To Splice the Main Brace (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "To Splice the Main Brace"?

The main brace was a long and heavy rope, several inches in diameter, used to trim the main yard on which hung the main sail. If it broke, or was shot away in battle, it had to be unreeved from its blocks, brought down on deck and spliced together. This was heavy and highly skilled work and was rewarded with an extra tot of rum. The order "Splice the Mainbrace" later came to mean that all the crew were awarded a tot on a special occasion, a victory for example or a royal visit. For example, on the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended WW1 on the 28th June 1919, the order "Splice the Main Brace" was given throughout the fleet.

A Competing Theory (Not Wholly Viable)

To splice the main brace means to celebrate (with a drink). It is a nautical term from the time of sailing ships. Sailors who risked climbing the highest rigging (the main brace) to adjoin ropes (splicing) were rewarded with extra rum.

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See Also

What are idioms? What is figurative language? A list of common grammar errors A list of easily confused words A list of sayings and proverbs