The word locker as it is used today comes directly from the jargon of the sea. But what we now think of as a "locker"is a sterile, sad shadow of what seamen meant when they said: "I'll fetch my sextant from my locker, shall I?" Or something like that.
Above is a sea locker. The word locker specifically came from the fact that the box could be locked (seriously!) with each man usually wearing the key on a cord around his neck. Locker took on the meaning of not only the oak box itself but the fact that everything in it would be reliably there and unmolested the next time you dipped into it. Locker became a euphemism for something sound, trustworthy and kind of "a place for everything and everything in its place." Sailors are notorious for their love of neatness, reliability and routine.
Each man had his own locker and the accumulated baggage of all the men aboard (or one man, depending) was known as dunnage. The one above is relatively large and fancy. This kind would doubtless belong to a warrant man, Midshipman or surgeon at least. The average foremast jack would have a smaller version, sometimes no bigger than a bread box. Jack didn't have more than one shift of clothes and he certainly didn't have weapons, uniforms or medicines to worry about.
Locker took on other meanings as well. The divisions in storerooms, such as the pantry or powder room, would be called lockers. The bosun had separate lockers for cordage, arms, etc. that belonged to the ship. And then of course there was Davy Jones locker. This referred to the bottom of the sea where nothing is ever lost because you know exactly where it has gone.
Now, unfortunately, this is the meaning of locker:
And, for some of us anyway, it doesn't conjure up neatness or security but a time in our lives we'd rather forget. There's a reason the sea is romantic.
Happy Saturday, Brethren. I'm off to volunteer at the RCCA Christmas Towne Bazaar at South High School in Anchorage, AK. I plan to avert my eyes from the lockers, and think of sea chests instead.