from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A usually gaff-headed sail set from the aftermost lower mast of a sailing ship.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One that takes long strides in walking; a fast-going or fleet horse.
  • noun Nautical, a fore-and-aft sail set on the after side of the mizzenmast of a ship or bark.
  • noun Something striking, from its unusual size or some other peculiarity; a stunner, a whopper.
  • noun A gold coin.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One who spanks, or anything used as an instrument for spanking.
  • noun (Naut.) The after sail of a ship or bark, being a fore-and-aft sail attached to a boom and gaff; -- sometimes called driver. See Illust. under Sail.
  • noun colloq. One who takes long, quick strides in walking; also, a fast horse.
  • noun colloq. Something very large, or larger than common; a whopper, as a stout or tall person.
  • noun (Naut.) a boom to which a spanker sail is attached. See Illust. of Ship.
  • noun Obs. or Prov. Eng. A small coin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Someone who spanks.
  • noun A tool used to give someone a spanking or spank, such as a paddle.
  • noun nautical A fore and aft gaff-rigged sail on the aft-most mast of a square-rigged vessel.
  • noun dated, music A musician who plays his instrument well.
  • noun obsolete, UK, dialect A small coin.

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

  • noun a fore-and-aft sail set on the aftermost lower mast (usually the mizzenmast) of a vessel
  • noun a hitter who slaps (usually another person) with an open hand


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • I continued, dismissing further reflection upon the etymology of "spanker" to a more fitting occasion.

    Novel Notes

  • They had found the "spanker" of the _Pandora_ floating about, with its boom and all the cordage attached.

    The Ocean Waifs A Story of Adventure on Land and Sea

  • The students got in touch with The Hook, the spanker was arrested, and he’s being sent back to the U.S. to serve his 3.5 year sentence for taking indecent liberties with minors.

    2004 April archive at

  • The students got in touch with The Hook, the spanker was arrested, and he’s being sent back to the U.S. to serve his 3.5 year sentence for taking indecent liberties with minors.

    Moyer Caught, at Last, in Mexico at

  • The band derived its name from an Austin street where they would often busk that was nicknamed Asylum Street, now named Guadalupe Street, and the term "spanker" which is an old musician's term for "one who plays his instrument vigorously and proficiently".

    The Big Apple

  • Elsinore, naked-sparred, under only lower-topsails, with spanker and crojack furled, was prepared for anything.


  • We passed a ship, two schooners, and a four-masted barkentine under the smallest of canvas, and at eleven o'clock, running up the spanker and jib, we hove her to, and in another hour we were beating back again against the aftersea under full sail to regain the sealing ground away to the westward.

    Story of a Typhoon off the Coast of Japan

  • Borckman explained that he had a touch of fever, and Van Horn deferred stating his doubts until a few minutes later, squatting in the shade of the spanker with Jerry in his arms, he told Jerry all about it.


  • My force have got a brand spanker Audi S4 for use by the burglary task force, pro-active units and volume crime squads.

    Essex Boys (Loose Cars and Fast Women) « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG

  • I was the last to go below, doing so just as the watch on deck was furling the spanker.

    Story of a Typhoon off the Coast of Japan


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  • There was no sail now on the ship, but the spanker and the close-reefed main topsail, which still held good. But this was too much after sail, and order was given to furl the spanker.

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 25

    I love "furl the spanker".

    September 9, 2008