Definition of holystone in English:

holystone

noun

historical
  • A piece of soft sandstone used for scouring the decks of ships.

    • ‘We junior cadets were made to go down on our knees in rows and scrub the wooden decks with holystones in a to and fro motion.’
    • ‘The only noises were the holystones being dragged back and forth, the wind in the rigging, the creaking of the ship, and Hornblower's footsteps across the quarter-deck.’

verb

[WITH OBJECT]historical
  • Scour (a deck) with a holystone.

    • ‘We junior cadets were made to go down on our knees in rows and scrub the wooden decks with holystones in a to and fro motion.’
    • ‘The decks of this late Victorian Navy were holystoned white.’
    • ‘Alternatively, I also have a thing about random whippings such as might be done by a bosuns mate with a rope's end on board ship, as the men were holystoning the decks.’
    • ‘The men holystoning the deck went at it with a will.’

Origin

Early 19th century: probably from holy + stone. Sailors called the stones ‘bibles’ or ‘prayer books’, perhaps because they scrubbed the decks on their knees.

Pronunciation

holystone

/ˈhəʊlɪstəʊn/