Definition of astern in US English:



  • 1Behind or toward the rear of a ship or aircraft.

    ‘the engine rooms lay astern’
    • ‘The narrator's ship is making for Spain with a fine wind astern.’
    • ‘We join Duncan astern in the wheelhouse and watch as he carefully manoeuvres into the first of the five locks.’
    • ‘It is said too that sailors, beating up against the wind in the Gulf of Finland, sometimes see a strange sail heave into sight astern and overhaul them hand over hand.’
    • ‘As I mentioned earlier, some 38s were fitted with a lower helm although visibility astern is very limited and communications with deck hands is nearly impossible.’
    • ‘The ship was met by a warm welcome from the Brazilian Navy, being berthed in a prominent position astern of the sail training ship Cisne Branco.’
    • ‘Using powerful floodlights to attract the delicacy known to the Japanese as ‘ika’ (squid), the boats employ sails which are rigged astern to reduce the ship's roll in the ocean swells.’
    • ‘The 3,400 tonne Anzac Class frigate was the 10th ship in the firing column, with HMAS Newcastle positioned astern.’
    • ‘We carried on relentlessly until we beached, having dropped our anchor astern in order to hold us square on the beach and not drift sideways.’
    • ‘The stern of the boat buries itself in the water: a hump of brown water rises behind and waves spread out from either side astern, pounding the banks of the river.’
    • ‘Not long after leaving Binga, the skipper put into a small bay to secure the four boats towed astern of the Kholisa II.’
    • ‘Fletcher, now without air cover and highly vulnerable to attack, only learned after midday that, quite contrary to his expectations, the Japanese carriers were somewhere astern of him and had sunk two of his ships.’
    • ‘The ship appeared to be towing her fishing gear astern and seemingly for this reason remained underway.’
    • ‘The Ganda slid into formation off the Soyuz's starboard side, slightly astern.’
    • ‘One by one, other houseboats come into view and join our convoy astern.’
    • ‘Langsdorff, a torpedo specialist, kept both ships astern to give them the smallest possible target with regards to a torpedo attack.’
    • ‘The ship won't point into the wind, you have to have the wind astern or at least abeam.’
    • ‘I was alone in the cage astern of the boat one afternoon when all of a sudden a male shark emerged from the gloom and sneaked a bite from the bait, right from under my nose.’
    • ‘After securing the boat astern, the remainder of the transit is taken up with preparations for the diving equipment and gear.’
    • ‘And as the Tall Ships departed they played for His Royal Highness Prince Willem of Orange during his review of the traditional sailing fleet, which was formed up just astern of HMS Exeter.’
    • ‘The other boats of Kilthan's convoy floated ahead and astern of his own, nuzzling the docks, hatches battened down, and a peaceful sense of expectancy hovered about them.’
  • 2(of a ship) backward; stern foremost.

    ‘the lifeboat was carried astern by the tide’
    • ‘With a fast dropping ebb tide she was unable to come astern off the bank and was left high and dry until five in the afternoon when she was assisted off the bank by tug.’
    • ‘She stuck fast, despite running her engines full astern.’
    • ‘With no time to lose, the Captain of Glasgow put the ship full astern, and as the cruiser made her getaway in darkness, she took half the jetty with her - ‘a night I will never forget,’ said Reg.’
    • ‘As they were rescued, the crew and a desolate captain watched the ship slip astern into deep water, disappearing from view.’
    • ‘Captain Elsper went astern, and as his ship came free tried to head for Tobermory.’
    • ‘I put Margarita hard astern, yelling at Paul to grab the line and pull slack into the cockpit.’
    • ‘Her bow was almost blown off, but her captain managed to keep her afloat by going full astern.’


Late Middle English: from a- (expressing position or direction) + stern.