Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Chock-A-Block

Image from Kalense Kid at Flickr and available by Creative Commons

Items packed so tightly together as to prevent movement.

A chock is typically a wooden wedge used to secure moving objects on deck and in the hold.  A block and tackle is the pulley system used to hoist the rigging.  However, the phrase appears to stem from when the no more free rope exists and the block jam tightly together.

The phrase describes what occurs the system is raised to its fullest extent – when there is no more rope free and the blocks jam tightly together. Frederick Chamier’s novel The Life of a Sailor, 1832 includes this figurative use of the term:

“Here my lads is another messmate…” – What, another!” roared a ruddy-faced midshipman of about eighteen. “He must stow himself away, for we are chock-a-block here.”

Thanks goest to Gary Martin for doing all the leg work here.  Gary’s website Phrase Finder is likely to provide much more fodder for posts.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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3 comments on “Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Chock-A-Block
  1. I really love this new series Dr.M. every phrase a gem and one I can slip into conversation seamlessly around here!

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