Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Deep Six

Meaning: to trash or rid of something

Deep six refers to to six fathoms, or with a fathom being six feet, 36 feet.  The origins of the phrase are obscure at best.  It is currently thought that 36 feet was the rule of thumb needed for burial at sea to prevent a body from washing ashore.  Of course, modern sea burials usually require a 100 ft minimum.  The earliest documented usage in 1929 uses deep six as slang for grave.


Dr. M (1605 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





3 comments on “Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Deep Six
  1. Reminds me of one of my favorite Tom Waits lyrics…

    “Ahe shroud-tailor measures him for a deep-six holiday. The stiff is froze, the case is closed on the one that got away.”

    (“The One That Got Away” from Small Change)

    PS, I love Nautical Term Wednesday!

  2. Could it have something to do with “six feet under”? Six feet on land, six fathoms at sea (the latter being the “deep” six)?

    Pure speculation on my part, mind you. :-P

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