phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: All hands on deck

Posted by Henry on May 08, 2003

In Reply to: Re: All hands on deck posted by Henry on May 08, 2003

: : : : :
: : : : : What does "all hands on deck" mean?

: : : : : Thanks!

: : : : It's a command for everybody who can come and work to do so.

: : :
: : : It is also used in case of an emergency or any other time the captain needs all crewpersons "front and center", where they can be counted and given commands.

: : all hands on deck! everybody help -- obviously of naval origin -- but now applicable in any emergency, domestic or otherwise. Nineteenth century?
: : From Dictionary of Catchphrases by Nigel Rees
: : ----------
: : Being a tradesman, "Chips [= a carpenter]" did not have to keep watch, but did his work by day and could sleep all night, unless he was turned out by the cry of "All hands on deck" to help with handling sail in emergency. (J.G. Bisset, _Sail Ho!_, 1958)

: The hands are deck-hands - sailors - who must all go up on deck to help in an emergency.

The phrase 'all hands' also occurs in a folk song, Our Captain Calls

Our captain calls all hands
To sail tomorrow.
Leaves many a fair pretty girl
In grief and sorrow.
What makes you go abroad
Fighting for strangers,
When you could stop at home
Free from all dangers?

The tune for this song became the tune for the hymn 'He who would valiant be'/'To be a pilgrim'.