The Grammarphobia Blog

Is “seabome” a word?

Q: I was reading a financial report about ocean shipping that referred to “seabome” transportation. How was this word being used there?

A: We searched the Oxford English Dictionary as well as half a dozen standard dictionaries, including Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, and couldn’t find an entry for “seabome.”

We did find a few examples of the word on the Internet, but they were mainly in English-language reports apparently written by people who weren’t native English speakers.

For instance, a Vietnamese government website had a report on “Developmental orientation for fleet of ships to meet the requirements of Vietnamese Seabome Strategy until the year 2020 and international integration.”

And an online help-wanted advertisement  said “A Market Leader in Seabome Transport of Energy” is looking for a Mumbai-based risk and compliance analyst.

If we had to guess, we’d say “seabome” is simply a typo for “seaborne,” an adjective that showed up in English in the 17th century.

The adjective was first used to describe cargo or passengers conveyed by sea, but by the 19th century, it was also being used to describe the seagoing ships themselves.

Of course “seaborne” is made up of two older words. Both “sea” and “borne” are derived from Old English words that first showed up in Beowulf, which may have been written as far back as the year 725. (We had a posting recently about “born” and “borne.”)

Interestingly, people may not be the only ones to mix up “seabome” and “seaborne.” Some search engines apparently read the “rn” combination as an “m,” so they can’t distinguish the real thing from the typo.

A search of Google Books for “seabome” (as we tediously found out) brings up many pages with the word “seaborne” highlighted.

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