Wharf: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A wharf is a landing place or pier where ships may tie up and load or unload.

A wharf commonly comprises a fixed platform, often on pilings. They often serve as interim storage areas with warehouses, since the typical objective is to unload and reload vessels as quickly as possible. Where capacity is sufficient a single quay constructed along the land adjacent to the water is normally used; where there is a need for more capacity many wharves will instead be constructed projecting into the water, as with the well known collection of wharves in San Francisco. A pier, raised over the water rather than within it, is one type of wharf, commonly used for cases where the weight or volume of cargos will be low.

Smaller and more modern wharves are sometimes built on flotation devices (pontoons) to keep them at the same level to the ship even during changing tides.


Well-known wharves

Derby Wharf, Salem, MA
Underneath the Santa Cruz Wharf


The word comes from the Old English hwearf, meaning "bank" or "shore", and its plural is either wharfs, or, especially in American English, wharves; collectively a group of these is referred to as a wharfing or wharfage. "Wharfage" also refers to a fee ports impose on ships against the amount of cargo handled there.

In the northeast and east of England the term staithe or staith (from the Norse for landing stage) is also used. For example Dunston Staiths in Gateshead and Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk. Though the term staithe may be used to refer only to loading chutes or ramps used for bulk commodities like coal in loading ships and barges. It has been suggested that wharf actually is an acronym for ware-house at river front[1][2][3], but this is a backronym, spread around as a fact by "tour guides" on Thames river boats.

Another explanation may be that the word wharf comes, like a lot of naval terms, from the dutch word "werf" which means 'yard', an outdoor place where work is done, like a shipyard or a lumberyard.


See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WHARF, a place for loading or unloading ships or vessels, particularly a platform of timber, stone or other material along the shore of a harbour or along the bank of a navigable river against which vessels may lie and discharge their cargo or be loaded. The O. Eng. word hwerf meant literally a turning or turning-place (hweorfan, to turn, cf. Goth. hwairban, Gr. napiros, wrist), and was thus used particularly of a bank of earth, a dam which turns the flow of a stream; the cognate word in Dutch, werf, meant a wharf or a shipbuilder's yard, cf. Dan. vaerft, dockyard, and the current meaning of the word is probably borrowed from Dutch or Scandinavian languages.

In English law all water-borne goods must be landed at specified places, in particular hours and under supervision; wharves, which by the Merchant Shipping Act 18 95, § 49 2, include quays, docks and other premises on which goods may be lawfully landed, are either "sufferance wharves," authorized by the commissioners of customs under bond, or "legal wharves" specially appointed by treasury warrant and exempt from bond. There are also wharves authorized by statute or by prescriptive right. The owner or occupier of a wharf is styled a "wharfinger," properly "wharfager," with an intrusive n, as in "messenger" and "passenger."

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Middle English < Old English hwearf (heap, embankment, wharf); related to Old English hweorfan (to turn), Old Saxon hwarf, Old High German hwarb (a turn), hwerban (to turn), Old Norse hvarf (circle), Greek καρπός (wrist).

The fact that wharves often have warehouses next to them for storing offloaded goods has led to the popular etymology that ‘wharf’ is an acronym of 'warehouse at river front'; however this is incorrect.




wharves or wharfs

wharf (plural wharves or wharfs)

  1. A man-made landing place jutting out to sea or by a river; mole, pier, or quay


Derived terms


See also

Simple English

A wharf is a permanent structure at a lake, a river, or the sea. It is made so that ships can be loaded and unloaded more easily.


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