Definition of holystone in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhəʊlɪstəʊn/
chiefly historical


A piece of soft sandstone used for scouring the decks of ships.
Example sentences
  • The only noises were the holystones being dragged back and forth, the wind in the rigging, the creaking of the ship, and Hornblower's footsteps across the quarter-deck.
  • We junior cadets were made to go down on our knees in rows and scrub the wooden decks with holystones in a to and fro motion.


[with object]
Scour (a deck) with a holystone.
Example sentences
  • The men holystoning the deck went at it with a will.
  • Alternatively, I also have a thing about random whippings such as might be done by a bosuns mate with a rope's end on board ship, as the men were holystoning the decks.
  • The decks of this late Victorian Navy were holystoned white.


Early 19th century: probably from holy + stone. Sailors called the stones ‘bibles’ or ‘prayer books’, perhaps because they scrubbed the decks on their knees.

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