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Brigantine copperEtch.png
Brigantine Experiment of Newburyport, 114 tons, built at Amesbury in 1803.
TypeSailing rig
Place of originAtlantic maritime nations

A brigantine is a two-masted sailing vessel with a fully square-rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square topsail and a gaff sail mainsail (behind the mast). [1] The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.


Older usages are looser; in addition to the rigorous definition above (attested from 1695), the Oxford English Dictionary has about 1525 definitions of "a small vessel equipped both for sailing and rowing, swifter and more easily manœuvred than larger ships" and "(loosely) various kinds of foreign sailing and rowing vessels, as the galleon, galliot, etc." [2]

Modern American definitions include vessels without the square sails on the main mast.

Mediterranean brigantines

In the Mediterranean Basin during the 13th century, a brigantine referred to a sail- and oar-driven war vessel. [3] It was lateen rigged on two masts and had between eight and 12 oars on each side. Its speed, maneuverability, and ease of handling made it a favourite of Mediterranean pirates. Its name is derived from the Italian word brigantino , which in turn is derived from brigante [4] "brigand". Other than in names, this vessel has no relation to the later brigantines developed in Northern Europe.[ citation needed ]

17th century and onwards

A brigantine sail plan Brigantine.png
A brigantine sail plan

By the 17th century, the term was adopted 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 mainmast 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. [1]

The brigantine was the second-most popular rig for ships built in the British colonies in North America before 1775 [6] The most popular type of vessel was the sloop. The brigantine was swifter and more easily maneuvered than a sloop or schooner, hence was employed for 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. [6] The brigantine was generally larger than a sloop or schooner, but smaller than a brig. [3]

The last sailing true brigantine in the world is the Eye of the Wind . [1]

Modern terminology

A modern brigantine sail plan or "hermaphrodite brig" HermaphroditeBrig.png
A modern brigantine sail plan or "hermaphrodite brig"
The steamship Columbia, an example of a late 19th-century auxiliary schooner brig-rigged vessel SS Columbia Full Sail.jpg
The steamship Columbia , an example of a late 19th-century auxiliary schooner brig-rigged 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 was called a schooner brig' or hermaphrodite brig. [7] In Europe, the distinction is typically still made. The training ship Zebu, which circumnavigated the Earth as part of Operation Raleigh, is an example of a schooner brig.

Differences from brig

The word brig is an 18th-century shortening of the word brigantine, but came to mean a different type of rigging. The gaff-rigged mainsail on a brigantine distinguishes it from the brig, which is principally square-rigged on both masts. In addition to the different sail configuration, the brigantine's mainmast is made from two parts and equal to that of a schooner, a quite long mast and a top mast. The mainmast of a brig is made from three parts and equal to that of a fully rigged ship - a mast, topmast, and topgallant mast. With the advent of modern (metal) pole masts, this last difference typically no longer exists.

See also

Related Research Articles

Sloop Sail boat with a single mast and a fore-and-aft rig

A sloop is a sailboat with a single mast typically having only one headsail in front of the mast and one mainsail aft of (behind) the mast. Such an arrangement is called a fore-and-aft rig, and can be rigged as a Bermuda rig with triangular sails fore and aft, or as a gaff-rig with triangular foresail(s) and a gaff rigged mainsail. Sailboats can be classified according to type of rig, and so a sailboat may be a sloop, catboat, cutter, ketch, yawl, or schooner. A sloop usually has only one headsail, although an exception is the Friendship sloop, which is usually gaff-rigged with a bowsprit and multiple headsails. If the vessel has two or more headsails, the term cutter may be used, especially if the mast is stepped further towards the back of the boat.

Schooner Sailing vessel

A schooner is a type of sailing vessel defined by its rig: fore-and-aft rigged on all of 2 or more masts and, in the case of a 2 masted schooner, the foremast generally being shorter than the mainmast. A common variant, the topsail schooner also has a square topsail on the foremast, to which may be added a topgallant. Differing definitions leave uncertain whether the addition of a fore course would make such a vessel a brigantine. Many schooners are gaff-rigged, but other examples include Bermuda rig and the staysail schooner.

Sailing ship Large wind-powered water vessel

A sailing ship is a sea-going vessel that uses sails mounted on masts to harness the power of wind and propel the vessel. There is a variety of sail plans that propel sailing ships, employing square-rigged or fore-and-aft sails. Some ships carry square sails on each mast—the brig and full-rigged ship, said to be "ship-rigged" when there are three or more masts. Others carry only fore-and-aft sails on each mast—schooners. Still others employ a combination of square and fore-and-aft sails, including the barque, barquentine, and brigantine.

Sailboat Boat propelled partly or entirely by sails

A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails and is smaller than a sailing ship. Distinctions in what constitutes a sailing boat and ship vary by region and maritime culture.

Sail plan Diagram of the masts, spars, rigging, and sails of a sailing vessel

A sail plan is a description of the specific ways that a sailing craft is rigged. Also, the term “sail plan” is a graphic depiction of the arrangement of the sails for a given sailing craft.

Brig Sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts

A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Brigs fell out of use with the arrival of the steam ship because they required a relatively large crew for their small size and were difficult to sail into the wind. Their rigging differs from that of a brigantine which has a gaff-rigged mainsail, while a brig has a square mainsail with an additional gaff-rigged spanker behind the mainsail.

Tall ship Large, traditionally rigged sailing vessel

A tall ship is a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel. Popular modern tall ship rigs include topsail schooners, brigantines, brigs and barques. "Tall ship" can also be defined more specifically by an organization, such as for a race or festival.


A topsail ("tops'l") is a sail set above another sail; on square-rigged vessels further sails may be set above topsails.

Snow (ship) Sailing rig

In sailing, a snow, snaw or snauw is a square-rigged vessel with two masts, complemented by a snow- or trysail-mast stepped immediately abaft (behind) the main mast.

Cutter (boat) Type of boat

A cutter is a sailing vessel which is distinguished from a sloop by having more than one foresails, and the main mast stepped slightly farther back. Cutters are most commonly private yachts but the term may also be used for some rowing or power boats, for example, the United States Coast Guard Cutter.

Barquentine Sailing rig

A barquentine or schooner barque is a sailing vessel with three or more masts; with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main, mizzen and any other masts.

Mast (sailing) Pole used in rigging of a sailing vessel

The mast of a sailing vessel is a tall spar, or arrangement of spars, erected more or less vertically on the centre-line of a ship or boat. Its purposes include carrying sails, spars, and derricks, and giving necessary height to a navigation light, look-out position, signal yard, control position, radio aerial or signal lamp. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship. Nearly all sailing masts are guyed.

Bermuda rig Configuration of mast and rigging for a type of sailboat

A Bermuda rig, Bermudian rig, or Marconi rig is a configuration of mast and rigging for a type of sailboat and is the typical configuration for most modern sailboats. This configuration was developed in Bermuda in the 17th century; the term Marconi, a reference to the inventor of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi, became associated with this configuration in the early 20th century because the wires that stabilize the mast of a Bermuda rig reminded observers of the wires on early radio masts.

Square rig Generic type of sail and rigging arrangement

Square rig is a generic type of sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts. These spars are called yards and their tips, beyond the last stay, are called the yardarms. A ship mainly rigged so is called a square-rigger.

Full-rigged ship Sailing vessel with three or more square-rigged masts

A full-rigged ship or fully rigged ship is a sailing vessel's sail plan with three or more masts, all of them square-rigged. A full-rigged ship is said to have a ship rig or be ship-rigged. Such vessels also have each mast stepped in three segments: lower mast, top mast, and topgallant mast. Other large, multi-masted sailing vessels may be regarded as ships while lacking one of the elements of a full-rigged ship, e.g. having one or more masts support only a fore-and-aft sail or having a mast that only has two segments.


A foresail is one of a few different types of sail set on the foremost mast (foremast) of a sailing vessel:


A jackass-barque, sometimes spelled jackass bark, is a sailing ship with three masts, of which the foremast is square-rigged and the main is partially square-rigged and partially fore-and-aft rigged (course). The mizzen mast is fore-and-aft rigged.

<i>Amazing Grace</i> (ship) Topsail schooner ship

Amazing Grace is an 83' topsail schooner. Her home port is in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship serves as the platform for the non-profit Maritime Leadership and is also available for private charters and memorials at sea. Maritime Leadership provides traditional sail training adventures through sailings ranging from 3–48 hours.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sailing:


  1. 1 2 3 Sandström, Fredrik (2000). "Brigantine (Archived copy)". Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  2. "brigantine" . Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. 1 2 Haalmeijer, Hans (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken: zeilschepen van de Lage Landen : de binnenvaart [Barges and others: sailing ships of the Low Countries: inland navigation] (in Dutch). De Alk. ISBN   978-90-6013-274-6.
  4. "'Brigantino'". Dizionario Etimologico Online (in Italian). Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  5. Kemp, Peter, ed. (1994). The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea . Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780192115539.
  6. 1 2 "Brigentines Described". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  7. "brigantine". Universalium Academic. Retrieved 19 March 2018.