"Galley" missing from the OED?

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Oct 28 12:04:59 UTC 2011

Evidently "Galley" was part of the name of a number of ships. That causes
some of the confusion.

.         Smith Galley. Not sure. Possibly the name of the ship.

.         HMS Mary Galley was the name of two British warships that operated
in the 18C. (Wikipedia)

.         The Leghorn dateline, given the Mediterranean setting, my guess is
an oared galley.

.         Birch Galley, not sure if part of the name or not. There are
multiple reports online of this ship's seizure, mostly copying from one
another. Some reports capitalize "Galley," some don't.

.         Diamond Galley is a ship's name. (Bedford Galley and Leopard
Galley are also names of American ships built in the 18C; see Hall's 1884
"Report on the Ship-Building Industry of the United States" on Google

.         Cadiz dateline. Given the Spanish locale, my guess is an oared
galley taken as a prize into English service. Yes, galleys had guns, but for
obvious reasons they weren't the best gun platforms.

From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Joel S. Berson
Sent: Thursday, October 27, 2011 8:23 PM
Subject: Re: "Galley" missing from the OED?

Some citations.  I searched EAN for 1730 to 1739.  There are 168 hits for
"galley".  Some may have other meanings or be OCR artifacts, but I think
there are few of these (only 2 in the first 20, my sample).  These are not
small Thames rowboats.

*  Custom-House, New-York. ... Cleared for Departure. ... Sloop Black ey'd
Susan, Lewis Thebau to Jamaica ... Ship Smith Galley, J. Tate to Virginia.
American Weekly Mercury, 1729 [? /1730] Jan 6, 4.  [The form "Ship Smith
Galley" is unusual for customs reports; generally the type of ship precedes
the name of the ship.  And this is complicated by the fact that "ship" in
customs reports seems often to identify a specific type of vessel
(presumably OED sense 1.a: a vessel having a bowsprit and three masts);
others are listed as sloops, brigs, schooners, etc.]

*  [Datelined London]  Money was sent down ... to Plymouth, to pay off His
Majesty's Ship the Mary Valley, lately arrived at that Port.  Boston
Gazette, 1730 March 30, 2.

*  [Datelined Leghorn; re rebellion on Corsica]  ... he had resolved to make
Use of Force, and for that purpose had a Galley ready to put to Sea for
Calzi, with 1500 Muskets to be distributed ...  New England Weekly Journal,
1730 Aug. 17, 3.

*  [Datelined London]  The Birch Galley, Capt. Joseph Turner, is arrived at
Bristol from Jamaica, but in her passage ... she was taken by a Spanish
Guard de Coast, belonging to the Havanna, which carried her to one of the
Florida Keys ... plundered the Ship of all her Stores, and her Cargo ...
Boston Gazette, 1730 Sept. 14, 4.  [Thus a commercial vessel, not a

*  For Bristol directly. The Diamond Galley, Burthen 150 Tons, William
Donalson Commander, is ready to take in Goods, and will sail with all
convenient Speed: Any Gentlemen that hath a mind to Freight or Passage, may
agree with ...  American Mercury, 1731 April 29, 4.  [How large a ship was
one with 150 tons displacement?  But in any case, this ship was going from
Philadelphia to Bristol.]

* [Datelined Cadiz] ... several vessels in distress, and among 'em a fine
long English Galley, with a Teer of Guns ...  American Weekly Mercury, 1731
June 24.  [Would this warship have had rowers?]

* [Datelined Naples]  There has been discovered a conspiracy, formed by some
Galley Slaves, who had resolved to poison the Crews of the Galleys designed
to cruize along the Coasts, during the journey that the Viceroy is shortly
to take by land to Amalfi and Salerno ... Boston News-Letter, 1731 Aug. 26,
2.  [So there were still galleys rowed by slaves (OED sense 1.a) in the
Mediterranean in 1731.]

My comment about the 18th century was slightly facetious -- the OED has been
criticized for slighting it.


At 10/26/2011 11:25 PM, Dave Wilton wrote:

>And was the 18th century, where I see "galley", overlooked in the
>19th century?

There are a lot more sources looked at today than in the past. Updated
entries frequently have older senses that previous editions missed.

And you're right, Americans or British would not have employed ocean-going
galleys in the eighteenth century.

But there is this, from Smyth's 1867 "Sailor's Word-Book" in the entry for
galley (from which the OED also copied the opening sentence for its
definition of "galley"):

"Also an open boat rowing six or eight oars, and used on the river Thames by
custom-house officers and formerly by press-gangs; hence the names
'custom-house galley,' 'press-galley,' &c."

This sense corresponds with the OED's definition 3. Could these craft be
what your custom-house records refer to? (Without seeing the citations it's
kind of hard to figure out what these "galleys" refer to.)

There is also "gallias," which is another type of ship altogether.

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