I've looked it up and found:

  • Admiralty => office of the Admiralty & Marine Affairs -- an institution under various names in England.

  • Admiralty => a building and department.

  • Admiralty => court dealing with maritime law.

But this all started when I ran into this, the final verse of Rudyard Kipling's "Song of the Dead"

We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the ~Golden Hind~,
Or the wreck that struck last tide --
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!

In this context, I don't understand what Kipling means by 'admiralty'

Enlightenment, please.

One good answer refers to the Oxford Phrase dictionary for "Price of Admiralty" and says "The cost of maintaining command of the seas." and refers to Kipling's poem.

Is Kipling's use of "admiralty" poetic license? Are there any other examples of its use as an abstract noun?

  • 1
    Plus 1 for reading Kipling and asking a question about him in an English Learner forum.
    – puppetsock
    Jan 31, 2020 at 17:18
  • 1
    @puppetsock — This is NOT an English Learner forum. Please read the Tour which makes that clear. English Language Learners is the SE site for learners.
    – David
    Jan 31, 2020 at 17:32
  • Too late to edit. OK then. gs/learner/language/
    – puppetsock
    Jan 31, 2020 at 17:33
  • If you are learning English, a good exercise would be to correct the use of the apostrophe in your final paragraph. There is one apostrophe missing, and one that shouldn’t be there. If you cannot see them, consult one of the numerous articles on the topic you can find on the Internet.
    – David
    Jan 31, 2020 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


price of admiralty

The cost of maintaining command of the seas, often with reference to Kipling's line, "If blood be the price of admiralty Good God, we ha' paid in full" ('Song of the English', 1893).

Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

In this context, "admiralty" refers to naval power (or specifically, the Royal Navy).

  • 2
    Undoubtedly it does. An admiral is a senior naval officer, The Admiralty was the British government department dealing with naval affairs (now part of the Ministry of Defence), so Kipling is using the word to mean 'command of the seas'. Jan 30, 2020 at 9:15
  • I'd like to see more examples than Kipling, and have edited my question accordingly. Thanks to @Flux. Jan 31, 2020 at 16:50
  • @KateBunting But I think it's a sense unique to Kipling. The OED has no entry for it.
    – WS2
    Feb 1, 2020 at 8:46
  • @WS2 It's disgusting, expecting people to accept new senses and words just because we're a famous author. We should resist this forcibly, every last man, woman and hobbit of us. Feb 1, 2020 at 16:35
  • @EdwinAshworth All I am saying is that I think it is unique to Kipling. But I am perfectly willing to stand corrected if anyone proves otherwise.
    – WS2
    Feb 1, 2020 at 18:45

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