1 The white feather of water under the bow of a ship when it is under way. A ship moving fast through the water and throwing up an appreciable feather is said to have a bone in its mouth, in its teeth.
2 As a verb, it is a naval term meaning to scrounge or pilfer. It derives from a boatswain named Bone who served in the flagship of Admiral Cornwallis during the French Revolutionary War (1793–1801), and who was adept at acquiring ship's stores from other ships to make good his deficits or build up a surplus. When the ship was decommissioned Cornwallis is said to have remarked, ‘I trust, Mr Bone, that you will leave me my bower anchors’.
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