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Off topic: Does arsenal mean naval yard in British English?
Thread poster: mbc
mbc
Spain
Local time: 05:34
Spanish to English
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Apr 21, 2004

Hello to all,

I am translating a text from Catalan to English for an upcoming exhibition on the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages and have come across about five or six words that mean shipyard or naval yard. The author often uses shipyard and "arsenal" in the same sentence and I have been translating arsenal as arsenal but now that I read over the text I´m thinking that in America we certainly associate arsenal with weapons not ships. So, I found this on the internet:

Reader's Companion to Military History


Arsenals
Places for the centralized manufacture and storage of the tools of war, arsenals appeared in Europe late in the middle ages. The fact that arsenal comes from Arabic words meaning "house of manufacture" bears witness to the Mediterranean origins of the institution. Today the word has been generalized so that it can mean the total assemblage of arms held by a state or even by an individual. In Europe, but not in the United States, the term applies to naval yards as well as to weapons plants and depots.

Do my European colleagues agree? I want to remain true to the antiquated Catalan, but also provide a clear, informative text for a contemporary audience.

I know this could be a Kudoz question, but I´m not really searching for a specific answer, just some feedback about the accuracy of the internet source, i.e. when you read "arsenal" do you think ships or bombs, (or bombs, but upon further examination ships? : ))

Many thanks.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
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Not as far as I know. Apr 21, 2004

An arsenal is a store of weapons and ammunition. There might well be one associated with a shipyard, but the word itself does not mean shipyard. My Oxford English Dictionary (187,000 words) does not give the suggested meaning.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
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Yes, Arabic word meaning shipyard Apr 21, 2004

Hi Madeleine

This really belongs in the English section, being a translation question..


It seems like arsenal has a specific Middle Ages meaning:

shore establishment for building and repairing ships. The shipbuilding facilities of the ancient and medieval worlds reached a culmination in the *****arsenal of Venice, a shipyard in which a high degree of organization produced an assembly-line technique, with a ship's fittings added to the completed hull as it was floated past successive docks. In 18th-century British…
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=69175


That's the Britannica, restricted free access.

Confirmed here:

To the left, Arsenal Gate leads to the commercial port. Simi sq. is also known as Arsenal sq., as it was believed that the Knights had shipyards there (the word *******"arsenal" is derived from the Arabic word for a shipyard). The building on the right houses the Ionian and Popular Bank on the ground floor and the Municipal Art Gallery upstairs. From here the street climbs slightly to Argyrokastrou sq., a pretty spot with a fine fountain in its center. http://www.rodos.com/rhodes-tn/old-town-rh.htm

The next day was the first of our guided tours of the city. Venice has far too much history to absorb unaided in one short stay, so we found and booked Venicescapes over the Internet. Despite our initial caution, this turned out to be the highlight of the holiday. The guided tours were conducted for just the two of us by Michael Broderick, a polite 30-something American living in Venice. He clearly has an enthusiasm for the history of the city and described the fascinating and epic tale of Venice in our half day (and 1500 years) walk across the city. We highly recommend him to anyone interested in the why and how of this most unlikely of cities, rather than the usual what's there. The tour finished at the ****Arsenal (the original one), a huge shipyard**** dating from the early 1500s where galleons could be built in under three hours on an assembly line system. Of particular fascination are the looted lion statues decorating the land entrance. These include a large lion taken from Piraeus (Athens harbour) which has a Viking runic inscription carved into its shoulder saying something like "Fithork was here". http://www.wayland.demon.co.uk/venice.htm


If you want to search further, go to Google and enter the three words < medieval arsenal shipyard > and you will see more.









[Edited at 2004-04-21 17:03]

[Edited at 2004-04-21 17:03]


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mbc
Spain
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Is there an English forum now? Apr 21, 2004

Agreed that this should be in the English section, but does one exist? I remember that one was suggested a few months back...

Thanks for the added references.

All the best,
Madeline


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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
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no English forum yet Apr 21, 2004

Madeline Carey wrote:

Agreed that this should be in the English section, but does one exist? I remember that one was suggested a few months back...

Thanks for the added references.

All the best,
Madeline


Madeline,

Your question/call for discussion belongs here.

Marcus


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DGK T-I  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
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The big Oxford does explain it, though Apr 21, 2004

Oxford English Dictionary
"
1. A dock possessing naval stores, materials, and all appliances for the reception, construction, and repair of ships; a dockyard. Obs. exc. Hist.

1506 SIR R. GUYLFORDE Pilgr. (1851) 7 At the Archynale there be closed within..an .C. galyes. 1549 THOMAS Hist. Italy (1561) 74b, The Arsenale [at Venice] in myne eye excedeth all the rest: For there they haue well neere two hundred galeys. 1580 NORTH Plutarch (1676) 372 Set up an arsenal or store-house to build gallies in. 1601 HOLLAND Pliny I. 175 Making the Arsenall at Athens, able to receiue 1000 ships. 1611 CORYAT Crudities 216, I was at the Arsenall which is so called quasi ars naualis, because there is exercised the Art of making tackling and all other necessary things for shipping. 1693 URQUHART Rabelais III. lii, Carricks, Ships..and other vessels of his Thalassian arsenal. 1838 ARNOLD Hist. Rome (1846) I. xxi. 461 Building ships, and arsenals to receive and fit them out properly.

2. A public establishment for the manufacture and storage, or for the storage alone, of weapons and ammunition of all kinds, for the military and naval forces of the country.

1579 FENTON Guicciard. VIII. (1599) 317 A fire kindled..in their storre house called the Arzenale..where was their saltpeter. 1625 BACON Ess. (Arb.) 473 Stored Arcenalls and Armouries. 1660 HOWELL Let. Ital. Prov. in Dict., The whole Arsenal of Venice is not able to arm a Coward. 1676 BULLOKAR, Arcenel, an Armoury, Storehouse of Armour or Artillery. 1727 CHAMBERS Cycl. s.v., The Arsenal at Paris is that where the cannon or great guns are cast. 1781 GIBBON Decl. & F. II. 53 Offensive weapons of all sorts, and military engines, which were deposited in the arsenals. 1811 D. LYSONS Environs Lond. I. 594 The gun-wharf at Woolwich..is now called the Arsenal, or Royal Arsenal. This Arsenal is the grand depôt of the ordnance belonging to the navy. 1876 J. THORNE Environs Lond. II. 742/1 The Royal Arsenal [Woolwich] stretches for a mile along the Thames E. of the Dockyard. It is the only arsenal in the kingdom; the smaller establishments at the other dockyards are called gun-wharfs, and receive their supplies from Woolwich.

etymology
[a. It. arze- arsenale, Sp. Pg. F. arsenal, earlier forms of which are It. arzenà (Dante), arzanà (still in use), 16-17th c. F. arsena, arsenac (see Littré), all in the current sense; cf. It. and Sp. darsena, Sicilian tirzanà (Diez), Pg. taracena, tercena, F. darse, darsine, ‘a dock’; also Sp. atarazána, atarazanál, ‘arsenal, factory, wine-cellar, etc.’ The original is the Arab. dr aççinah, workshop, factory (i.e. dr house, place of, al the, çinah, art, mechanical industry, f. çanaa to make, fabricate), which is directly represented by the Romance darsena, taracena; atarazana is prob. a Sp. Arab. form with article al-, ad- prefixed; arsena is either (as Diez thinks) from darsena, with d dropped (perh. by assoc. with de, d', preposition, cf. dante, ANTE n.1), or (as Defréméry and others hold) from aç-çinah alone. See Dozy, and Devic in Littré's Supp. The final -ale, -al was added in It. or Sp. The wider sense of the Arabic is retained in Sp.; the other languages have narrowed it to dock and armoury. The earliest forms in Eng. were from It., but the existing one is that common to Fr., Sp. and Pg.] "


It should also be remembered that shipyards for building, provisioning, maintaining, arming and repairing warships were in themselves major establishments for creating and maintaining weapons - which is what a navy and warships were, and much more technically complex than land armies, as well as in need of special raw materials such as large quantities of pitch and different sorts of special timber.
The navies of ancient Athens, Venice or 17th,18th.and 19th.century England had to be supported by a very substantial infrastructure. I think I remember reading in an introduction to Samuel Pepys that in his time the naval dockyards were the largest industrial operation in the country.
Also in medieval times, and later, ships were often used as merchant ships in peace time and converted in time of war. I guess both these reasons give an extra link between shipyards and places for the preparation and storage of weapons.

Having said all that, I think it is a word that might surprize a general audience, as meaning dockyard, unless it was explained by the context. I know it surprized me when I first met it. (In Britain I would say people think more of Arsenal "The Gunners" football team being named after the royal arsenal (store of weapons) without thinking it is naval).
But it is historically correct,
and it would be nice to use it either with historians, a historically minded audience, (or generally when the context helps explain the meaning, so that the audience learns the word too, which would be a bonus).

[Edited at 2004-04-22 13:26]


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Lesley Clayton
France
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Agree with Jack Apr 22, 2004

Jack Doughty wrote:

An arsenal is a store of weapons and ammunition. There might well be one associated with a shipyard, but the word itself does not mean shipyard. My Oxford English Dictionary (187,000 words) does not give the suggested meaning.


Confirming Jack's reply, here's the definition from my Oxford (350,000 words, phrases and definitions)

"Arsenal: noun, a collection of weapons and military equipment stored by a country, person or group: Britain's nuclear arsenal.

a place where weapons and military equipment are stored or made. [in sing.] figurative, an array of resources available for a certain purpose: we have an arsenal of computers at our disposal.

ORIGIN early 16th cent. (denoting a dock for the construction and repair of ships): from French, or from obsolete Italian arzanale, based on Arabic daras-sina'a, from dar 'house' + al '(of) the' + sina'a 'art industry'." [apologies for lack of acents]

So it would seem that although the words that 'arsenal' originated from had this 'shipyard' meaning, the meaning was not transferred into English. (Oxford usually gives obsolete meanings as well.)


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DGK T-I  Identity Verified
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I wouldn't expect it to be used about modern dockyards :-) Apr 22, 2004

naturally it is a historical word, used by historians and in histories. For general readers it would be best if meaning is supported by context, so that the reader learnt the word at the same time (itself a bit of history). But it wouldn't be right to say that it never made it into English to describe both old dockyards and armouries.
These vast dockyards and storehouses for great wooden sailing ships or galleys themselves only live on in history, like the word that described them. (That is why the OED says "obs.hist.", like the yards and docks...which are obs.hist too...except when historians are writing about them of course.)
Eg: (but not only confined to names)
"HMS Victory... This 100-gun first rate ship was designed by Sir Thomas Slade, the naval Surveyor (1755-1771) and built in the Cothan arsenal at Chatham, for the Royal Navy. ..."
www.modelshipsandgalleons.com/html/victory.html


[Edited at 2004-04-22 11:24]

http://www.hants.gov.uk/navaldockyard/NewsletterDec2002.htm
Naval Dockyard Society Newsletter 2002
book review by Celia Clarke
"This vivid, well-researched booklet describes a long tradition of skilled craftsmanship still alive in the Cottonera area of Malta. The Knights of Malta’s all-important galleys were built under cover in the Birgu Arsenal in the sheltered deep water creek defended by Fort St Angelo from 1535 up to the end of the eighteenth century....Under Grand Master Adrien Wignacourt the arsenal was rebuilt as a magnificent high building, visible from great distances, with three slipways covered with barrel-vaulted slipways......The administration of the arsenal by the admiral of the Order...."
(The ability to build and repair great ships in large purpose built buildings gave important advantages, shared for instance with the (British) Royal Navy in the Napoleonic wars.)

[Edited at 2004-04-22 13:19]


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mbc
Spain
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Apr 22, 2004

Thanks to all of you.

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Does arsenal mean naval yard in British English?

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