How Do Pirates Divide The Spoils

Booty: What Pirates Call Their Treasure

Growing up, we all probably heard of pirates. Be it in fairytale stories like Peter Pan or other children’s books. You’ve probably also learned a few things from watching movies like Pirates of the Caribbean. From what is known about them, Pirates were aggressive and vicious people, known to steal and kill among other things.

But one thing that stands out most about Pirates is that they loved their treasure. They would do anything for it even if it meant dying. So, what did they call their beloved treasure? Why did they call it that? What did they do with their treasures? If these are the questions you have been pondering in your mind then, I have the answers for you in this article.

What Do Pirates Call Their Treasure?

It is common knowledge that the Pirates were known to steal and plunder other ships at sea and monasteries and local homes on the mainlands, especially along the coast. They would take things like money, gold, weapons, and anything else they viewed to be valuable. These were the items they referred to as their treasures and would call them Booty.

The term Booty is said to have originated from a Low Germanic word that means “to plunder/share”. It is believed to have been coined by Robert Ehrlich. Why they used the term Booty specifically, is not clear, but they used it to mean the spoils won from plunder, pillaging, and war.

The spoils from war specifically were referred to as war booty and referred to the spoils that were to be shared by the victors of war. This type of Booty only consisted of weapons and money, among other items related to war, including captives who would consist of slaves or defeated warriors and leaders.

Did Pirates Bury Their Treasure

How Do Pirates Divide The Spoils?

While some were forced to become pirates, many joined pirate ships out of their own volition to gain riches and wealth. A pirate’s pay or earning was based on what he or his fellow crew members managed to plunder or steal. They, therefore, had to make sure they target the right ships with merchandise worth going to battle for. They also had to make sure that they choose the correct positions and had the right ships and weapons to attack. A good example of one of their main hunting grounds was the Spanish main route, where most treasure/merchant ships passed through transporting goods between Peru and Portobello. That explains why whatever treasure of booty they managed to loot was precious to them.

It was the Pirate Captain’s duty to decide the right ship to target and to calculate the potential risk. Any miscalculations could lead to the end of his tenure as captain, since the crew members may decide to overthrow him. If successful in their looting, the captain was the one to oversee that each crew member got paid by receiving their fair share of the loot/booty.

The loot was always divided based on the pirate code. It stated that any booty was to be divided equally among crew members. While certain items like coins, food, spices, and the like were easy to divide, things like weaponry and jewelry weren’t so easy. For such goods, you were lucky if what you ended up getting was valuable.

Did Pirates Bury Their Treasure?

Although there is a common myth of pirate treasures being buried where X marks the spot, many pirates were known as big spenders. They lived by the hand-to-mouth principle, squandering everything on frivolous things like drinking and having a good time with women. They never really thought to save some of their treasure for rainy days, perhaps because they thought they would get more anyway.

Still, even with that said there were Pirates who are believed to have hoarded their treasures and hidden them far away from others. Captain Willian Kidd, a privateer turned pirate is one good example. The treasure he gathered from plundering ships in the Indian Ocean is said to have been buried in the Gardiners Islands. But they were tracked down and confiscated when Kidd was arrested in Boston and hanged.

There are many other legends and tales of lost pirate treasures hidden away on some coast or the other, like the “Treasures of Lima” believed to be worth $200 million, but has never been found. These tales could very well be just a part of any pirate myths that exist today, given the few actual accounts of pirates who hid away their treasures.

What Pirates Call Their Treasure

What Did Pirates Do With Their Treasure?

So, if Pirates didn’t bury their treasure, then what did they do with it? Like I said before, pirate booty consisted of anything they deemed as valuable to them at the time. So, what they did with the booty largely depended on what it was. When it came to items like money, coins, jewelry, and gold, Pirates were known to squander those on women. Drinking and having a good time.

But apart from riches, pirates would also steal food, spices, fabrics, and clothes among other merchandise. Some of these they would use for themselves, especially the food. Other items that seemed too valuable they would sell in the market in exchange for money. When it came to captives, they were forced to work on the ship as crew members and if they were originally slaves, they would be sold in the next slave market in exchange for money and other valuables.

Pirates also took over ships or stole parts of ships if they needed it. For example, if their ship was worn down, they would exchange it with their victims’ ships. The same would happen if the victim ships seemed to be more powerful than theirs. Otherwise, they may only take parts like the cannons, sails, and anything they needed for their ship.


The Pirates lived for their treasure which they commonly referred to as booty. They divided it equally amongst them, traded what they could, and used what they couldn’t. Despite the common belief that they buried their booty, the truth is that most of them squandered them. So the tales of hidden pirate treasures could simply just be myths, brought about by novelists.