From Bill Poser’s Facebook post:

I learned a new English word. In the terminology of admiralty law, the Ever Given did not “collide” with the bank of the Suez Canal. It “allided” with it. Admiralty law distinguishes between “allisions”, in which a ship strikes something else, and “collisions”, in which two ships strike each other. This makes etymological sense, but the distinction is not made as far as I know outside of admiralty law.

Interestingly, the original OED had a very brief entry presenting it as a word found only in dictionaries:

aˈllide, v. Obs.⁻⁰ [ad. L. allīd-ĕre to dash against, f. al- = ad- to + līdĕre = læd-ĕre to dash or strike violently.] ‘To dash or hit against.’ Bailey 1721; whence in Ash 1775, etc.

But in September 2012 they updated it as follows:

Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin allīdere.
Etymology: < classical Latin allīdere to dash or strike (against), to be shipwrecked < al-, variant of ad- ad- prefix + laedere to hurt, injure (see lesion n.). Compare earlier collide v.

rare⁻⁰ before mid 20th cent.

intransitive. To hit against something. Now Maritime Law: (of a vessel) to collide with another which is stationary, or with a static object or structure.
1721 N. Bailey Universal Etymol. Eng. Dict. Allide, to dash or hit against.

1962 Amer. Maritime Cases Apr. 974 The Court finds that the New Zealand Victory..allided with the westernmost of the two gantry cranes on that pier.
1986 Federal Reporter 2nd Ser. 778 1116/1 When a moving vessel allides with an anchored vessel.
2008 Michigan Lawyers Weekly (Nexis) 28 Jan. A vessel allided with a dock owned by defendant.

I wonder what happened in mid 20th cent. to bring it into actual use?


  1. Where do you check the older OED entries?

  2. On the right of the online page, under “This entry has been updated…,” there’s a link “Entry history”; also, I have a hard copy of the original OED (Compact Edition, 2 vols.).

  3. I wonder what happened in mid 20th cent. to bring it into actual use?

    Insurance and lawyers? If two ships collide, that’s two insurance companies. If a ship runs into a rock or an iceberg, no point trying to sue a natural object.

    I think I saw somewhere in the swirl of coverage about the Ever Given that there was previously in the Suez Canal a collision allision between a moving and anchored ship. The captain of the anchored ship ended up going to jail.

    With that NZ example the OED quotes, a lawyer could have a pop at the Port company for being so careless as to leave a crane on the pier.

  4. J.W. Brewer says

    You can find “allision” as a technical term in 19th-century legal dictionaries which the proprietors of the OED’s first volume perhaps failed to consult before declaring the word obsolete. I assume (it’s not my specialty) that the functional reason for distinguishing between allision and collision is that typically a stationary object will not have been located where it was at the time of the allision as the result of anyone’s negligence but rather it was the duty of the moving ship to make reasonable efforts to avoid hitting it, whereas in a collision between two moving ships A and B the collision may have been the result of negligent seamanship by the crew of A, the crew of B, or both and you can’t really assume which is most likely ex ante.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Fills a gap for me: I would myself understand “collide” as implying two moving objects coming into contact with each other, whereas I’d say “crash into” when one of the collidees is stationary.

    Unfortunately “allide” will only fill the gap for me when I am ruminating introspectively, as nobody seems likely to understand it apart from maritime lawyers, of whom I know less than a dozen.

  6. Get them boozed up, and they’ll start saying “crash into” instead of “allide”, and regret it in the morning.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    The 1868 second edition of A Dictionary English and Armenian, by Father Paschal Aucher D.D. with the assistance of John Brand Esqre. A.M., offers a purported Armenian word for “allision” right in between the appropriate Armenian words for “alligature” and “allocation.” I can’t manage to cut-and-paste the Armenian and I’m not the right person to try to transcribe it, but it’s in the google books corpus and any of you who can read Armenian are encouraged to go check it out and see if the Armenian word offered as equivalent to “allision” checks out. I note that Armenia is landlocked at present, but of course the geographical range of Armenian communities in prior centuries extended well beyond the present borders.

  8. David Eddyshaw says


    At one stage of my life, I did in fact know quite a lot of maritime archaeologists, who may well have been familiar with allisions; however, what I chiefly remember about them is a capacity for drinking alcohol that was impressive even to a young surgeon, and their rigour in keeping to an entire calendar of anniversaries upon which it was apparently traditional – de rigueur, even – to get very drunk. They did not seem to be greatly troubled by morning regret. Or anything, really.

  9. I imagine that New Julfan Armenian merchants active from India to the Philippines and throughout whole the Indian Ocean brought many cases to English-language courts or wrote many English-language legal agreements where such words might appear… Captain Kidd captured a ship flying Armenian colors, which led to his eventual execution:

  10. @Xerib

    What were the Armenian colours in the 17th century?

    I clicked through the links. The reconstruction ship is anachronistically flying the flag of the Republic of Armenia.

  11. I don’t know anything more about it than this:

    The works of Sebouh Aslanian might have more.

  12. John Emerson says

    A dozen maritime lawyers is A LOT of maritime lawyers if you ask me. The average person knows .03 maritime lawyers, according to the UN.

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    Hah! Griced you!

  14. J.W. Brewer, Wiki supports your intuition citing Vane Line Bunkering, Inc. v. Natalie D M/V [M/V means “moving vessel” apparently and Natalie D is its name]. A short search of citations brings The Oregon SCOTUS case from 1895 (158 U.S. 186). Oregon was the alliding ship. The opinion doesn’t use the word allision, but names incident a collision. The rule is stated thus
    “Where one vessel, clearly shown to have been guilty of a fault adequate in itself to account for a collision, seeks to impugn the management of the other vessel, there is a presumption in favor of the latter which can only be rebutted by clear proof of a contributing fault, and this principle is peculiarly applicable to a vessel at anchor, complying with regulations concerning lights and receiving injuries through the fault of a steamer in motion.”

  15. Heh heh Admiralty and International Law for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea [sic] makes assumptions about maneuverability more appropriate for vessels of a length less than the Ever Green’s beam.

    Considering these beasts take of the order of 5 nautical miles to come to a stop (even going dead-slow through the Suez Canal); you might anchor your ship, and have time to go below, brew a pot, add your rum, drink it and fall asleep; and still be found guilty of obstructing the course of a behemoth.

    (I’m not a maritime lawyer, but worked setting up accounting systems for shipping companies. There’s a bewildering set of possible costs and possible claimable disbursements following a collision, including repatriating crew members and compensating them for lost earnings.)

  16. PlasticPaddy says

    I first read “lost earnings” as “lost earrings”. Of course, depending on the force of the collision and the place on the deck where the crew member is standing, it is quite possible for the earring to fall overboard, with or without the attached crew member.

  17. J.W. Brewer: This answer about the transliteration of the Armenian is short because I just had surgery and I am typing one handed.

    allision in the dictionary you cite is glossed բաղխումն bałxowmn, an expressive variant of բախումն baxowmn “knock, collision, clash, conflict”. From this verb:

    collision is glossed among other things as բաղխումն ընդ միմեանս bałxowmn ənd mimeans “collision with each other”, “collision with one another”.

  18. maybe a good moment to share this, tweeted by Rhiannon Shaw on 24 March:

    this is just to say
    i have
    the suez

    which you
    probably needed
    for international

    forgive me
    im sideways
    and my ship ass
    is big

  19. The WCW parody is enjoyable, and “my ship ass” is a linguistically interesting phrase.

  20. Not sure collisions/allisions are covered in it, but here is:

    A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law

  21. David Eddyshaw’s deprecation of single-mover “collide” is traced by MWDEU to 1926 and possibly 1877. Perhaps the spread of the shibboleth impelled the resurrection of “allide”.

    I wonder what alternative to single-mover “collide” is offered by the sources that deprecate it; not “allide”, it would seem. Perhaps they just want to create a pointless lexical gap. I dub this evil lexical caries, to be prevented by lexical fluoridation.

  22. J.W. Brewer says

    The 1877 source in MWDEU is William Cullen Bryan’s “Index Expurgatorius,” which is just a list, without explanations, of words or particular usages of words that Bryant, as newspaper editor, said “are to be avoided.” So “collided” is to be avoided because Bryant disliked the word, even in describing literal both-parties-were-in-motion scenarios. Other words to be avoided include “aspirant,” “donate,” “humbug,” and “taboo.” 21st-century readers may applaud the political outlook implied by Bryant’s condemnation of “authoress” and “darkey, for ‘negro,'” yet be disappointed to find him inveighing against “graduate, for ‘is graduated,” and just baffled by his distaste for “balance, for ‘remainder.'” Maybe a bit over half of the condemned words reflect a coherent sense of desirable journalistic register — don’t use words that are too slangy and don’t use words that are too fussy/pretentious. That may even include some items reflecting controversies that have long since been definitively lost, like his dislike of “pants, for ‘pantaloons,'” which may have once sounded slangy but no longer does. The balance (see what I did there?) seem much more random in terms of their likely motivations.

    The whole list is included in this Bryant-tribute volume from 1894.

  23. Trond Engen says

    When an allided ship comes free, is that an elision? Was the Ever Given elided?

    Can you be prosecuted for allusion to the enemy if it’s a one-sided affair?

  24. @J.W. Brewer: I confess that I didn’t particularly care for that sense of balance when I was younger either. I’m not sure why. That meaning is so common that I have forgotten whatever reason I had for disliking it and effectively forgotten that I even do dislike it.

  25. I’m reminded of the aged Baron de Charlus bowing to an aged woman he has forgotten he hates.

  26. The collision/allision issue came up about ten years ago at Language Log.

  27. J.W. Brewer says

    The comments in that old LL thread include this striking description of what some might call an allision and others a collision, attibuted to John von Neumann:

    “I was proceeding down the road. The trees on the right were passing me in orderly fashion at sixty miles per hour. Suddenly one of them stepped in my path.”

    I am separately reminded of one of the most Imagistic passages in the corpus of rock lyrics from the 1970’s:

    “Whiskey bottle.
    Brand-new car.
    Oak tree, you’re in my way.”

    Very Ezra-Pound-in-1915 IMHO, although unfortunately the lyricist died too soon thereafter to even make it to a Hugh Selwyn Mauberly phase.

  28. ktschwarz says

    “A car can’t collide with a tree” used to be one of the most risible proscriptions of the AP stylebook; it was finally deleted in 2018 after widespread ridicule, e.g. from Jonathon Owen, Stan Carey, and John McIntyre.

  29. David Eddyshaw says

    The collision/allision issue came up about ten years ago at Language Log.

    Good grief, my usage of “collide” is approved by Simon Heffer! I repent in dust and ashes, and will henceforward make a particular point of using it when one of the participants is stationary.

  30. In particle physics, the term “collider” is reserved for experiments where there are two beams of particles traveling in opposite directions colliding with each other.

    The other type of setup, where you have a single beam smashing into a stationary object is called a “fixed-target experiment”, not an “allider” (alas).

    The distinction between these types of experiments is pretty important, and the distinction between the terms is maintained without any obnoxious prescription.

Speak Your Mind