The word starboard comes from Old English steorbord, literally meaning the side on which the ship is steered, descendant from the Old Norse words stýri meaning "rudder" (from the verb stýra, literally "being at the helm", "having a hand in") and bor. The starboard side of a ship is indicated by a green light.
An early version of "port" is larboard, which itself derives from Middle-English ladebord via corruption in the 16th century by association with starboard. The term larboard, when shouted in the wind, was presumably too easy to confuse with starboard and so the word port came to replace it. Port is derived from the practice of sailors mooring ships on the left side at ports in order to prevent the steering oar from being crushed. The port side of a ship is indicated by a red light.
In case you ever forget that port is left and starboard is right (when facing the bow of course), there is no shortage of mnemonics to help you remember:
- A ship that is out on the ocean has "left port".
- The sailor left port with a red nose.
- Port and left both contain four letters.
- "Port wine is red; so is the port light."
- "Port is not right for children" (Port wine is red and not being "right for children" is therefore "left".)
- The phrase "Any red port left in the can?" can be a useful reminder. It breaks down as follows:
- The drink port is a fortified red wine—which links the word "port" with the color red, used for navigational lights (see below).
- "Left" comes from the phrase and so port must be on the left.
- The reference to "can" relates to the fact that port-hand buoys are "can"-shaped.
- A variation on the above is "Two drops of red port left in the bottle."
- Another variation: "Port is the red wine that is left in the glass."
- The common abbreviation P.S. (for English postscript, derived from Latin post scriptum) can be viewed as port ("left") and starboard ("right").
- "Star light, star bright, starboard is to the right."
- "There is no red port wine left".
- Terms referring to the right side are longer words ("starboard", "right", and "green"), while terms referring to the other side are shorter words ("port", "left", and "red").
- Starboard contains two letter "R"s, compared to only one in port; therefore, starboard refers to the right side.
- Red is the representative color for some major ideologies of the political Left, e.g. socialism or communism; whereas green is the color of US cash and is often synonymous with wealth.
- In countries that drive on the left side of the road: If someone is drinking Port, they should be on the passenger side; the "star" of the boat, or person who is in control of the boat, is on the driver's side.
- Port and starboard are in alphabetical order, which can be associated in European languages with reading from left to right. So they are in the same order as reading text. Left and right are in the same order.
- Green and two E's, Starboard has two R's, so starboard, green right
adapted from wikipedia