see the stars.

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