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Title: Brigantine  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tall ship, Brig, List of shipwrecks in the 1760s, Eye of the Wind, USS Washington (1775)
Collection: Brigantines, Sailing Rigs and Rigging, Sailing Ships, Ship Types
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Brigantine Experiment of Newburyport, 114 tons, built at Amesbury in 1803.
Type Sailing rig
Place of origin Mediterranean

In sailing, a brigantine is a two-masted vessel with foremast fully square rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (a gaff sail) and a square topsail, and possibly a topgallant sail.[1]


  • Mediterranean brigantines 1
  • 17th century and onwards 2
  • Modern terminology 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Mediterranean brigantines

In the 13th century Mediterranean, there was a sail- and oar-driven war vessel[2] which was called brigantine.[3] It was lateen rigged on two masts and had between eight and twelve oars on each side. Its speed, manoeuvrability and ease of handling made it a favourite of the Mediterranean pirates. Its name is derived from the Italian word brigantino, meaning brigand. Other than in names, this vessel has no relation to the later brigantines developed in Northern Europe.[4]

17th century and onwards

A brigantine sail plan

By the 17th century the term was adapted by Atlantic maritime nations. The vessel had no lateen sails but was instead square-rigged on the foremast and had a gaff-rigged mainsail with square rig above it on the mainmast.[5] The main mast of a brigantine is the aft one.

By the first half of the 18th century the word had evolved to refer not to a kind of vessel, but rather to a particular type of rigging: two-masted, with her foremast fully square-rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (a gaff sail) and square topsails and possibly topgallant sails.[6]

The brigantine was the second most popular rig for ships built in the American colonies before 1775[7] (the most popular type of vessel being a sloop). The brigantine was swifter and more easily maneuvered than a sloop or schooner, and was hence employed for purposes of piracy, espionage, and reconnoitering, and as an outlying attendant upon large ships for protecting a ship, or for supply or landing purposes in a fleet.

The brigantine could be of various sizes, ranging from 50 to 200 tons burden. The brigantine was generally larger than a sloop or schooner but smaller than a brig.[8]

The last sailing true brigantine in the world is the Eye of the Wind.[9]

Modern terminology

A modern brigantine sail plan or "hermaphrodite brig"
The steamship Columbia, an example of a late 19th century auxiliary brigantine rig vessel.

The definition given above describes the international usage of the term brigantine. In modern American terminology, the term brigantine now usually means a vessel with the foremast square rigged and the mainmast fore-and-aft rigged, without any square sails. Historically, this rig used to be called a schooner brig or hermaphrodite brig.[10]

The word brig is an 18th-century shortening of the word brigantine, but came to mean a different type of rigging. It is the gaff-rigged mainsail on a brigantine which distinguishes it from the brig, which is principally square rigged on both masts.[11]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dik Vuik, Hans Haalmeijer (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken. Alkmaar, the Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Alk B.V. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Peter Kemp, ed. (1994).  
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Dik Vuik, Hans Haalmeijer (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken. Alkmaar, the Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Alk B.V. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links

  • The dictionary definition of brigantine at Wiktionary
  • The dictionary definition of hermaphrodite brig at Wiktionary
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