Welcome back to our Word of the Week!

Did you know that cockpits once were floating hospitals? Let’s take a look at it together…

cockpit (noun, countable)

UK /ˈkɒk.pɪt/ US /ˈkɑːk.pɪt/

The area on a boat or aircraft where the person operating the controls sits or stands.

Cockpit seems to date back to the late 16th century. It designated an area towards the rear of the ship where the cockswain was stationed. The cockswain or boat servant was the operator of a smaller boat used to transfer people to or from other boats and/or the shore when the boat wasn’t able to make port. Cockswain in turn originates in the French word for hull (coque) and the old English term for servant, swain.

Later, this area became used to accommodate the berths of the lower officers and the ship’s surgeon during battle, as it was fitted with beds. Since the cockswain was also responsible for helping the senior officers with navigation, the area slowly became equipped with the appropriate tools to carry out the task, and when fully closed ships appeared, the captain and pilot of the ship joined the rest of the crew there.

It therefore became little by little the station from which the ship was controlled, a notion that was transferred to aviation when the first aircraft were designed.

1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth
Antonov AN-124
Airbus A380-800