One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
nounPlural portolanos, Plural portolanshistorical
A book of sailing directions with charts and descriptions of harbours and coasts.
- ‘From early times, charts called portolans (harbor guides) were available to provide details required by the coastline-hugging sailor - depth of the water, location of treacherous rocks, special landmarks, et cetera.’
- ‘Nonetheless, in this period the portolan chart remained very much centred on the Mediterranean and destinations easily reached from there.’
- ‘The earliest portolan maps covered the Mediterranean and Black Sea and showed wind directions and such information useful to sailors.’
- ‘In its purest form, the portolan chart was a highly functional tool for navigation whether in the contained arena of the Mediterranean or later in the open oceans of the world.’
- ‘On an oceanic voyage, however, especially at higher latitudes, the converging meridians on the physical globe conflicted with the parallel meridians shown on the traditional portolan chart.’
Mid 19th century: from Italian portolano, from porto ‘harbour’.
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