The term sailing ship is now used to refer to any large wind-powered vessel. In technical terms, a ship was a sailing vessel with a specific rig of at least three masts, square rigged on all of them, making the sailing adjective redundant. In popular usage "ship" became associated with all large...
is a tall, vertical, or near vertical, spar
In sailing, a spar is a pole of wood, metal or lightweight materials such as carbon fiber used on a sailing vessel. Spars of all types In sailing, a spar is a pole of wood, metal or lightweight materials such as carbon fiber used on a sailing vessel. Spars of all types In sailing, a spar is a...
, or arrangement of spars, which supports the sail
A sail is any type of surface intended to move a vessel, vehicle or rotor by being placed in a wind—in essence a propulsion wing. Sails are used in sailing.-History of sails:...
s. Large ships have several masts, with the size and configuration depending on the style of ship. Nearly all sailing masts are guyed mast
A guyed mast is a tall thin vertical structure that receives support from guy lines.Guyed masts are frequently used for radio masts. The mast can either support aerials mounted at its top, or the entire structure itself can function as an antenna ; this is called a mast radiator...
Until the mid-19th century, in the Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...
, all vessels' masts were made of wood formed from a single piece of timber which typically consisted of the trunk of a conifer tree.