To celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day and our own beloved mascot, the Captain, let’s explore a random assortment of fun (read: not at all scholarly and definitely not peer-reviewed!) pirate trivia.

  1. Pirates have existed since at least 1353 BCE—as long as there’ve been goods to plunder!
  2. Blackbeard intimidated prisoners by weaving hemp into his beard and setting it on fire.
  3. Thousands of pirates roved the Atlantic and Indian Oceans during the Golden Age of Piracy (1650–1720).
  4. Pirates wore eye patches to adjust to the light and darkness above and below deck during raids.
  5. The word buccaneer derives from the French boucanier ‘to cook meat over an open flame.’
  6. The traditional skull-and-crossbones flag is known as the Jolly Roger.
  7. Pirate symbols such as hourglasses, horned skeletons, and lifted drinking glasses conveyed the fleetingness of a violent life.
  8. Pirates drank grog, a mix of rum and water (and sometimes lime and sugar).
  9. Despite minimal sailing experience, Stede Bonnet turned “Gentleman Pirate” to escape a bad marriage.
  10. Pirates didn’t usually make people walk the plank. They keelhauled or just threw them overboard instead!
  11. Each pirate ship lived by a code of conduct, with rules such as “every man has a vote” and “injuries will be compensated.”
  12. Pirates that were commissioned by a government, especially during war, were known as privateers.
  13. Pirate queen Ching Shih commanded more than 300 ships and as many as 40,000 men.
  14. Pirates wore earrings to commemorate their travels, prevent seasickness, flout stifling dress codes, and pay for their own burials if on land.
  15. Pirates rarely buried their loot; they kept it on board and divided it up among the crew.
  16. Mary Read disguised herself as a man to become a soldier, merchant sailor, and pirate.
  17. Pirates often enjoyed better lives than did navy seamen and merchant marines.
  18. The wealthiest pirate in recorded history, “Black Sam” Bellamy, was known as the “Robin Hood of the Sea.”
  19. Pirates didn’t use treasure maps, but they did value (and steal) sailing charts.

Pirates were by law hostis humani generis, Latin for ‘the enemy of humankind.’