Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Deep Six

Meaning: to trash or rid of something

Deep six refers to to six fathoms, or with a fathom being six feet, 36 feet.  The origins of the phrase are obscure at best.  It is currently thought that 36 feet was the rule of thumb needed for burial at sea to prevent a body from washing ashore.  Of course, modern sea burials usually require a 100 ft minimum.  The earliest documented usage in 1929 uses deep six as slang for grave.

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.

3 comments on “Nautical Term/Phrase Wednesday: Deep Six
  1. Reminds me of one of my favorite Tom Waits lyrics…

    “Ahe shroud-tailor measures him for a deep-six holiday. The stiff is froze, the case is closed on the one that got away.”

    (“The One That Got Away” from Small Change)

    PS, I love Nautical Term Wednesday!

  2. Could it have something to do with “six feet under”? Six feet on land, six fathoms at sea (the latter being the “deep” six)?

    Pure speculation on my part, mind you. :-P

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