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See also: aștern




From a- (towards) +‎ stern (rear part of a vessel).



astern (comparative more astern, superlative most astern)

  1. (nautical) At, or any distance behind, the stern; further in that direction; backward (motion).
    • 1719 April 25, [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, [], London: Printed by W[illiam] Taylor [], OCLC 15864594; 3rd edition, London: Printed by W[illiam] Taylor [], 1719, OCLC 838630407, page 50:
      After we had row'd, or rather driven about a League and a Half, as we reckon'd it, a raging Wave, Mountain-like, came rowling a-stern of us, and plainly bad us expect the Coup-de-Grace.
    • 1751, Thomas Birch, “A Discourse of the Invention of Ships, Anchors, Compass, &c.”, in The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, Kt., volume 2, London: Dodsley, page 79:
      We have given longer Floors to our Ships than in elder Times, and better bearing under Water, whereby they never fall into the Sea, alter the Head and shake the whole Body, nor sink astern, nor stoop upon a Wind, by which the breaking loose of our Ordnance, or the not Use of them, with many other Discommodities, are avoided.
    • 1944, Miles Burton, chapter 5, in The Three Corpse Trick:
      The dinghy was trailing astern at the end of its painter, and Merrion looked at it as he passed. He saw that it was a battered-looking affair of the prahm type, with a blunt snout, and like the parent ship, had recently been painted a vivid green.
    • 1996, Graham Danton, The Theory and Practice of Seamanship, 11th edition, New York: Routledge, page 152:
      Immediate action upon stranding: The engine(s) should be stopped and put astern if the tide is falling. Some students worry that this action could tear the bottom out of an already damaged ship and she will sink as she moves astern. It is most unlikely that going astern will move a ship off rock or coral but in the improbable event of it occurring, and foundering seeming imminent, the vessel can be re-grounded, or beached.


Derived termsEdit



astern (not comparable)

  1. (nautical) Behind a vessel; having a bearing of 180 degrees from ahead.
    If one ship is following another, the first is astern of the second.
    • 1838, M. Guizot, J. Stuart Wortley, editor, Memoirs of George Monk, Duke of Albemarle, London: Richard Bentley, page 307:
      When we first espied the Dutch fleet sailing towards us, our whole blue squadron was astern much farther from us, so that Prince Rupert thought it absolutely necessary to slacken sail that they might have time to join us.
    • 1872, Hunt's Yachting Magazine[1], volume 21, page 288:
      Every yachtsman knows that if the ballast of a ship be too afore or too astern.
    • 1883, Lieutenant J. Menteith Brebner, RETURN WRECKS AND CASUALTIES IN INDIAN WATERS[2], page 140:
      The chief engineer's evidence of the S.S. Lennox was the best given; but, as will be seen, he asserted that from the orders he received the Lennox's course was more astern than ahead.
    • 1883, Alexander George Findlay, A Sailing Directory for the Ethiopic Or South Atlantic Ocean[3]:
      but when near Cape Palmas the wind will perhaps be more astern
    • 1901, W. Clark Russell, The Ship's Adventure, Westminster: Archibald Constable, page 304:
      The galley fire was lighted; coffee was boiled; the sun shone brightly, and the ship astern was coming up fast.
    • 1966, Peter Padfield, The Titanic and the Californian[4], page 233:
      The steamer was more than ahead of us, just on our quarter as we say, and the light was more astern.

Usage notesEdit

  • Within the ship, the corresponding adjective is abaft. An object nearer the stern than the mainmast is abaft the mainmast.