nautical prints

Popular Maritime Sayings


The sea lore is rich and provides endless inspiration to artists creating memorable nautical prints, writers, artists, filmmakers and even regular people. In fact, although you may not be aware of it, you may be using some saying and phrases in everyday conversations that originated aboard ships. 

While the original context may be lost or irrelevant, these sayings stay fresh and meaningful even today. And so we keep using them. But which one are they, and what is their story? 

1. “Showing One’s True Colors”

We use this saying to describe someone who reveals its true character after playing a role in order to achieve certain benefits (a promotion at work, getting acquainted with an influential person). 

The origin of this saying comes from the days of battles at sea. It was not unheard of for a ship to bear the flags and pennants of the enemy in order to penetrate their harbor and then reveal their true flags (color) and open a devastating attack. 

2. “To Be Caught Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

This saying describes an impossible situation, where no acceptable solution can be found. For sailors, the devil was the name of the seam at the bottom of the ship, from bow to stern. This seam was prone to breaking and leaking – thus the sailors had to choose between waiting to be drowned by water entering the ship and jumping in the ocean. 

3. “Learn the Ropes”

This is the advice a new hire is given – to become familiar with the work procedures and company culture as soon as possible. For sailors, learning the ropes was very important, because they were used for handling the various types of sails. During a storm, knowing how to handle the ropes properly made the difference between life and death.