Diver’s Dictionary


We all remember those first dive classes when we were bombarded by new terms, complex charts, and the thought of coming face to face with dangerous sea creatures (see SHARK below). But there is a whole list of terms that we were never taught but had to pick up on the back reefs of the world – hushed definitions and observations whispered from diver to diver when the instructor isn’t looking. I hope you enjoy my tongue in cheek guide to “proper” diving terminology.

  • MASK – Storage container for sea water samples until you reach the surface.Tech Diver
  • FINS – Torture device invented during the Spanish Inquisition.
  • SNORKEL – Breathing tube used to suck in seawater and insects while on the surface.
  • WET SUIT – Exactly what a diver does when the cold and caffeine kick in.
  • DRY SUIT – Glorified inner tube and just about as comfortable.
  • CHECK OUT DIVE – Great opportunity to experience first hand:
    A. Hypothermia
    B. Fear
    C. Stupidity
    D. All of the Above
  • NARCOSIS – Does that cost extra?
  • 2nd STAGE – Not a theater term.
  • DEEP DIVE– Depths greater than you find in your bathtub.
  • SPARE AIR – The air left in your buddies’ tank.
  • BOAT DIVING – A complex task because boats usually don’t dive.
  • WRECK DIVER – What you become after running out of air at 100ft.
  • EMBOLISM – A BAD THING!
  • OCTOPUS – Large eight legged sea creature which attaches to your face at inopportune moments.
  • B.C. – The extra flotation you gain after many holiday meals.
  • C CARD – “And they don’t take American Express.”
  • SHARK – Bottom feeding, cannibalistic, spineless, invertebrate (sure it’s redundant), often found in courtrooms, newsrooms, and car lots.
  • GIANT STRIDE – An acrobatic maneuver so called because of the 15 foot drop to the water whichMinionsDiver occurs when the boat rolls to port while you are exiting the starboard side.
  • BUDDY BREATHING – An often impossible task because your buddy has long ago left your side in search of the bikini clad, web-footed, neoprene fish.
  • BUDDY DIVING – “Same day, same ocean- we must be buddies.”
  • “PLAN YOUR DIVE, DIVE YOUR PLAN”– It’s like a diving safety mantra only different.
  • FREE ASCENT – A blazing rush to the surface at about warp 8.2.
  • BLOWN OUT – Don’t even think about those words.
  • 1/3 RULE – Use 1/3 of the day thinking about throwing up, 1/3 of the day actually throwing up, 1/3 of the day being glad you threw up.
  • REPETITIVE DIVE – “We’re going to the quarry again?!”
  • DIVE TABLES – A complex chart using numbers and mysterious signs created to scramble a divers already overtaxed intellect.
  • ECO-DIVER – Short for E-Coli (bacteria found on third world dive trips).
  • TECHNICAL DIVING – “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.”
  • MAX DEPTH – Your actual depth minus 50ft. Used when describing your dive profile to the dive instructor.
  • DIVE COMPUTER – A $700 addition to your weight belt.
  • V.I.P. – “Virtually Impossible to Peer inside a tank.”
  • NITROX – See Technical Diving.
  • BOTTOM TIME – Time spent sitting on the narrow, uncomfortable bench on the way to the dive site.
  • PURGE – The button you push to get rid of the chili-dog you belched into the regulator.
  • NEWBEE DIVER – “Okay, the doohickey attaches to the whats-it?”
  • TUB DIVER – Specialist in off season, shallow, freshwaterMinions floaty dives.
  • HYDRO – A monster that feeds on Luxfer aluminum 80’s.
  • FLOOD – What your sinuses do to your mask.
  • BUOYANCY CONTROL – The art of not cratering the bottom or rocketing past mean sea level.
  • DIVE LIGHT – A waterproof carrying case for dead batteries.
  • GEAR BAG – Storage device for sand, shells, old sandwiches, mildewed T-shirts, and stowaway sea critters.
  • DIVE KNIFE – An underwater magnet for rust that in an emergency won’t cut through hot butter.
  • THE SECRET OF DIVING – Inhale, exhale, repeat as necessary.

Please commit these definitions to memory. They could be on your Advanced test. I’ve laminated my copy of the Divers Definitions and pass them around the hang lines during long decompression stops. They are guaranteed to get a diver grinning so hard that they will break the seal on their mask and open the flood gates. Then you can sneak over and steal their nice new reel but that’s another story.

Special thanks to “Tub Diver” Victoria Deaton for her hilarious contributions to the dictionary.

©1995 Rick Allen, Nautilus Productions LLC, All Rights Reserved

The abridged version of this article first appeared in the October ’95 issue of Sport Diver Magazine.