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Not to be confused with Brig.
This article is about the sailing vessel category. For the city in New Jersey, see Brigantine, New Jersey. For the kind of Medieval armor, see Brigandine.
Brigantine copperEtch.png
Brigantine "Experiment," of Newburyport, 114 Tons, Built at Amesbury in 1803.
From a water-color painted in 1807 by Nicolay Carmillieri.
Type Sailing rig
Place of origin Mediterranean

In sailing, a brigantine is a two-masted vessel with foremast fully square rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (a gaff sail) and a square topsail, and possibly a topgallant sail.[1]

Early brigantines[edit]

Originally the brigantine was a sail- and oar-driven war vessel.[2] used in the Mediterranean in the 13th century.[3] It was lateen rigged on two masts and had between eight and twelve oars on each side. Its speed, manoeuvrability and ease of handling made it a favourite of the Mediterranean pirates. Its name is derived from the Italian word brigantino, meaning brigand.

17th century and onwards[edit]

A brigantine sail plan

By the 17th century the term was adapted by Atlantic maritime nations. The vessel had no lateen sails but was instead square-rigged on the foremast and had a gaff-rigged mainsail with square rig above it on the mainmast.[4] The main mast of a brigantine is the aft one.

By the first half of the 18th century the word had evolved to refer not to a kind of vessel, but rather to a particular type of rigging: a two-masted, with her foremast fully square-rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (a gaff sail) and square topsails and possibly topgallant sails.[5]

The brigantine was the second most popular rig for ships built in the American colonies before 1775[6] (the most popular type of boat being a sloop). The brigantine was swifter and more easily maneuvered than a sloop or schooner, and was hence employed for purposes of piracy, espionage, and reconnoitering, and as an outlying attendant upon large ships for protecting a ship, or for supply or landing purposes in a fleet.

The brigantine could be of various sizes, ranging from 50 to 200 tons burden. The brigantine was generally larger than a sloop or schooner but smaller than a brig.[7]

The last sailing true brigantine in the world is the Eye of the Wind.[8]

Modern terminology[edit]

A modern brigantine sail plan or "hermaphrodite brig"

Contrary to the definition given above (which describes the (true) brigantine), in modern American terminology, the term brigantine now usually means something else, namely a vessel, one with the foremast square rigged and the mainmast fore-and-aft rigged, without any square sails. Generally, a mainstay sail and other Bermudan sails fill the space between the masts. Historically, this rig used to be called a schooner brig or hermaphrodite brig.[9]

The word brig is an 18th-century shortening of the word brigantine, but came to mean a different type of rigging. It is the gaff-rigged mainsail on a brigantine which distinguishes it from the brig, which is principally square rigged on both masts.[10]

The steamship Columbia, an example of a late 19th century auxiliary brigantine rig vessel.

See also[edit]


The dictionary definition of brigantine at Wiktionary

The dictionary definition of hermaphrodite brig at Wiktionary


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  2. ^
  3. ^ Dik Vuik, Hans Haalmeijer (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken. Alkmaar, the Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Alk B.V. 
  4. ^ Peter Kemp, ed. (1994). The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dik Vuik, Hans Haalmeijer (2006). Aken, tjalken en kraken. Alkmaar, the Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Alk B.V. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^