Another word that’s new to me: pratique is “Clearance granted to a ship to proceed into port after compliance with health regulations or quarantine.” The OED adds: “Especially used in connexion with the South of Europe”; from googling, this no longer seems to be the case. OED citations start with:
1609 W. BIDDULPH in T. Lavender Trav. (1612) 4 Zante. We staied ten daies in the rode of this city, before we could get Pratticke, that is: leaue to come amongst them, or to vse traffique with them.
and end with:
1897 Daily News 14 Jan. 3/5 The P. and O. steamer Nubia arrived in the Thames from Plymouth yesterday afternoon… Dr. Collingridge gave the ship pratique, and the yellow flag was then hauled down amid loud cheers.
As you can see from the first quote, it used to have an anglicized pronunciation (PRATT-ik), and that’s the first one given by the OED, but apparently everyone now says pra-TEEK. What puzzled me was the word itself, but it seems practice (of which this is a variant) used to have a sense ‘Dealings, negotiation, conference, intercourse’ (1584 R. SCOT Discov. Witchcr. V. viii. 85 There was not any conference or practise betwixt them in this case), and this is a specialization of that use.


  1. To me, this usage is not too surprising. In French, we commonly say, for example, that a path is “praticable” meaning that it can be crossed.

  2. To add to the first comment, the TLFi has, somewhere far down in the entry:
    B. MAR. Libre pratique. ,,Autorisation d’entrer au port donnée à un navire ayant une patente de santé nette“ (LE CLÈRE 1960). Les matelots (…) subirent longtemps toutes les interrogations du bureau de Santé (…) et enfin nous fûmes admis en libre pratique à huit heures (STENDHAL, Mém. touriste, t.2, 1838, p.404).

  3. Ralph Hitchens says:

    I first came across the term in the diary of Captain Augustus Hervey, RN, a notorious rake of the 18th century, published as “Augustus Hervey: A Naval Casanova.” A very entertaining read, illuminating the cosmopolitan lifestyle of the 18th century European nobility. There are many references to pratique as Captain Hervey’s ship puts into various Mediterranean ports during the 1750s.

  4. I take it the English phrase “sharp practice”, which is still current, represents a survival of early businessy meanings of the noun.

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