Why Is a Poop Deck Called a Poop Deck? (True Meaning)

Have you ever heard the mention of a “poop deck” and wondered what it meant and, curiously why is it called that?

Most of us know what we associate the word poop with, and it’s not too pleasant.

However, in the case of a ship, a poop deck has no connection to toilets or human waste.

So now we have clarified that, let’s look into the real meaning and what actually a poop deck is.

Why is a Poop Deck Called a Poop Deck?

To understand why a poop deck is called a poop deck, we need to look at the origin on the word.

The origin of the term “poop deck” derives from the French word for the stern (the back of the ship) “la poupe”.

Poupe is pronounced the same as we pronounce “poop” in English.

The French word for stern, “la poupe” is itself derived from the Latin word “puppis” which is pronounced “pup-piss” (another toiletry term!)

The word deck in french is the same as in English. Hence we have “poop deck,” meaning “stern deck.”

Other Origin Theories 

It is also noted by some that the term is similar to the Polish term “pupa” which means bum or butt, and could have been used to refer to “rear of the ship”.

What is a Poop Deck of a Ship?

To understand what a poop deck is, you need to think of old sailing ships with masts and sails. However, poop decks were featured on more modern vessels too, albeit a rarity.

The poop deck, meaning stern of the ship, refers specifically to a short raised deck at the stern, the stern deck.  It also provided a roof to the stern cabin (or aft cabin).

Poop Deck highlighted on a Sailing Ship

What Is The Purpose Of A Poop Deck?

The poop deck served a few purposes.

Being a raised deck, it gave the best viewpoint to navigate surrounding the seas, landmarks, and skies for navigation purposes.  

 The poop deck also gave a full-length view of the ship and all the crew, who could be seen and encouraged to work harder if they were seen to be slacking.

Titanic Poop Deck

Although poop decks were mainly found on sailing ships and have become obsolete when engine vessels started to be produced, the Titanic did actually have a poop deck. 

Although it was called a “poop deck” it wasn’t was only in name, because it merely acted as a recreational area and viewpoint over the stern for third-class passengers.

The Titanic was the ocean liner to have a poop deck, even its sister ship HMHS Britannic (another ship that sank) didn’t have a poop deck

As it happens, the poop deck was the last part of the Titanic to sink.

The poop deck has also been featured in various Titanic movie scenes.

If you look closely at photos of the Titanic poop deck, you can almost make out the third ships wheel on the docking bridge at the very aft of the poop deck.

Source: Titanic Fandom

Where is the Poop Deck on a Ship?

Below is a picture of a poop deck on a ship.

As you can see, the “poop deck” is labeled at the stern of the ship.  It’s the highest deck of the stern.

As well as being the roof to the “poop cabin” of the captain’s and officer’s quarters, one of the reasons the cabin was positioned at the back was because the fresh wind from the rear of the ship would blow the smell of the unwashed crew away.

Do You Poop on the Poop Deck?

The poop deck has nothing to do with toilets, so no, you do not poop on the poop deck.  Even in the past, when sailing ships were specifically built with poop decks, they were not used for that purpose.

In fact, the toilets were at the opposite end of the ship, at the bow.

Where Did Sailors Poop?

Before the days of plumbing systems, the ships toilets, or “head” as they were referred to, were located at the bow of the ship, usually at the base of the bowsprit.   This part of the ship would then be cleaned by the waves of the ship.

The toilet would be very primitive, basically, some wood set up with a hole in it.

To clean themselves up, a tow rag, basically a cloth on the end of rope dangling into the sea, would be hanging from the head, could be used for a wipe, and then released to be washd by the sea for the next sailor.

For a pee, the sailors would go over the side of the ship, the leeward side, so it went away from them, rather the windward side!

What Does Swab the Poop Deck Mean?

Swabbing the poop deck means mopping the poop deck.  It wasn’t just the poop deck that needed swabbing, which is why “swab the deck” is often used.

Swabbing the deck meant cleaning the deck, typically with a mop which was usually the last part of swabbing.

First, the decks would be scrubbed with sand and stone to keep the decks clean and smooth.  

They would also be cleaned with seawater to prevent any rot from setting in.  The seawater acting a preservative preventing any fungi or microorganisms 

Often swabbing the deck would be a task to keep sailors disciplined and working.

Poop Deck Vs. Quarterdeck

On old-masted sailing ships, the quarter deck was the raised deck behind the main mast of the ship. It is the deck from which you would expect the captain to command the vessel.

Overtime quarterdeck is sometimes referred to the rear of the ship, inclusive of the poop deck.

These days the quarter-deck can be any specific area as designated by the captain.  It has a much broader meaning in modern times.

However, the poop deck is very specifically the rearmost raised deck of the ship.

Where Did Pirates Poop? 

Much the same as sailors would have on old sailing ships, pirates would have also pooped from an area at the bow, the bowsprit.  

It would have been very basic, simply a hole in a wood plank with the sea below.

Do Cruise Ships Have Poop Decks?

Modern-day cruise ships do not have poop decks.  Cruise ships no longer navigate from the stern. Instead, all navigation takes place from the bridge that is located front facing atthe bow. 

Modern marine technology means the bridge does not need to be the ship’s highest point.

The highest top decks on a cruise ship are much more central than a raised stern poop deck would have been and are dedicated much more to leisure and the pleasure of the passengers.

Modern ruise ships have onboard sewage plants at the bottom of the ship’s hull.  We have covered how human waste is treated on a cruise these days.

Do Dogs Poop on the Poop Deck?

Pet dogs are generally not allowed on cruise ships except for service dogs.

However, one exception to the rule is Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.  It’s the only cruise vessel that allows dogs and cats onboard, albeit in a limited number.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 allows passengers to take dogs and cats onboard if they book within a designated area of the ship, “The Kennels.”  The pets have to stay in this area so you won’t see the roaming around the ship or being allowed into cabins.

Within this Kennels Lounge area is a designated toilet spot dubbed “the poop deck”.

What Does Pooped Mean on a Ship?

If a large wave were to wash over the poop deck, it would have been referred to as pooped.  The water would have washed over the poop deck.

If it was particularly rough seas and large waves were causing the ship to almost tip over, it would be referred to as “pooped,” causing or almost causing the ship to capsize.

A high poop deck would therefore make it less likely a ship would get pooped, or capsize as it would act as a higher barrier to the waves breaking over.

Did You Know?

Interesting fact, there is actually a constellation called the “Puppis” otherwise known as the Poop Deck.  It was originally part of a much larger constellation which is divided into three also features a keel and hull and the sails of a ship.


Do Boats Have a Poop Deck?

Boats do not have poop decks.  Poop decks are part of the superstructure of the ship.  A boat is far too small to have a poop deck.

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