ship of the line, large, square-rigged warship, carrying from 70 to 140 guns on two or more completely armed gun decks. In the great naval wars of the 17th, 18th, and early 19th cent., ships of the line were the largest naval units employed. They passed from use with the advent of the ironclad and the battleship. One of the few remaining examples of a ship of the line is Lord Nelson's flagship, the H.M.S. Victory, which has been preserved at Portsmouth, England.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.