Starboard is the nautical term (used on boats and ships) that refers to the right side of a vessel, as perceived by a person facing forward (i.e., towards the bow).
The starboard side of a vessel is indicated with a green light.
The origin of term comes from old boating practices. Before boats had rudders on their centerline, boats were steered by use of a specialized oar. This oar was held by a sailor located towards the stern (back) of the boat. However, like most of the rest of society, there were many more right-handed sailors than left-handed sailors. This meant that the right-handed sailors holding the steering oar (which had been broadened to provide better control) used to stand on the right side of the boat. The word starboard is a corruption of steering board.
Similarly, the term for the left side of the boat, port, is derived from the practice of sailors mooring on the left side (i.e., the Portboard side) as to prevent the steering boards from being crushed. Because the words portboard and starboard sounded too similar to be distingued under windy sailing conditions, the two-syllable portboard was reduced to the one-sylable port.
Last updated: 05-17-2005 23:38:04