AskDefine | Define forecastle

Dictionary Definition

forecastle n : living quarters consisting of a superstructure in the bow of a merchant ship where the crew is housed [syn: fo'c'sle]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • 1: /ˈfokˌsəl/
  • US 2: /ˈfoɹˌkæ.səl/


  1. A raised part of the upper deck at the front of a ship.
  2. The forward part of a ship where the crew is housed.


Extensive Definition

Forecastle, also spelled fo'c'sle (), originally meant the upper deck of a sailing ship, forward of the foremast.


The forward part of a ship with the sailors' living quarters is also called the forecastle. Related to the latter meaning is the phrase "before the mast" which denotes anything related to ordinary sailors (as opposed to a ship's officers).
The term "forecastle" relates to medieval shipbuilding, where ships of war were usually equipped with a tall, multi-deck castle-like structure in the bows of the ship which served as a platform for archers to shoot down on enemy ships and could also be used as a defensive stronghold if the ship was boarded.
A similar but usually much larger structure was at the aft end of the ship, often stretching all the way from the main mast to the stern. Having such tall upper works on the ship was of course detrimental to sailing performance. As cannons were introduced and gunfire replaced boarding as the primary means of naval combat during the 16th century, the medieval forecastle was no longer needed, and later ships such as the galleon had only a low, one-deck high forecastle.
In addition to crew's quarters, the forecastle may contain essential machinery such as the anchor windlass. On many modern US Naval ships (such as aircraft carriers), the forecastle is the location where boatswain will display their fancy knotwork such as coxcombing. It is also referred to as "God's Country" as this is where religious services of all denominations are held by Navy Chaplains.
Some sailing ships and many modern (non-sail) ships have no forecastle as such at all but the name is still being used to indicate the foremost part of the upper deck (although often called the foredeck) and for any crews quarters in the bow of the ship, even if below the main deck.
forecastle in Catalan: Castell (nàutica)
forecastle in German: Vorschiff
forecastle in Spanish: Castillo de proa (náutica)
forecastle in French: Gaillard (bateau)
forecastle in Icelandic: Hvalbakur
forecastle in Dutch: Bak (schip)
forecastle in Norwegian: Bakk (skip)
forecastle in Polish: Kubryk
forecastle in Swedish: Galjon
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