Announcements on many boats and ships tell passengers when to “disembark the vessel.” This wording makes some of those listening wince.

To “disembark” is to get off a marine vessel or put something or someone off a vessel. The crew disembarks the passengers. On a cargo vessel they may disembark the cargo. It’s the stuff on the ship, not the ship itself, which gets disembarked.

People sensitive to the history of words know that a “bark” is a boat or ship. The word is related etymologically to “barge.”

It would be better to simply tell the passengers to get off the vessel, leave it, or go ashore. But “disembark the vessel” is so well established in the industry that it’s not likely to go away any time soon. Meantime, it can bother you too.

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