Basically, pirates would use the term À l’abordage! as a battle cry when boarding enemy ships like described in the phrase’s Wiktionary entry.

Is there a English translation for this, or is it an expression that has no direct English equivalent and should be used in its French form?

  • "Here we come!"? – Kris Oct 30 '12 at 10:03
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    @Kris: Not a very convincing battle cry... :/ – LightStriker Oct 30 '12 at 10:04
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    All aboard! perhaps? Or maybe not. – Andrew Leach Oct 30 '12 at 10:10
  • @AndrewLeach: Would it really be used when invading an enemy ship? – LightStriker Oct 30 '12 at 10:12
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    @Marc-AndréJutras “Let’s board ’em!” isn’t a particularly blood-curdling cry either. Probably you should read about boarding in the Age of Sail, or watch some English-language pirate movies, for possible source material. This isn’t a stereotypical phrase in English familiar enough to a general audience as to be recognized as special. – tchrist Oct 30 '12 at 10:14

"Away boarders!!!!' is a classic cry.

Or, "Away all boarders" in US Navy use.
Wikipedia - Danile V Gallery - the last man to use it officially. They say:

  • This incident was the last time that the order "Away All Boarders!" was given by a U.S. Navy captain. Lieutenant Albert David, who led the boarding party, received the Medal of Honor for his courage in boarding a foundering submarine that presumably had scuttling charges set to explode – the only Medal of Honor awarded in the Atlantic Fleet during World War II. Task Group 22.3 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and Captain Gallery received the Distinguished Service Medal for capturing U-505.

Drawing from sources such as Robert Louis Stevensons pirate fiction, you may be more likely to here terms such as "Avast lubbers" or "Them what dies will be the lucky ones" :-).

The plausibility of "Away Boarders!" is somewhat increased (somewhat) by sites such as:

War artisans workshop - Away Boarders

Away Boarders - pulp fiction

Loud You tube "documentary" - "Away Boarders"

And again

  • +1 At the very least more colourful than my pedestrian offering. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 30 '12 at 12:30
  • Is that cry addressed to one's men or the enemy? – Kris Oct 30 '12 at 12:30
  • @K A l'abordage ("To the boarding") is addressed to the boarding company, not the receiving ship, surely? "Away boarders" is too; and "Board!" – Andrew Leach Oct 30 '12 at 13:01
  • I just went looking in online dictionaries for the definition of this new-to-me word "siotes" -- but it must be a typo for 'sites'! – JAM Oct 30 '12 at 13:41

Volume II of Allan Cunningham’s Paul Jones; A Romance, 1826 (still in the Age of Sail, and less than 50 years after the events ‘novelized’) has the following passages:

He saw John Paul dappled with blood from head to heel, and smeared with gunpowder; a sword in ae hand and a pistol in the other, flying from deck to deck, and crying, with a voice as loud as a carronade, ‘Board, board!’ (29)

When Corbie, waving his cutlass, cried out,—“Board! board!” fifty men were at his back in a moment; and so close were the ships to each other that a score and upwards leaped on board without waiting. (162)

“Remember, not a shot must be fired till I give the word; and when I cry, Board! you must board, from the cabin-boy to the captain.” (322-3)

Cunningham was a landsman his entire life, but practiced as a journalist, novelist and popular poet in London at the height of the Napoleonic wars. It is likely that his characters say, if not what sailors of the day actually said, what a novel-reading public avid for tales of nautical derring-do expected them to say.

  • Is that cry addressed to one's men or the enemy? – Kris Oct 30 '12 at 12:30
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    @Kris "When I cry, Board! you must board" - to one's men. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 30 '12 at 12:31

Similar in spirit/tone, I'm sure, to what the officers said during The Great War to get the men up, over & out of the trenches in France. Well, then, their is that whole 'Geronimo' thing.

  • This isn't an answer, just a general observation vaguely related. Did you have an answer to give? If so, you should reword this. Otherwise, it is a comment. – itsbruce Dec 3 '14 at 15:50
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    Actually, Geronimo! is an answer to the question, although it has not been well-presented here. – Andrew Leach Dec 5 '14 at 21:28

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