Can You Match the Term to the Correct Branch of the Military?


By: Torrance Grey

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Is it 'hoo-ah,' 'u-rah,' or 'hoo-yah'? Believe it or not, this is an important identifier among branches of the United States military! All three are casual, all-purpose affirmations (like "heck yeah" or "let's do this!"), but which one you use will depend on which branch of the armed forces you serve(d) in. 

Of course, the five branches of America's military -- the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force -- have more formal and important terms than these. Among them are "Semper Fidelis," the longtime motto of the Marines, and "Semper Paratus," the lesser-known slogan of a different service. (We can't tell you which here; it's a spoiler). Some terms are shared -- the Navy, especially, has many terms in common with the Coast Guard and the Marines. So in a few cases, we've made "this is a shared term" an answer choice. But if we've slipped up somewhere, let us know in the comments. Though we've tried our best for accuracy, language is fluid, and slang even more so. It's possible that a term that was used only by one branch for a long time has recently gained traction in others. 

With that out of the way, are you ready? Test your knowledge of military words and phrases now!


This means "Get out of the way!" In more general terms, "gangway" is a noun, meaning an entrance to a ship.



A "scuttlebutt" is a drinking fountain. You might know it better as a word for "gossip," which is traded around the drinking fountain in these military services, just like it is around a water cooler in civilian life.



The Rangers are an elite Infantry unit, trained at the Army's school at Fort Benning. Their slogan is, "Rangers Lead the Way," supposedly first said by Teddy Roosevelt.



The SEALs are famous; the name is a shortening of "Sea, Air or Land." They are an elite unit that has taken part in operations such as the killing of Osama bin Laden.



This is short for "General Infantry." The movie "G.I. Jane," about a woman who becomes a Navy SEAL, was roundly criticized for the inaccurate name; the other branches of the military do not have an infantry.



"Swabbie" in these two branches means a low-ranking, average sailor or guardsman. It comes from the common activity of swabbing the decks.


Semper paratus:

This is the motto of the US Coast Guard, less well-known than the Marines' "Semper Fidelis." It means "Always Ready" in Latin.



"Ensign" is a low-ranking officer in the Navy and Coast Guard. It is the equivalent of a lieutenant 2nd grade in the Army.



The Navy shares many ranks with the Coast Guard and/or the Marines, but "midshipman" is specific to the Navy. All students at the U.S. Naval Academy are midshipmen.


Devil Dog:

Like "Jarhead," "Devil Dog" is a nickname for a Marine. The name was given to them by German enemies in World War I, and adopted with pride.



"MRE" stands for "Meals Ready to Eat." Service members have nicknamed them "Meals Refused by Ethiopians" because of their quality.



The academies of the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard all call their students "cadets." This differs from the US Naval Academy and the US Merchant Marine Academy, where the term is "midshipman."



These are the jail cells on a Navy ship, used in severe disciplinary situations. In the late 2000s, Rachel Maddow used the term "boat jail" several times in a news report before sheepishly correcting herself, saying that viewers had clued her in to the correct term, "brig."


Improvise, Adapt and Overcome:

It's not as official as "Semper Fi," but this is a slogan adopted by many Marines. It reflects the Marines' status as the smallest and (they'd tell you) scrappiest of the four fighting branches of the U.S. military.



"Cutter" is the official name of a Coast Guard ship. "Cutter" used to be used more broadly for a naval ship or ship used in law enforcement duties.


Butter bar:

This is Army slang for "2nd lieutenant," also used by the Air Force and Marines. It refers to the gold bars worn on the shoulders of these lieutenants, who are the lowest-ranking officers, often quite young.


"Huah" (also Hoo-ah):

This is an all-purpose affirmation that can mean "Oh yeah!" "Let's go!" "True dat!" and more. The Marines and Navy have their own variations.


Oo-rah (also u-rah):

This is the Marines' variation of the Army's all-purpose affirmative and rallying cry. The Navy has its own variant, "Hoo-yah."


Friday patch:

A Friday patch or name tag is one only worn on Fridays. It usually has a picture or slogan that is humorous and not quite politically correct. This is a version of the civilian's "casual Friday," and meant to build morale.



An "anymouse" is a public box on a Navy ship where any sailor can drop anonymous suggestions. Not to be confused with "house mouse," a term used by several branches for the person assigned with cleaning and re-stocking common areas.



This is an informal term for a Marine. It's taken from the leather collars some Marine uniforms used to have.



This means to kill, or attempt to kill, another service member. It's derived from "fragment," as of a grenade, which was a common way to make a death look accidental. Though the practice is uncommon, the term is shared by several branches of the military.


Rocks and Shoals:

"Rocks and Shoals" is Navy slang for "rules and regulations." Possibly because they're easy to get tripped up on?


South Hudson Institute of Technology:

This is what cadets at West Point, aka the United States Military Academy, sometimes call their school. Is there a secret meaning in it? Golly, we wouldn't want to guess ...



A "mustang" is an officer who worked his or her way up from the enlisted ranks. It's generally a term of respect, and is not specific to any one branch.



This is Marine slang for one's teeth. (Did we mention that Marines pride themselves on their fierceness?)


Roof stomp:

The "roof stomp" is an Air Force tradition. A new officer is welcomed to a base by many airmen climbing on the roof his his/her new home and, well, stomping on it. If the service members are feeling less ambitious, they might do a "porch stomp" instead. Either way, the officer is supposed to open the front door and have them in for refreshments.


The Long Gray Line:

This term applies to current cadets and alumni of West Point. It implies that they are one corps, and also one long, proud tradition.


Disneyland East:

This is how Marines sometimes refer to Headquarters Marine Corps. It's based in Arlington, Virginia.



This is a recent Army term for an unidentifiable food, or a made-up one. In 1974, someone inserted the completely fictitious word into an Army survey about soldiers' preferences in food, and sure enough, some GIs reported that they liked it. Perhaps they thought it was a tasty Mexican or Italian dish, sure to be better than meatloaf!


Goat locker:

The "goat locker" is a room reserved for use by chief petty officers in the Navy. It dates back to the time when goats transported on Navy ships were kept in the chief petty officers' mess.


Paradise Island:

This is an affectionate (or sometimes not) term for Parris Island, in South Carolina. It's where male Marine recruits from east of the Mississippi River, and all female recruits, go through their basic training.


The Yard:

This is the nickname given to the US Naval Academy campus in Annapolis, Maryland. The school is often informally referred to as "Annapolis," while "the Yard" refers specifically to its campus. Not to be confused with the Coast Guard Yard, that service's shipbuilding and repair yard.



AAFES stands for Army and Air Force Exchange Service. It sells a wide variety of goods, just like a civilian store would.



NEXCOM is the shortened term for "Navy Exchange (Service) Command," which is a store. It sells a wide variety of goods, including uniforms, to Navy personnel and their families.


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