Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A piece of soft sandstone used for scouring the wooden decks of a ship.
  • transitive v. To scrub or scour with a piece of soft sandstone.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A block of soft sandstone used for scrubbing the wooden decks of a ship, usually with sand and seawater; sometimes called a bible.
  • v. To scrub the decks with a holystone.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A stone used by seamen for scrubbing the decks of ships.
  • transitive v. To scrub with a holystone, as the deck of a vessel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To scrub with holystone, as the deck of a vessel.
  • n. A soft sandstone used by seamen for scrubbing the decks of a ship. See the extract.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. scrub with a holystone
  • n. a soft sandstone used for scrubbing the decks of a ship

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Perhaps from a sailor's kneeling position while scouring with the stone.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Uncertain, but likely from the fact that scrubbing is done while down on one's knees, just as in prayer.

Examples

  • The holystone is a large, soft stone, smooth on the bottom, with long ropes attached to each end, by which the crew keep it sliding fore and aft, over the wet, sanded decks.

    Two years before the mast, and twenty-four years after: a personal narrative

  • The holystone is a large, soft stone, smooth on the bottom, with long ropes attached to each end, by which the crew keep it sliding fore and aft over the wet sanded decks.

    Two Years Before the Mast

  • For similar reasons he worked and re-worked the story of Galadriel, thinking to make her perfect with emery and holystone, but in truth only reducing her to a plaster saint.

    The taste for magic

  • “Franklin, why in hell's name are you taking one hundred and thirty-four men?” rasped the holystone across rough wood.

    The Terror

  • Ross's voice was as rough as a holystone dragged across a splintered deck.

    The Terror

  • If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away.

    Mark Twain

  • No more to be trampled and stamped upon with shifty, sloppy feet — no more to be scrubbed and scored with sand and holystone; painted white, it creaks gratefully every time it swings — the symbol of security, the first outward and visible sign of home, the guardian of the sacred rights of private property, the embodiment of the exclusive.

    The Confessions of a Beachcomber

  • It had taken the ship's boy the better part of a day to holystone that rogue's bloodstain from the Springeve's deck.

    The Mad Ship

  • So we'll rub her down and scrub her down with holystone and sand

    The Banks of Newfoundland (3)

  • One of the small girls slipped on the wet patch left by Sharpe's holystone.

    Sharpe's Devil

Comments

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  • They said her decks were as white as snow,-- holystoned every morning, like a man-of-war's...

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 20

    September 6, 2008

  • I'm adding it as an honorary word to my Scriptie: Master and Commander, because though I've never heard this word before, they use one in the movie. (I always wondered what the hell it was! Thanks, skipv!)

    October 15, 2007

  • Great word!

    October 15, 2007

  • Sandstone rocks used to scrub the wooden decks of sailing vessels, so named because the deckhands appeared to be praying when they were using it.

    October 15, 2007