There should be dozens of them, but I'm stumped here. Nothing other than "tub" and "frying pan" comes to mind. If someone witty wished to insult your boat, yacht, or ship, what would he or she call it?

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    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 3:18
  • This appears to be a legitimate question about "word choice and usage", which is one of the main purposes of this forum.
    – Devil07
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 1:43
  • 2
    @Devil07: It is a legitimate question. Not to mention that it has garnered fifty +1's and 28 answers, whose +1 sum total has already exceeded 200. But what do we know.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 12:46
  • 1
    @ricky well maybe it will be reopened by some inspired salty users.
    – Devil07
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:30

24 Answers 24


Calling a ship a boat, is sometimes considered derisive. Also, calling a type of boat by the name of another type of boat is sometimes considered insulting by its owner. If the boat is a man's mid-life crisis, adding "little" to whatever you call it will surely sting a little extra.

Some ideas & examples:

Little boat: Aww, I like your little boat.

Dinghy: Your dinghy is so cute.

Driftwood: Is that a boat, or a piece of driftwood?

Tub: If your tub is here, then how do you take a bath at home?

Rust bucket: Good thing I had my tetanus shot before climbing into this rust bucket.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 3:20
  • 5
    IMHO "little boat" is not pejorative in itself, unless used about a big boat. Also, I don't think you could actually use "driftwood" really, i.e. if you were standing next to someone's boat and saying "let's load the crates onto the driftwood" you'd just get puzzled stares. Still, +1 for all the rest.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 17:14

A scow.


Definition #3:

an old or clumsy boat; hulk; tub.

  • 6
    or better yet, "garbage scow"
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 6:12
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    I didn't mean the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say it should be hauled away AS GARBAGE.
    – Muzer
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 9:16
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    @Muzer I'm glad somebody caught that allusion...
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 20:42
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    Hulk (as mentioned in passing in the definition) would be a valid derogatory term in itself.
    – Andrew M
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 9:35
  • See The Trouble with Tribbles for the script.
    – ab2
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 3:41

One epithet for a boat that seldom leaves port is 'an expensive hole in the water'.

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    You beat me to it. The version I've heard is a hole in the water that you pour money into.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 23:50
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    In fact, the answer is too long; in my experience the statement is utterly true even after removing the words "...that seldom leaves port..."
    – gowenfawr
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 16:13
  • @MichaelKay Good point; I updated the answer to reflect this.
    – vijrox
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 21:28
  • Never mind, the edit was rejected because the moderator note doesn't show up in edit peer review view. A glitch that StackExchange should probably look into fixing.
    – vijrox
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 21:29

On the UK canal system, people with traditional narrow boats (70 feet long, with solid steel hulls originally designed to carry 20 tons or more of cargo) sometimes refer to fiberglass hulled craft as "Noddy boats." See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noddy_(character) for the meaning of Noddy.

Canal and river boat owners who don't keep their boats looking smart are referred to as "Rodney" from the name of a generally incompetent character in a UK sitcom: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Trotter.

Traditional narrow boats were often decorated with stylized paintings of roses and castles on the cabin sides. A boat with badly painted roses may be called a "cabbage".

An incompetent canal-boat handler is often called a "sailor" - this may date from the end of WWI, when the commercial narrow boat companies hired unemployed merchant seamen, which was disapproved of by the long-standing canal boatmen, who in were often from families that had been boatmen for many generation, and in some cases literally were born, lived and worked all their lives, and died on their boat.

A modern canal boat that is a poor imitation of the older designs is sometimes called a "Washer josher," because instead of the original hull construction of steel plates riveted together with washers, imitation washers are simply glued onto a fiberglass hull.

A leaky canal boat is called a "watercress boat," since watercress is grown commercially in beds irrigated with shallow running water.

  • 7
    My parents used to own a narrowboat and would invariably refer to any non-narrowboat (especially the fancy ones) as a Gin Palace. I also noted that narrowboat owners would get the hump if you referred to their boat as a barge, and even more so if you called it a ditch crawler ;-)
    – dkwarr87
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 11:10
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    Answers replete as this one is with bitter flavors from the tongues of exotic subcultures, are possibly the most delectable treat to discover in english.se. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 21:31
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    I've also heard about 'tupperware' for fibreglass hulled boats. See e.g. discussion at canalworld.net/forums/index.php?/topic/63270-tupperware-boats
    – bdsl
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 12:49
  • 6
    Who knew the canal world was so bitchy? :) Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 16:28
  • 'Plastic' is used to as a derisive term for fibreglass boats.
    – CSM
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:14

As mentioned in Tony Ennis's answer and Steve Lovell's comment there are a couple of words that refer to old/dilapidated/wrecked boats (such as hulk, wreck and scow) that may be used, but...

...As has been hinted at by other answers and in the comments, the best insults are usually based heavily on context.

If you can think of an insult to call the boat that isn't necessarily nautical, then you can add floating in front of it, like floating shed, floating scrap or floating turd (or just floater if you like).

One method of insulting the type of boat is (as has already been mentioned in many other answers) to call it the name of another type of boat that it isn't. Often calling it by the name of a smaller type of boat (e.g. rowing boat), or a cheaper type of boat (e.g. dinghy), or a less glamorous type of boat (e.g. trawler), as many other answers have suggested. Another option is to call it sarcastically by a much bigger/more expensive/more glamorous type of boat (e.g. calling a rusty old trawler a luxury yacht). The context will really influence which type of boat is most appropriate.

Any complimentary epithet about the boat said sarcastically (although this would only work if spoken/incredibly obvious it isn't actually a compliment).

An insult could be related to the apparent imminent sinkability of the boat, e.g. sinker or shipwreck waiting to happen; or to the fact that it leaks, e.g. (to borrow from Harry Potter) leaky cauldron.

Other insults could be related to the person that bought/owns the boat. For example, people going through a midlife crisis often buy expensive/unnecessary items like sports cars, but also boats. You could therefore call it a (floating) midlife crisis. Or, if a man has bought a boat and it's seen as a way to "prove his power/masculinity", you could call it a floating penis extension.

Other methods mentioned in several other answers are:

  • to call it something that is vaguely boat-shaped, but not a boat, especially something small (e.g. sardine can)
  • call it something that is made from the same thing as the boat, but is not a boat, especially if found at sea (e.g. driftwood)
  • use a mixture of the two (e.g. rust bucket).
  • 3
    I like 'floater' - technically correct but very derogatory by connotation. Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 14:59
  • This is a very interesting answer. In fact, it reads a bit like a description of several generic formulas for insults that could be applied just as well to many other types of objects. Is this just based on your own observation, or is there any research behind it that I could read up?
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 13:58
  • @Schmuddi It comes from my own experience (as a native Brit), rather than from any quotable sources.
    – SteveES
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 14:20
  • 1
    @SteveES: Thank you for your reply. Just to clarify: I didn't mean to sound dismissive ("just based on your own observation"). My question comes from the perspective of a linguistics teacher who suspects that there might be a promising research project for students hidden somewhere in this. ;)
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 14:29

One of my colleagues, who had a sailboat, called all boats driven by an engine, stink-pots. Merriam-Webster

A boat equipped with a motor.

See Sailing Yachts v Stinkpots in the Financial Times. This article, which the FT does not want me to excerpt, well conveys the disdain that sailors feel for "motorized pleasure craft". In the case of the authors of this article, they are somewhat abashed at their disdain.

The article refers to the book Coot Club by Arthur Ransome,

The most entertaining piece of anti-stinkpot propaganda ever written.

I am sure the owners of "motorized pleasure craft" have equally derogatory terms for sailboats, and perhaps another person will supply one.

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    "Rag-hangar" comes to mind. Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 3:43
  • 3
    Also "rag bagger" for a sailboat.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 2:20
  • 2
    Indeed; and also the variation, just "stink boats" for any engined boat.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 9:46


Mr.A : so how do you like my new luxury yacht!

Mr.B : it's very nice... So what do you call this dinghy?

  • 2
    The word choice is apt but the example dialogue seems strange. If Mr. A has already referred to his watercraft as a "luxury yacht", then Mr. B's response doesn't make sense.
    – Tom Fenech
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:15
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    One man's luxury yacht is another man's dinghy. :P
    – raddevus
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 20:03
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    @Tom Fenech the other man is sarcastically calling the luxury yacht a dinghy! Of course a friend wouldnt take offence at such an expression. Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 21:05
  • Yeah, I understand that it was meant to be sarcasm. It would make sense if Mr. B just walked up to Mr. A's yacht and said "Nice dinghy, what do you call it?", but in the context of it having been already referred to as a "luxury yacht" in the same conversation, it seems like an unnatural reply.
    – Tom Fenech
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 17:59
  • @Tom Fenech the thing is, I read something like this in the context of a crime novel... maybe makes better sense as bantering between friends rather than real sarcasm? Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 20:54

I don't see "raft" mentioned yet, which would be a fairly disparaging way to refer to a "real" boat or ship.

Definition of raft
1 a : a collection of logs or timber fastened together for conveyance by water
1 b : a flat structure for support or transportation on water
2 : a floating cohesive mass
3 : an aggregation of animals (such as waterfowl) resting on the water


Tin can. Almost any name for a ship that's smaller/less impressive than the one in question, for example if you called a large ship a raft (especially with the right tone and context).

Bucket of bolts (well, it is a KIND of ship).

  • 2
    To me, a Tin Can is a destroyer and is not a derisive word.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 23:00
  • 1
    Especially a, "sardine can." There's an old fashioned home-made toy boat consisting of a sardine can and a makeshift sail.
    – H. David
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 0:24
  • I think "tin can" was probably derogatory when it was first uttered but evolved into an affectionate nickname. But the one I was on was often called "Building 36"
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:05

There is an episode of the Brady Bunch in which Carol expresses disinterest in going on a boat trip, by describing the vessel as a "barnacle barge." I like the alliteration and how Carol was able to spit out the words with great contempt.


A "sieve", though I'm not sure that's funny: because there's a standard simile for anything that's meant to be waterproof but isn't, i.e., "it leaks like a sieve".

Or a "raft" because that implies something primitive (which floats but little else); or a "canoe".


Users of the British canal system usually travel in steel narrow boats. They will use the term Noddy Boat to refer to anything made of fibreglass. the term is purely derogatory.

The term derives from the Enid Blyton children's character Noddy, who uses a boat in several of the stories.

Noddy Toy Boat

There are references to this usage of the phrase in Google Books here and here

  • 1
    Noddy was a simply drawn and animated toy figure. The name "Noddy" has become an epithet in British English that can be used to refer to things that have a childish appearance or feel. I've heard an odd looking automobile referred to as a Noddy-car (for example in this review of a autotrader.co.uk/car-reviews/daihatsu/cuore/… "You feel as though it is a noddy car at first". Wikipedia gives a different example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noddy_(character)#Derivative_uses where it is used a synonym for petty or trivial.
    – bvanlew
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 6:31

Depending on the type of boat, calling it a tramp steamer might hit the right nerve.

(Also: I used to delight in referring to an acquaintance's father, who was by all accounts a respected pilot of large cargo ships, as a tugboat captain. Made me laugh, anyway.)


This is all based on context. Here are mine.

A "canoe". It's a boat, but it's also ancient technology. In poker a small full house is commonly called a canoe.

How about some imagery, "a floating piece of trash" for instance, or "sea turtle" for a row boat, or simply "row boat". Or a "sea barge".

Better still, "titanic".

Oh, got one. Call it "an anchor".

And "rubber ducky" because chances are the guy who bought it likes it for the same reasons. Perhaps "floating toilet", or "fire trap"

Adjectives can be used as well, such as: worthless, expensive, hazardous, etc.

"life boat" is funny.

  • 1
    Also thinking a buoy. Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 19:10

Consider coracle

Word forms: plural coracles

countable noun

In former times, a coracle was a simple round rowing boat made of woven sticks covered with animal skins.

From Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson:

I dropped into the hollow, lifted the side of the tent, and there was Ben Gunn’s boat—home-made if ever anything was home-made; a rude, lop-sided framework of tough wood, and stretched upon that a covering of goat-skin, with the hair inside...I had not then seen a coracle, such as the ancient Britons made, but I have seen one since, and I can give you no fairer idea of Ben Gunn’s boat than by saying it was like the first and the worst coracle ever made by man.

Since a coracle is a minimalist human endeavour to conquer seas, it would not be high praise to call any modern day vessel a coracle.

source: COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary


A hulk ie; "a non-functional, but floating ship"


When speaking disparagingly about a water vessel, using the word "floating" in front of most insults will apply to the boat with generally more intensity.

Floating toilet

Floating pile of garbage

Floating tetanus risk

Floating eyesore

Floating pain in my neck


From "Sailors' Language: A Collection of Sea-terms and Their Definitions, William Clark Russell, 1883"

Butter-box: A lumpish, uncouth vessel. "She has the run of a butter-box."

edit: no relation to "Gravy boat"


If the vessel is suffering from a lack of basic hull maintenance, it is often called "a floating reef".


Flotsam - the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on or washed up by the sea.


  • Could you add a link to where you got the definition from? Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 21:14

The word "bottom" is used for that part of a boat below the water line but by extension can be used for a boat as in the sentence "English merchants did much of their overseas trade in foreign bottoms" (G.M. Trevelyan).

  • Another word for boat was needed that was a pejorative.
    – Aled Cymro
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 13:50
  • Trying to find context for that but all I can find is dictionary cites. It sounds like a ribald pun, but hard to tell without seeing it in context. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 14:41
  • For some English the word "foreign" is a pejorative.
    – Aled Cymro
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 13:34
  • Without seeing the context it's hard to see whether he meant "bottoms" pejoratively. It's also hard to tell if he was punning, by saying "much of the shipping trade was done using ships registered under the flags of other nations" but at the same time implying "many English traders used the services of sex workers in the nations they visited". I'd read it that way, but I may be reading too much into it. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 19:35

Calling a Ship a 'Boat' is often seen as the ultimate insult.


Rickety old boat would also be another way to refer in very disparaging terms to any boat/ship/sailing vessel.

I can't find citations of this being a common idiom, but googling the term yields lots of results from various books (via Google Books).


Boat captains, especially male ones, akin their ship to a beautiful lady. So, if you want to fight on urban terrain, I'd recommend tramp, which is urban for slut.

usage: That tramp has been bought and sold many times. You're not the first, and you won't be the last.

  • Inventive, but likely to create confusion. The term "tramp steamer" is already actually in circulation, meaning a commercial vessel that does not operate to a schedule.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 15:40

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