A Spanish galleon (left) firing its cannons at a Dutch warship (right). Cornelis Verbeeck, ca. 1618/1620
A Spanish galleon
Carracks, galleon (center/right), square rigged caravel (below), galley and fusta (galliot) depicted by D. João de Castro on the "Suez Expedition" (part of the Portuguese Armada of 72 ships sent against the Ottoman fleet anchored in Suez, Egypt, in response to its entry in the Indian Ocean and the siege of Diu in 1538) – Tábuas da India in the João de Castro`s Roteiro do Mar Roxo (Routemap of the Red Sea) of 1540–1541. – Despite this kind of ship (or only a close model of art) was already depicted in the heraldry of the Foral of Lisbon (of D. Manuel I) in 1502, it is in 1510 (as also in some of the following years after 1510) the appearance of the Portuguese oceanic galleon in the records. It is however from 1519 that their number increases substantially, but gradually. It was an evolution and a gradual improvement in the design made during the first quarter of the century – technical improvement which continued until the second half of the century. The Portuguese galleon evolved from the square rigged caravel and was a compromise between the great carrack or nau and the aforementioned square rigged caravel or war caravel (also called caravela de armada or Portuguese man of war) that evolved into a new design of ship, but keeping its hull design similar to the galley.[1] It was also more maneuverable, more robust and heavily armed.

Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships first used by the Spanish as armed cargo carriers and later adopted by other European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal fleet units drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-1600s.[2] Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.

Such ships were the mainstay of maritime commerce into the early 19th century, and were often drafted into use as auxiliary naval war vessels—indeed, were the mainstay of contending fleets through most of the 150 years of the Age of Exploration—before the Anglo-Dutch wars brought purpose-built ship-rigged warships that thereafter dominated war at sea during the remainder of the age of sail.


The term galleon "large ship", comes from Spanish (Castilian) galeón "armed merchant ship", from Old French galion "little ship" (13c.), from Portuguese galeão "war ship", from Byzantine Greek galea "galley" + augmentative suffix -on.[3] Another possible origin is the Old French word galie meaning "galley;"[4] also from Byzantine Greek galea.[5] The galea was a warship of the Byzantine navy, and its name may be related to the Greek word galeos, "dogfish shark".[6] The term was originally given to certain types of war galleys in the Middle Ages. The Annali Genovesi mentions galleons of 80, 64 and 60 oars, used for battle and on missions of exploration, in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is very likely that the galleons and galliots mentioned in the accounts of the crusades were the same vessels.[citation needed] In the early 16th century, the Venetian galleoni was a new class of galley used to hunt down pirates in the Mediterranean.

Later, when the term started to be applied to sail-only vessels, it meant, like the English term "man of war", any large warship that was otherwise no different from the other sailing ships of the time.[citation needed]

Other Languages
Bahasa Banjar: Galiung
Bân-lâm-gú: Galleon
беларуская: Галіён
български: Галеон
bosanski: Galeon
brezhoneg: Galion
català: Galió
Чӑвашла: Галеон
čeština: Galeona
dansk: Galeon
Deutsch: Galeone
eesti: Galeoon
Ελληνικά: Γαλιόνι
español: Galeón
Esperanto: Galiono
euskara: Galeoi
فارسی: گالئون
français: Galion
galego: Galeón
한국어: 갤리온
hrvatski: Galijun
Ido: Galiono
Bahasa Indonesia: Galiung
íslenska: Galíon
italiano: Galeone
עברית: גליאון
kurdî: Galyon
lietuvių: Galeonas
magyar: Galleon
Bahasa Melayu: Geliung
Nederlands: Galjoen (schip)
日本語: ガレオン船
norsk: Gallion
norsk nynorsk: Gallion
occitan: Galion
Piemontèis: Galeon
polski: Galeon
português: Galeão
română: Galion
русский: Галеон
slovenčina: Galeóna
српски / srpski: Галеон
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Galeon
suomi: Kaljuuna
svenska: Galeon
Türkçe: Kalyon
українська: Галеон