Why Do Pirates Say ‘Arrr!’?

Featured Article, History, Trivia
on October 12, 2012
Actor Robert Newton (left) popularized the crusty pirate grunt "Arrr!" in the 1952 film "Blackbeard, the Pirate," co-starring Linda Darnell (right).

Alternately pronounced as “Yarrr!” and “Arg!”, the word “Arrr!” usually is said when responding in the affirmative or as an expression of general exclamation.

Rooted in fictional portrayals of pirates, the crusty pirate grunt first was uttered in the 1934 film “Treasure Island” starring Lionel Barrymore, and later was used by a character in the 1940 novel “Adam Penfeather, Buccaneer” by English author Jeffery Farnol.

The expression became popularized by actor Robert Newton, who portrayed Long John Silver in the Disney film version of “Treasure Island” (1950) and the title character in “Blackbeard, the Pirate” (1952), as well as in other swashbuckling movies and television shows during the 1950s. Born in Dorset in southwest England, Newton’s West Country dialect heavily influenced the accent he used when portraying pirates.