Where does the term “fife rail” come from and What does fife rail mean?

A mariner’s term, “fife rail” now indicating a rail round the mainmast of a sailing vessel with holes into which belaying pins may be inserted.

Originally, however, according to Admiral W. H. Smyth’s The Sailor’s Word-Book (1867), it formed “the upper fence of the bulwarks on each side of the quarter-deck and poop in men-of-war.”

By repute, the fifer had his seat on this “upper fence” while the anchor was being hoisted.

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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