Where Did the Word “Port” Come From and Why Are Windows On Ships and Aircraft Called “Portholes”?

Openings on the sides of a ship have been called portholes since 1243.

The word port comes from the Latin porta, which means “door” or “gate.”

Because steering apparatus or the “steerboard” was on the right, ships of the time docked on their left, which was originally known as the “larboard” side because it’s the loading side.

In the sixteenth century, “larboard” gave way to “portside” to avoid confusion with the similar-sounding “starboard” or right side.

Portholes are most commonly used to describe windows on both sides of airplanes and ships, but the term comes from the openings on the portside to load cargo onto ancient ships.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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