The Meaning of Quarter

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Jul 29, 2001
Reading some survivors' accounts (eg Archibald Gracie's) I notice references to "the starboard quarter".

Why is the word "quarter" used here? What does it mean exactly?

And whilst we're on this subject, why are Quartermasters and Quarterdecks so-called (and what are they?)

Can anyone help?

Thank you,


Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
The quarter as in 'starboard quarter' is a direction that is about halfway between dead astern and dead abeam. Something might be seen fine on the quarter, if it's more toward the stern or broad on the quarter, if it's more towards the beam.

A quarter deck is one extending from the stern towards the quarter. It's raised above the maindeck and in the days of sail was inhabited by the officers.

Quartermaster is a term used on land an sea. Apparently he was originally in charge of the quarters occupied by soldiers or sailors. At sea a quartermaster was an experienced sailor who could be trusted to steer and do other responsible jobs. Quartermaster George Rowe, for instance, could read and send Morse with the signal lamp. In the army a quartermaster looks after stores and equipment. Hence the famous song.

'There was beer, beer, beer you couldn't get near,
In the Quartermaster's store.
There was rum, rum, rum for the General's tum
In the Quartermaster's store.'
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