letter of marque love

letter of marque


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. an official commission from a government authorizing someone to seize the property or people of another nation; especially to attack merchant shipping of another nation
  • n. a ship that has been armed for such a task

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

  • n. a license to a private citizen to seize property of another nation


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  • I know that this phrase is commonly used to indicate "permission" papers bestowed upon privateers, which differ from pirates in that they sail with the permission of a given government to pillage the shipping of nations with which that government is at war (or at any rate, not having a peaceful trade agreement with them). I did not know that it can also be used to apply to the ship itself in such service. La:

    "'...The word privateer has unpleasant echoes for the seaman, and it might be thought injurious... In any case she is no ordinary privateer... So bearing all this in mind, perhaps you would be well advised to refer to her as a private man-of-war, or if you find that disagreeable, as a letter of marque.'"

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Letter of Marque, 22

    February 27, 2008