A windjammer is a commercial sailing ship with multiple masts that may be either square rigged or fore-and-aft rigged or a combination of the two. The informal term arose during the transition from the Age of Sail to the Age of Steam.


The word "windjammer" has a variety of associations, both nautical and not. In the late 19th century the term was pejorative, as used by sailors aboard steamships.[1]

  • In 1892, Rudder Magazine said in a story, "The deck hands on the liners contemptuously refer to [sailing vessels] as ‘wind-jammers’."[1]
  • In 1917, the American Dialect Society recorded residents of the U.S. state of Maine referring to fore-and-aft sailing vessels as "windjammers" in a list of regional word usages.[2]
  • The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea calls windjammer "a non-nautical name by which square-rigged sailing ships are sometimes known".[3]
  • The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military calls windjammer "a merchant sailing ship".[4]
  • The following languages have adopted "windjammer" as a loanword from English in reference to sailing ships:
  1. Czech: windjammer[5]
  2. German: Windjammer[6][7]
  3. Japanese: ウィンドジャマー[8]
  4. Polish: windjammer[9]
  5. Russian: винджаммер[10]
  6. Serbian: виндјамер[11]
  • Green's Dictionary of Slang has a variety of non-nautical definitions for the term.[12]


Full-rigged ship
Showing three-masted examples, progressing from square sails on each to all fore-and-aft sails on each.

Any of the following ships may be called a "windjammer":

In literature

Windjammers have figured prominently in both historical and fictional literature. Some examples include:

  • Runciman, Walter Sr. (1902). Windjammers and Sea Tramps. London: At the Unicorn.
  • Lubbock, Basil (1953). The Last of the Windjammers. Brown, Son & Ferguson.
  • Allen, Oliver E.; Books, Time-Life (1978). The Windjammers. Time-Life Books. ISBN 9780705406253.
  • Richardson, V. A. (2006). The House of Windjammer. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9781582349848.
  • Thomas, Lowell (2013). The Sea Devil - The Story Of Count Felix Von Luckner, The German War Raider. Read Books Ltd. ISBN 9781446548196.
  • Noppen, Ryan K. (2015). German Commerce Raiders 1914–18. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781472809513.


  1. "wind, n.1", OED Online, Oxford University Press, retrieved 2019-06-25
  2. Chase, George D. (1917). "Lists from Maine". Dialect Notes. 1. IV. American Dialect Society.
  3. Dear, I. C. B. DearI C. B.; Kemp, Peter KempPeter (2007-01-01), Kemp, Peter; Dear, I. C. B. (eds.), "Windjammer", The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780199205684.001.0001/acref-9780199205684-e-2687, ISBN 9780199205684, retrieved 2019-06-24
  4. "Windjammer", The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military, Oxford University Press, 2001, doi:10.1093/acref/9780199891580.001.0001/acref-9780199891580-e-9168, retrieved 2019-06-24
  5. "windjammer - Czech translation - English-Czech dictionary". Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  6. Hueber; Bönzli, Werner (2009). Mit Deutsch durchs Jahr: Sprachkalender Deutsch (in German). Hueber Verlag. ISBN 9783190079209.
  7. Penzkofer, Markus (2017-09-27). Thematisches Wörterbuch Deutsch-Englisch (2): Aufbauwortschatz (in German). BoD – Books on Demand. ISBN 9783744822619.
  8. Nguyen, Nam H. (2018-02-03). Essential 120000 English-Japanese Words Dictionary (in Japanese). Nam H Nguyen.
  9. Milewski, Szymon; Zadrożna, T. (1965). Maritime dictionary Polish-English. Wydawn. Naukowo-Techniczne.
  10. "Винджаммер - translation - Russian-English Dictionary". Glosbe. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  11. "Виндјамер - translation - Serbian-English Dictionary". Glosbe. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  12. Green, Jonathon (2011), "Windjammer", Green's Dictionary of Slang, Chambers Harrap Publishers, doi:10.1093/acref/9780199829941.001.0001/acref-9780199829941-e-51541, ISBN 9780199829941, retrieved 2019-06-24
  13. Simpson, Paul W. (2017-05-11). Windjammer. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 9780244305727.
  14. Historian), Tom Bennett (Shipwreck (2016-11-24). Bells from Shipwrecks -after 1830: Victorian and Modern Ship's Bells. TOM Bennett.
  15. Marsden, Ben (2015-07-28). Uncommon Contexts: Encounters Between Science and Literature, 1800–1914. Routledge. ISBN 9781317320357.
  16. Williams, Deborah (September 1999). "Windjammin' in Maine". Cruise Travel. Cruise Travel.
  17. Kerr, Jim (September 1994). "Fantome--Setting sail for romance with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises". Cruise Travel. Cruise Travel.
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