A xebec with three lateens and oars

A xebec (play /ˈzbɛk/ or /zɨˈbɛk/), also spelled zebec, was a Mediterranean sailing ship that was used mostly for trading. It would have a long overhanging bowsprit and protruding mizzen mast. It also can refer to a small, fast vessel of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, used almost exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea.



Sail plan for a polacre-xebec.

Xebecs were similar to galleys used by Berber corsairs and Barbary pirates having both lateen sails and oars for propulsion. Early xebecs had two masts; later ones three. Xebecs featured a distinctive hull with pronounced overhanging bow and stern, and rarely displaced more than 200 tons, making them slightly smaller and with slightly fewer guns than frigates of the period.

Notable xebecs of the French Navy include four launched in 1750:

  • Ruse, 160 tons, 18 guns
  • Serpent, 160 tons burthen, 18 guns
  • Requin, 260 tons burthen, 24 guns
  • Indiscret, 260 tons burthen, 24 guns

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a large polacre-xebec carried a square rig on the foremast, lateen sails on the other masts, a bowsprit, and two headsails. The square sail distinguished this form of a xebec from that of a felucca which is equipped solely with lateen sails. The last of the xebecs in use by European navies were fully square-rigged and were termed xebec-frigates.

The British brig-sloop Speedy's (14 guns, 54 men) defeat of the Spanish xebec-frigate El Gamo (32 guns, 319 men) on 6 May 1801 is generally regarded as one of the most remarkable single-ship actions in naval history. It was the foundation of the legendary reputation of the Speedy's commander, Lord Cochrane (later Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, GCB).

Sea-going Mediterranean peoples greatly favoured xebecs as corsairs, and for this purpose built them with a narrow floor to achieve a higher speed than their victims, but with a considerable beam in order to enable them to carry an extensive sail-plan. The lateen rig of the xebec allowed for the ship to sail close hauled to the wind often giving it an advantage in pursuit or escape. The use of oars or sweeps allowed the xebec to approach vessels who were becalmed. When used as corsairs they carried a crew of 300 to 400 men and mounted perhaps 16 to 40 guns according to size. In peacetime operations, the xebec could transport merchandise.


Antonio Barceló's Xebec Facing two Algerian Corsair Galiots. 1738

Xebec is also written as xebeck, xebe(c)que, zebec(k), zebecque, chebec, shebeck (/ʃɨˈbɛk/); from Catalan: xebec, French: chabec, now chebec, Spanish: xabeque, now jabeque, Portuguese: enxabeque, now xabeco, Italian: sciabecco, zambecco, stambecco, Ligurian: sciabécco, Arabic: شباك‎, šabbāk and Turkish: sunbeki) Words similar in form and meaning to xebec occur in Catalan, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and Turkish. The Online Etymology Dictionary regards the Arabic shabbak (meaning "a small warship") as the source form, however the Arabic root means 'a net', implying the word originally referred to a fishing boat.

The Spanish jabeque had only lateen sails, as portrayed in the Cazador. This ship was built and used by the Spanish crown in the mid eighteenth century to fight Algerian corsairs (privateers) in the Mediterranean Sea. Algerian Berber corsairs also used three-lateen-sail xebecs in their raids on Mediterranean trade.

See also

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • XEBEC — Unternehmensform Kabushiki gaisha Gründung 1. Mai 1995 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Xebec — Rechtsform Kabushiki gaisha Gründung 1. Mai 1995[1] …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Xebec — Тип кабусики гайся Год основания 1 мая 1995 года Расположение Япония Отрасль вы …   Википедия

  • XEBEC — Расположение Япония Отрасль выпуск аниме и анимация Веб сайт http://www.production ig.co.jp/xebec XEBEC, Inc ( …   Википедия

  • Xebec — Xe bec (z[=e] b[e^]k), n. [Sp. jabegue, formerly spelt xabeque, or Pg. xabeco; both from Turk. sumbeki a kind of Asiatic ship; cf. Per. sumbuk, Ar. sumb[=u]k a small ship.] (Naut.) A small three masted vessel, with projecting bow stern and convex …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • XEBEC — es una división del estudio de animación Production I.G especializado en la creación de anime para televisión. Son los creadores de las animaciones de series tan populares como Love Hina, To Love Ru , Martian Successor Nadesico y Overdrive y… …   Wikipedia Español

  • xebec — (n.) small three masted vessel, by 1745, from Fr. chébec, from It. sciabecco, ultimately from Arabic shabbak a small warship. Altered by influence of cognate Sp. xabeque, which shows the old way of representing the Spanish sound now spelled j …   Etymology dictionary

  • xebec — [zē′bek] n. [altered (infl. by Sp form) < earlier chebec < Fr chébec < It sciabecco, prob. via Sp xabeque (now jabeque) < Ar shabbāk, a small warship] a small, three masted ship having an overhanging bow and stern and both square and… …   English World dictionary

  • XEBEC — Studio Xebec Xebec Inc 株式会社ジーベック [1] Création …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Xebec — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. le xebec, ou chebec est un petit navire utilisé entre les XVIe et XIXe siècles. Studio Xebec est un studio d animation japonais. Catégorie : Homonymie …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”