Forecastle, also spelled fo'c's'le (pronEng|ˈfoʊksəl), originally meant the upper deck of a
sailing ship, forward of the foremast. The syncope of the word is common among nautical terms due to the nature of their pronunciation during the age of sailby sailors with strong accents and varying language skills.
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
medievalshipbuilding, 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 after 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 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 galleonhad 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 boatswainwill display their fancy knotwork such as coxcombing.
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.
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Forecastle — Fore cas tle (?; sailors say ?), n. (Naut.) (a) A short upper deck forward, formerly raised like a castle, to command an enemy s decks. (b) That part of the upper deck of a vessel forward of the foremast, or of the after part of the fore channels … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
forecastle — (n.) c.1400, earlier Anglo Fr. forechasteil (mid 14c.), from M.E. FORE (Cf. fore ) before + castel fortified tower, the short raised deck in the fore part of the ship used in warfare (see CASTLE (Cf. castle) (n.)). Spelling fo c sle reflects… … Etymology dictionary
forecastle — see fo c sle … Modern English usage
forecastle — (also fo c s le) ► NOUN ▪ the forward part of a ship below the deck, traditionally used as the crew s living quarters … English terms dictionary
forecastle — [fōk′səl, fôr′kas΄əl] n. [ FORE + CASTLE: from the foremost of the two castlelike structures on the hull of a medieval vessel] 1. the upper deck of a ship in front of the foremast 2. the front part of a merchant ship, where the crew s quarters… … English World dictionary
forecastle — UK [ˈfəʊks(ə)l] / US [ˈfoʊks(ə)l] noun [countable] Word forms forecastle : singular forecastle plural forecastles the front part of a ship … English dictionary
forecastle — [[t]fo͟ʊksl[/t]] forecastles also fo c sle N COUNT: usu the N in sing The forecastle is the part at the front of a ship where the sailors live … English dictionary
forecastle — /ˈfoʊksəl / (say fohksuhl) noun 1. the forward part of a ship, comprising the bow and areas in its immediate vicinity. 2. the sailors quarters in the forward part of a merchant vessel. 3. Also, forecastle head. a short raised deck in the forepart … Australian English dictionary
forecastle — or fo c sle noun Date: 15th century 1. the forward part of the upper deck of a ship 2. the crew s quarters usually in a ship s bow … New Collegiate Dictionary
forecastle — /fohk seuhl, fawr kas euhl, kah seuhl, fohr /, n. Naut. 1. a superstructure at or immediately aft of the bow of a vessel, used as a shelter for stores, machinery, etc., or as quarters for sailors. 2. any sailors quarters located in the forward… … Universalium