What’s the difference between Jury Rig and Jerry Rig?

Posted By on March 6, 2014

Earlier this week I used a term in the title of a post, “Jury rigging SeaTalk connections on marine electronics,” and was sent an email questioning me about using the term Jury-Rig instead of Jerry Rig. Jury-Rigjuryrigknotsm is the term used in my nautical books and magazines and I’ve adopted that, but  I like the description from Professor Paul Brians at Washington State University best:

“Something poorly built is “jerry-built.” Something rigged up temporarily in a makeshift manner with materials at hand, often in an ingenious manner, is “jury-rigged.” “Jerry-built” always has a negative connotation, whereas one can be impressed by the cleverness of a jury-rigged solution. Many people cross-pollinate these two expressions.”

The etymology of these words is interesting and obviously preceded the term macgyveredloved that TV show. The phrase was supposedly appeared in John Smith’s a Description of New England in 1616, but the nautical use peaked my interest as referring to making repairs with miscellaneous spare parts at sea was called “jury-rigging.” One of the repairs was to “rig” a broken spar or mast which needed to be held up with makeshift lines … a knot was created for this purpose and called the jury mast knot (above). The center portion of the knot was looped over the spar or mast and fastened so that it would not slide down. Lines or stays were then fastened to the three loops in order to hold the mast in position as well as the other two free lines … 5 points of support. The knot is relatively easy to tie … take a look at my attempt below (although holding my iPhone steady between my knees was not as easy!)


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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