Launch (boat)
A launch in contemporary usage refers to a large motorboat
A motorboat is a boat which is powered by an engine. Some motorboats are fitted with inboard engines, others have an outboard motor installed on the rear, containing the internal combustion engine, the gearbox and the propeller in one portable unit.An inboard/outboard contains a hybrid of a...


The name originally referred to the largest boat carried by a warship. The etymology of the word is given as Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 lancha "barge", from Malay
Malay language
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia , Indonesia , Brunei and Singapore...

 lancha, lancharan, "boat," from lanchar "velocity without effort," "action of gliding smoothly" (said primarily of boats and turtles).
In the 1700s a launch was used to set the large anchors on a ship. They had a square transom and were about 24 feet long - In 1788 Captain Bligh was set adrift in the “Bounty’s Launch”. In the 1700s a launch did not have a motor.

Thames Launches

On the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 the term "launch" is used to mean any motorised pleasure boat. The usage arises from the legislation governing the management of the Thames and laying down the categories of boats and the tolls for which they were liable. The term is still in current use and can be seen in the official notices at any Thames lock.

Military launches

Motor Launch
Motor Launch
A Motor Launch is a small military vessel in British navy service. It was designed for harbour defence and submarine chasing or for armed high speed air-sea rescue....

 was the designation for large (typically 60 to 115 ft (18.3 to 35.1 m) long) vessels used in the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and some other navies. They were used for inshore work in defending the coast from submarines and carried relatively light armament: a few depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

s, a gun and a few machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....



In competitive Rowing
Rowing (sport)
Rowing is a sport in which athletes race against each other on rivers, on lakes or on the ocean, depending upon the type of race and the discipline. The boats are propelled by the reaction forces on the oar blades as they are pushed against the water...

 the term 'Launch' is used to refer to any motorised boat used by the coach to follow practising boats during workouts.

See also

  • RAF Rescue Launch
  • Cabin cruiser
    Cabin cruiser
    A cabin cruiser is a type of power boat that provides accommodation for its crew and passengers inside the structure of the craft.A cabin cruiser usually ranges in size from in length, with larger pleasure craft usually considered yachts. Many cabin cruisers can be recovered and towed with a...

  • Slipper Launch
    Slipper Launch
    A slipper launch is a traditional River Thames pleasure boat normally of wooden construction to seat between 4 and 8 passengers. These popular launches were originally introduced in the 1930s with classical designs from Meakes of Marlow and later from Andrews of Bourne End during the 1950s....

  • List of Spanish words of Austronesian origin
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