a Buccaneer vs a Pirate: Difference and Comparison

Maritime piracy has been a global threat since ancient times. These thieves aim to conduct criminal violence, take away the treasures and even kidnap people.

The two main types of sea thieves are Buccaneers and Pirates. Both the terms are considered synonymous but have distinct differences.

Key Takeaways

  1. Buccaneers primarily targeted Spanish ships in the Caribbean during the 17th century.
  2. Pirates engage in robbery and violence at sea without discrimination toward any particular nation or group.
  3. Buccaneers were often more organized and had a code of conduct, whereas pirates were more opportunistic and unregulated.

Buccaneer vs Pirate

A buccaneer is a term used to describe a pirate who operated in the Caribbean and was majorly focused on attacking Spanish ships and settlements. Pirates are seafarers who engage in acts of piracy for personal gain, such as robbery, theft, or hijacking of ships, regardless of their origin.

Buccaneer vs Pirate

Buccaneers were associated with French and English ships and launched attacks on the Spanish ships. They even received a letter of marque granted by the authorities of Dutch, British, and French.


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These letters were an official sanction that could provide protection. However, on being caught by the opponent country, these letters were not considered, and the Buccaneers were executed.

While pirates refer to all thieves and robbers on the open sea, they do not work or associate with any country, so any country does not validate their actions. They conduct their robbery over a boat. Pirates aim to conduct criminal violence.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBuccaneerPirate
Word derivation Derived from a Spanish word called “bucanero” and also from the Caribbean word “buccan”Derived from Latin word “pirata” which means sea-robber
DefinitionA separate group of pirates of the Caribbean Sea from 17th to 18th-centuryAttackers of ships or towns to rob or kidnap people and treasure
Present scenarioBuccaneers have become extinct Pirates are still present
Region of attack Concentrated in the Caribbean Sea on the Spanish shipsAll over the world, especially in heavy travel regions
LegitimacyAmbiguous nature, as some groups had the letter of marque granted by the sponsoring country for protection Globally condemned and severely punished when caught

What is Buccaneer?

Buccaneer referred to privateers or sailors of the Caribbean Sea, especially during the 17th and 18th centuries. These Caribbean privateers were also called the Brethren of the Coast.

Buccaneer was also referred to as hunters of Tortuga and Hispaniola that survived on wild boars and cattle. The meat caught was smoked over a slow fire.

The term buccaneer is derived from a Spanish word called “bucanero” and also from the Caribbean word “buccan”. Another French word called “boucane” is considered to be a source of the word as it refers to the frames to smoke meat.

Buccaneers are different from other Caribbean sailors as the sailors have permanent bases built in the West Indies. Buccaneers even arranged for legal covers for their attacks.

So, they had the potential to plunder any nation with protection (a letter of marque granted by the authorities of Dutch, British, and French). Even if they did not have valid letters, they did not care for legal niceties.

Buccaneers have expertise in climbing aboard before the rise of alarm and killing any officers or helmsman causing hindrance. They even raided towns from the landward side.

The sack of Campeche is the first land attack by buccaneers. Buccaneers even had severe punishments whenever they were caught. The punishments were like public executions or dead bodies enclosed in iron cages.


What is Pirate?

A Pirate is referred to as a robber who conducts illegal violence at the sea or on the shores. The word pirate is derived from the Latin word “pirata”, which means sea robber.

The word pirate is also inspired by the Greek word “peiratēs”, which means the one who attacks. The earliest incidents of pirates were around the 14th century.

The ancient Greeks considered being pirates as a feasible profession, though it was looked down on as a profession with disgrace. Pirates not only robbed ships but also abducted women and children. They were even sold as slaves.

Pirates had their hierarchy for the distribution of money and plunder. The plunder and loot were in the form of equipment of the ship and cargo.

Some plunder even included jewels, while others included water, alcohol, food, weapons, and clothing. Though men dominated the profession of pirates, there were female pirates, too.

Though women were considered bad luck and could lead to disputes, some women pirates dressed and disguised themselves as men.

Some major shipwrecks of all time are Whydah Gally (1984), Queen Anne’s Revenge (1996), and Golden Fleece (2009). These shipwrecks had taken place long ago but were recovered later. There are strict laws in every country for the caught pirates.


Main Differences Between a Buccaneer and a Pirate

  1. Buccaneers settled on the island of Hispaniola, while pirates did not have any specific settlement place.
  2. Buccaneers worked for French and English ships to fight against Spanish ships, while pirates did not work for any country.
  3. Buccaneers attacked ships of the Caribbean Sea, while pirates attacked ships all over the world, especially in regions of heavy-traffic sea routes.
  4. Buccaneers had an official letter of sanction and protection from the sponsoring country, while pirates did not have any protection and were severely punished when caught.
  5. Buccaneers were a specific group and have now become extinct, while pirates have been from the 14th century and exist to date.
Difference Between a Buccaneer and a Pirate
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