Why Port and Starboard?

Why Do We Say Port and Starboard?

In the boating world we use the terms port and starboard to clarify which side of the vessel we’re talking about. If facing forward then port is on the left and starboard on the right. 

But why port and starboard? Where did it come from?

Well, starboard comes from the old English word steorboard which meant the side from which a vessel would be steered from. Ships used to be steered with a steering oar which was operated from the stern of the ship on the right hand side, as most people are right handed. Thus the right hand side of the ship later became the starboard side. 

Prior to the term port, the left hand side of the ship was known as the larboard side; this came from the Middle-English word ladeboard which means to load. As the right hand side of the ship was used to steer, the left hand side became the loading side – hence the left hand side being referred to as the larboard side. 

This was changed in 1844 by the Royal Navy and ordered to henceforth be known as the port hand side due to the confusion caused by starboard and larboard sounding too similar.