The name originates from the French word for stern, la poupe, from Latin puppis. Thus the poop deck is technically a stern deck, which in sailing ships was usually elevated as the roof of the stern or "after" cabin, also known as the "poop cabin". In sailing ships, with the helmsman at the stern, an elevated position was ideal for both navigation and observation of the crew and sails.
On modern, motorized warships, the ship functions which were once carried out on the poop deck have been moved to the bridge, usually located on the superstructure in the center of ships, or the starboard side island of aircraft carriers.
- "Poop Deck". HMS Victory. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Retrieved 27 April 2013. "Located at the stern, this short deck takes its name from the Latin word puppis - which means after deck or rear. Guns were rarely carried on this deck. It was mainly used as a viewpoint and signalling platform. The poop deck also gave protection to the men at the wheel and provided a roof for the captain's cabin. The ropes controlling the yards (spars) and sails of the main and mizzen masts were operated from the poop deck."