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In Spanish, the right side of a ship (and everything beyond said side) is called «estribor». I know enough about sailing to guess that it can't possibly have anything to do with a «estribo» (which is where you put your feet when you ride a horse). So more than once I've wondered: maybe «estribor» comes from English «starboard»?

I've done my fair bit of research:

  • RAE dictionary says «estribor» comes from old French «estribord». However, I've checked the etymology for modern French «tribord» on some French dictionaries and they say it comes from «stirbord» instead; no references to «estribord».
  • NGRAM has nothing for «estribor» before ~1740...
  • ... but CORDE has registered uses for «estribor» from as early as 1525. Then again, I highly doubt that «estribor» was already written like that in early 16th century.
  • Finally, the Lexicon Tetraglotton, an English-Italian-French-Spanish dictionary from 1660, says Spanish for «starboard» in s. XVII was «estroiborda». Probably a mistake, but there's that.

So... I'm aware that most European words for «right side of ship» come from some old Indo-Germanic-Something root meaning «the side of the steering stick». But where does the current writing of «estribor» come from?

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    My dear walen, I must say I love this question, but I'm afraid only the Spanish part about the origin and roots of estribor is on topic here. The English part is off topic. Maybe you can ask this same question in the English language site and ask for answers about the English part, or visit the Linguistics site and ask there the whole question, as I think it will fit perfectly there. Nonetheless, if I have the time I will help you with no doubt with the Spanish part. – Charlie Jul 9 '17 at 22:18
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    Coincido con Carlos, creo que no es realmente una pregunta para Spanish.Se, si no para otro stack. Dicho eso, Etimologias de Chile dice sobre estribor que "En inglés la palabra estribor se corrompió en starboard. Sin embargo esta otra web sugiere que starboard surgió de manera "paralela" (desde el neerlandés) a estribor. El segundo link menciona que "la palabra como estribord (modernamente ha quedado como tribord)" que puede explicar que no la hayas encontrado en el dic. moderno – Diego Jul 10 '17 at 3:07
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    Found entries in dictionaries from the XVII and XVIII centuries with estribordo (1706, Stevens) and estriborda (1607, Oudin; 1609, Vittori; and others). But it seems the most common form was estribor already in the XVI century (but not before). And CORDE does not replace words with their modern versions, it registers words as are found in the documents. – Charlie Jul 10 '17 at 6:24
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    Por mi parte creo que solamente la parte del origen de la expresión "estribor" (y, ya que te pones, "babor") es una pregunta muy interesante. Puedes recortar la pregunta, dejar aquí solo la parte referente al español y hacer la pregunta completa en Linguistics. Mi +1 ya lo tienes. :-) – Charlie Jul 10 '17 at 7:03
  • Enrique y Ana decían: "izquierda, derecha, adelante, atrás, 123". Quién puede memorizarse "babor, estribor, proa, popa, tun tun tun"? – chapelo Jul 12 '17 at 21:41
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Etimologías de Chile sugiere que estribor se formó a través del francés estribord (que ha evolucionado a su vez hasta el actual tribord) y que esa voz francesa viene a su vez del neerlandés stierboord que es una voz que une los términos "stier" (timón) y "boord" (bordo).

Este otro artículo sobre la etimología de "babor" y "estribor" confirma también que debido la posición del timón que permite manejar el barco (a la derecha, por ser más fácil así de ser manejado)

[...] para distinguir la izquierda de la derecha en el mar, se usó el medio más claro, ya que se tomó como punto de referencia el principal elemento de asimetría de un barco tradicional: la posición del timón en el lado derecho.

[...] se le llamó [al lado derecho del barco] ‘lado o borda del timón’, cosa que en neerlandés se dice stierboord.


Etimologías de Chile hints that the Spanish estribor comes from the French estribord (the archaic form of the current tribord) which in turn comes from the Dutch stierboord a word that combines "stier" (tiller) y "boord" (on board).

This article explains the etymology of the Spanish "babor" y "estribor" based on the position of the boat's tiller. The tiller was the main element to divide the boat in two sides, left and right. The right side of the boat, where the tiller was, was called in Dutch stierboord

  • @walen I too have never heard babor although larboard exists in English. The usual term is port as you say. – mdewey Jul 11 '17 at 12:11

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