Sir Francis Drake and William Kidd. Villain or hero? To the Spanish, Sir Francis Drake – as well as most Englishmen – were pirates and heretics because they attacked Spanish lands and were not Catholics. To the English Drake was a hero and a privateer, someone legally licensed to plunder enemy ships. The French called Captain Kidd a pirate for much the same reason. Kidd, at the Governor’s request was part of the fleet defending the Caribbean island of Nevis against the French. The governor did not pay the sailors for defending the island, telling them instead to take their pay from the French.
Villain or hero? Pirate or privateer? What is the difference? What’s in a name?
Technically, pirates and privateers are the same. They both attack and rob ships at sea. The difference is a privateer is backed by a government. Corsair and buccaneer also defined as pirate, a thief who preys on ships at sea similar to highwaymen who prey on coaches on land. Yet the words aren’t quite the same and what constitutes a pirate at one point in history isn’t quite the same at another time.
How many synonyms can you think of for “pirate”? We’ve already mentioned buccaneer and corsair, but words like marauder and swashbuckler have also been interchangeable with “pirate,” but are they really the same?
Below are several synonyms for pirate provided by Cindy Vallar.
Sea dogs were English pirates (some were privateers) that attacked Spanish ships and towns, particularly in the Spanish Main during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Perhaps the best known of these gentlemen adventurers was Sir Francis Drake. Today, this word refers to a seasoned sailor toughened by his experiences at sea.
Buccaneers acquired their name from the French word boucanier. Based on the island of Hispaniola, these rugged men hunted oxen and boar, then smoked the strips of meat over a barbecue or boucan. When the Spanish government tried to get rid of them, they took to the sea and raided Spanish ships and towns. The English anglicized the French term to buccaneers. By the seventeenth century pirates who preyed on ships in the Caribbean were called buccaneers and operated out of Tortuga and Port Royal during the 1600s. The best known of the buccaneers was Sir Henry Morgan. The cruelist was Jean David Nau, also known as François L’Olonnais. In the seventeenth century, buccaneers who sailed from Tortuga, Port Royal, and Petit Goave were also known as the Brotherhood and the Brethren of the Coast.
Corsairs roamed the Mediterranean Sea in oared galleys for nearly three centuries. They were based in North Africa, in the Barbary States of Algiers, Tunis, Morroco, and Tripoli. Initially privateers under the Ottoman Empire, they devolved into piracy and menaced shipping into the early eighteenth century. Instead of gold or spices, they sought people whom they either held for ransom or sold into slavery. The word corsair is also used to denote French privateers, particularly during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The term derives from the French corsaire, which means privateer, and from the French word for a nautical cruise, la course. Their principal port was Saint Malo, La Cité Corsaire.
Spaniards referred to runaway slaves as cimarrónes, which the English and French shortened to maroons. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, marooners became synonymous with pirates of the Caribbean, perhaps because they would maroon one of their own on a desert island with little or no food if they committed an egregious act against the company. This was deemed a fitting punishment since the marooned pirate either died a slow death or shot himself.
Dutch pirates were called zeerovers. In the last sixteenth century, another term sometimes used for pirate was vrijbuiter (freebooter), but it had a variety of meanings: adventurer, buccaneer, free spirit, libertine, pirate, and pillager.
Around the same time that freebooter entered the English language, the French referred to their Caribbean pirates as flibustiers. Translated into English as filibuster, this word referred to seventeenth-century buccaneers, especially those who were French, Dutch, and English – Spain’s typical enemies. Perhaps the best-known flibustier was Michel de Grammont, who became their leader during the 1670s. Instead of choosing captain for his title, he picked chevalier, the French word for knight. In the nineteenth century, filibusters came to mean armed American adventurers and later politicians.
Swashbuckler first appeared in the sixteenth century to refer to someone who made a loud noise by striking his sword against his buckle or shield. In the twentieth century, Rafael Sabatini used the term as a dashing and daring soldier, adventurer, or pirate, such as Captain Peter Blood, giving birth to the swashbuckler genre of adventure fiction. Today the word often refers to pirates or movies about them.
To pirateer meant the men aboard a privateer attacked any ship, not just those of the enemy. The Calendars of State Papers during Charles II’s reign (1660-1685) mention the word.
Wherever there are seas there are pirates. The difference between being a pirate and a privateer was oftentimes a thin line that some men crossed. Are these terms interchangeable? It would seem so. Researching to identify the top two or three in each category was hopeless. Many times the same person could be found on multiple lists.
My definition of pirate is different. The romantic in me sees a pirate, privateer, marauder, or swashbuckler as someone who displays behaviors and makes decisions that are morally and emotional awe inspiring. Sounds like a hero to me!
Releasing February 12, 2019 by Ruth A. Casie…
Wesley Reynolds will do anything to avenge his family’s banishment from Dundhragon Castle even throw in with the notorious pirate, MacAlpin. His plan: ruin Lord Ewan’s trading network. He has a more devious plan for his father’s best friend, the man who abandoned them at the eleventh hour. He’ll ruin the man’s most precious jewel, his daughter Darla. Wesley gets so close to succeeding he can almost taste it, but revenge is not nearly as sweet as Darla’s kisses.
Darla Maxwell, beloved by her parents has no prospects of marriage. Her father and Lord Ewan search to find the right husband. Darla’s special gifts are frightening to many. She has visions that often come true. The murky image of a man haunts her, she’s sure it’s Lord Ewan’s soon-to-be son-in-law, but the vision morphs when she meets Wesley. The meaning couldn’t be any clearer.
Revelations surface indicating Wesley has been deceived and his revenge misplaced. Will he find the truth of what really happened to his family in time to stop the pirates? Will Darla forgive him? Will he ever forgive himself?