cutter, small, one-masted sailing vessel, with a rig similar to that of a sloop except that it usually has a sliding bowsprit and a topmast. From 1800 to 1830 cutters were in service between England and France. They were also employed to pursue smugglers, their speed and easy handling fitting them admirably for the task. These revenue cutters were so well known that the name was applied to the revenue vessel even after steam had replaced sails, and vessels of the Coast Guard are still called cutters. The name is also used for a heavy rowboat carried on large ships.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.