One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A fleet carrying bullion; specifically any of the fleets which annually transported silver from the Americas to Spain during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Early 17th century. From plate + fleet, probably after Spanish flota de la plata, lit. ‘silver fleet’ (this exact phrase is apparently not attested in contemporary sources, but compare the similar phrases la flota llena de plata the fleet full of silver, la flota con la plata the fleet with the silver, la flota y galeones de la plata the fleet and galleons transporting silver, galeones de la plata galleons transporting silver (frequently 1599–1614)).
plate fleet/ˈpleɪt fliːt/
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