The Jolly Roger Pirate Flag

Despite this tale, it is assumed by most that the name Jolly Roger comes from the French words jolie rouge, meaning “pretty red” and referring to a plain red flag which was flown to indicate that the ship would fight to the death, with no quarter given or expected. During the Elizabethan era “Roger” was a slang term for beggars and vagrants who “pretended scholarship.” “Sea Beggars” had been a popular name for Dutch privateers since the 16th century. Another theory states that “Jolly Roger” is an English corruption of “Ali Raja”, the name of a Tamil pirate. Yet another theory is that it was taken from a nickname for the devil, “Old Roger”. The “jolly” appellation may be derived from the apparent grin of a skull.

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