Boy Scout Glossary

The Boy Scouts have some interesting terms. Explore the glossary to clear things up:


A 50-miler is a hike many troops will do as an Adventure Scout outing. It consists of a 50 mile hike from point A to point B through some wilderness.

It requires a considerable amount of planning. A location in the wilderness is decided to be the beginning point of the trip. Another location is decided as the ending point. There must be 50 walking miles (not as the crow flies) between the two points. Usually check points are arranged for parents or leaders to drop off food, medical supplies, and water. The trek is made with backpacks, tents, etc.

Plan on seeing many animals and much great scenery. Consider fishing, swimming, rafting, etc. Take time to make the trip fun, adventurous, and safe.


Lord Robert Baden-Powell is the founder of the Boy Scouts of America program.

Born in Paddinton, London on February 22, 1857 he was the eighth of ten children. His father died at a young age. He entered a school called Charterhouse in London. He loved to learn new things and played several instruments. He acted, worked with wood and brick as well as many other things. He was entered into the military and advanced quickly.

At age 43 he became a Major-General and soon became famous. He would rely on youth in military jobs and quickly learned that youth responded well to a challenge. He wrote a book, Aids to Scouting, which was published and began being used throughout the country. He began speaking at meetings and found a great interest in a boy's organization. He began to experiment with the boys and his leadership training. He published another book and it sold wildly. Boys began to form Patrols to try his ideas. In several years his ideas of scouting became well known and well practiced. In 1920 he had the first international Scout Jamboree and was dubbed the Chief Scout of the World.

Board of Review

With most advancements (all but that of Scout) a board, which is a group of two or more, of leaders comes together to interview the advancing Boy Scout. The board determines whether the scout has shown scouting principles in the activities he has done with the troop. It determines whether or not he has obtained the qualities expected of a scout in the next rank. The board ensures that the scout has been active in his troop and that he has passed off the appropriate requirements listed for that particular rank in the Scout Handbook. The board is not to quiz or scrutinize but to accept honest responses and motivate.

If the board finds the Scout to be worthy of advancement then they sign off on his records and in the next Court of Honor the scout will be awarded.


BSA is an acronym standing for Boy Scouts of America.


There are two definitions of compass. A compass is an instrument used to determine Magnetic North. The consistency of Magnetic North provides a marker by which one may determine direction when no other recognized points are available. Once North is established then East, South, and West may be determined. A compass is divided up into 360 degrees to better aid in finding a direction for hiking or traveling.

Another definition of compass for Boy Scouts is that of the symbol on the Scout Emblem. The symbol of the compass helps to remind Scouts to be as true and reliable as a compass in keeping to their Scouting ideals and showing others the way.

Lord Baden-Powell himself gave the answer, "Our badge we took from the 'North Point' used on maps for orienteering them with North". Lady Baden-Powell said later, "It shows the true way to go."

Council Patch

Each Council throughout the Scouting organization is distinguished by a patch worn on the left arm of the Scout uniform. It is usually designed by the council office and often a contest is held at some level for its design. The patches are commonly traded with Scouts from other councils as they participate in jamborees or other activities. Many time the collections are placed on blankets, jackets or other materials. Their design will most often consist of elements common to the region (i.e. dinosaurs for UT, Cow Skull for MT, Sharks for Hawaii). The patch size is regulated by the BSA organization. The patch required for your shirt can be obtained at your local council office.

Court of Honor

A Court of Honor is an event where Scouts are rewarded for achievement in the Scouting program. It is an opportunity for parents, leaders, and troop members to gather to motivate the boys and award them with patches and due praise for accomplishment and advancement. Remember the focus of Scouting is not to earn patches and ranks but to develop attributes consistent with the Scout Law through the program. Awards and patches assist in motivation.

A Court is held in a reverent location where an audience and podium are present. Parents, community members, and scouts attend. The Senior Patrol Leader or a Scoutmaster will conduct the meeting. There are many different ways the court should be held. It is not to be as serious of an occasion as a legal court. It is an honorary court directed to the progress of the boys. Often an "Eagle's Nest" is provided where those who attend who are Eagle Scouts are honored in a special seating arrangement near the stage or podium.

The typical Court of Honor has a fairly simple agenda. Refer to the Scoutmaster Handbook for details. You will find the agenda to be something like:

  1. Color Guard presents colors
  2. Intro with experiences, stories, and something meaningful to the boys
  3. Presentation of awards (include recognition of parents and other leaders)
  4. Some type of lesson to focus on purpose of scouting
  5. Scoutmaster's Minute
  6. Color Guard retires colors

Dutch Oven

A Dutch Oven is a large cast iron cooking pot.

Often Scout Troops will have cook offs where they cook cobblers, other cakes, soups, etc. They are heated by firewood, charcoal, etc.

One of the best methods for cooking with them is to dig a small pit in the dirt in a safe location so that the lid of the Dutch Oven is still above ground. Place hot coals in the hole and cook your meal slowly.

Field book

The Field Book provides outdoor information. You can find details on animals, plants, outdoor safety among other facts. It is not required but is very helpful.


A fundraiser is an event used to generate funds or money resources to pay for Scouting activities and supplies. The boys organize a way to make money so that people understand what the cause is. They fairly price whatever product or service they render and then sell or promote the event.

An example of a fundraiser would be to provide flags for families on certain patriotic holidays in exchange for a subscription. Each holiday the Scouts place a flag on the premises of the subscriber.

The key is to be creative, motivated, well-planned, and Scout-focused.


The Boy Scout Handbook is a required resource for any Boy Scout, leader, parent or anyone associated with the activities and advancement of Boy Scouts.

It provides program details, advancement details and most importantly details on how to train a Scout to live a Scout's life by possessing attributes of the Scout Law.

Contact your local Scoutmaster for required readings.


A Scout Jamboree of any sort is a large gathering of Scouts organized with many different types of activities, exhibitions and shows, food, and training. Smaller Jamborees may be held at a local level. Some, like the World or National Jamborees, are huge. Scouts may trade patches here, learn from different cultures, run obstacle courses, camp, tour city sites, meet with other Scouts, etc. They are a lot of fun and a great resource for development.

Leadership Position

Whether you are an adult or a youth in the program you will likely have some type of leaderships position. Leaders are a necessary part of the program. Scouts learn to follow and when it is appropriate to lead to accomplish goals. Below is a brief description of the positions. You may find extended descriptions and listed responsibilities in the Scoutmaster Handbook and Boy Scout Handbook.

Position Descriptions
Boy Scout A Boy Scout is a young man officially registered in the Boy Scouts of America organization. He has paid his dues and taken care of the necessary paperwork (contact your troop or council for latest requirements and paperwork). He is active in a troop and participates frequently in the activities designed for his personal improvement and that of other boys in the troop.

A Boy Scout must live by certain qualities, principles, and attributes. He should strive to be a leader when necessary and a diligent follower of good causes when it is appropriate.

He is to focus on civil, physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social development.

He is to use the vehicles of scout rank and merit to accomplish those objectives.

Scoutmaster The Scoutmaster is to oversee the troop. He is not to run the troop; that is the boys' job. The Troop Scoutmaster should be wise, exemplar, and respected of the youth. He should oversee that the boys are progressing and promote their activity. He should motivate. He is an adult. He is never alone with the boys. He lives the life a Scout should. He may use the Scoutmaster Handbook for aid.
Assistant Scoutmaster He (they) aides the Scoutmaster in motivating and organizing as well as leading a life of example for the boys. He attends meetings with the troop and is available to serve as needed.
Senior Patrol Leader Usually an older Scout, the Senior Patrol Leader is an example and an organizer for other Scouts and Patrol Leaders. His responsibilities are very important. He aids other Scouts by helping the Patrol Leaders plan and organize troop activities.
Patrol Leader The troop is divided into patrols for organizational purposes. One Scout is selected by the patrol under direction of the Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader to lead. He is not to coerce or politic but to guide and conduct patrol business as needed.
Assistant Patrol Leader Also chosen by the patrol with Scoutmaster direction, the Assistant Patrol Leader aids the patrol by leading through example and aiding the Patrol Leader in his responsibilities.
Scribe The Scribe has responsibility of keeping meeting minutes (notes) to aid in organization.
Guide The troop guide is usually someone who has significant experience as a Scout. He may be an older boy. He is to aid others in his troop in preparing and organizing trips, campouts, etc. It doesn't mean he walks around on hikes telling Scouts where to go. He guides them in their preparation and development as Scouts.
Grub Master Food. The grub master is responsible for the organization of food for Scouting activities. He is NOT responsible to bring or schedule all food. His role is to help members of the troop organize types, quantity, and storage of food as well as how it will be prepared. He is an aid, not a cook.
Chaplain Depending on the affiliated organization of the troop the Chaplain is responsible for religious aspects. Prayers may be held or the chaplain may educate others in the troop of religious cultures and ways. The Scoutmaster will be an aid in the function of the Chaplain in your troop.
Color Guard The Color Guard is responsible for presenting the colors (flags) of the troop. Usual flags to be presented are the Flag of the United States of America, the Troop Flag, and the State Flag. They are to care for the flags and educate others on proper usage and display of the flags.
Committee Chairperson The Committee may be one of the most crucial elements of the Scout organization. A chairperson will usually have defined responsibilities (i.e. troop financial chairperson, troop transportation chairperson, troop quartermaster chairperson, etc). They meet as needed with a purpose of helping the troop run smoothly. They are to take the load off the Scoutmaster as much as possible. They should meet with him and Patrol Leaders to plan activities.
Quartermaster He is responsible for the troop gear organization and inventory. He is a boy leader, not an adult leader. He should know what the troop has and where it is. He works closely with the associated Chairperson.
Historian In conjunction with the Scribe the Historian keeps a history of activities, experiences, campouts, etc. He may keep it in a troop journal or photo album.


We think most people know what a map is. However, there are different types of maps. You will learn about them in your troop meetings. As a 2-D version of the 3-D world you will use them often to find your way around.

Merit Badge

Merit Badges are awards earned for doing a set of character building, educational requirements. The actual number of badges changes from time to time but there are more than 100. The requirements for each merit badge are specific to a particular topic and the badge is named accordingly.

21 merit badges are required to become the rank of Eagle Scout. 15 of the 21 badges are named specifically and any 6 of the remaining badges may be earned according to a Scouts interests. If a Scout receives more than the necessary then the badge will be awarded too and for each five additional badges a Palm is awarded.

Merit Badge Instructions and Requirements:

Mess Kit

Within the military the term "Mess" refers to food and eating in a group. A Mess Kit to a Scout is a kit of pots, pans, plates, and utensils used for cooking on a campout. You can pick one up at any outdoors store or at a place like Walmart. They usually come in a tightly little bundle where the larger pans encase the rest of the pieces. They come made of aluminum and are inexpensive.

Night Games

Scouts love to play games at night. When the sun sets and the tents are up and the camp is ready, all sorts of games can be played either in pitch black or with flashlights. Since the some of the purpose of Scouts is to get the boys away from the video games and into an unknown world, many games can be a fun adventure. Some Scouts love to play Capture the Flag or have flashlight wars. Flashlight tag is often a fun one. Share your favorite night game or learn about some in the site forums.

Old Glory

The term Old Glory refers to the Flag of the United States of America. Boy Scouts and those associated are expected to honor the flag. It is to be handled with care and presented only in certain circumstances.

Order of the Arrow

Order of the Arrow tends to be an elite organization within the Boy Scout program. It is not required for a boy but can be a lot of fun and very adventurous as the brotherhood plan and run activities. The basis of the Order is centered on Native North American Indians. Often members sleep in tepees, dress in Indian clothing, trade as in times of old, and fellowship as a tribe might. Members do not try to mimic any particular group but instead try to learn principles according to the Scouting values. It is a lot of fun and is just another resource for the boys to grow. There are different levels in the OA specified by the bars a person has on their OA sash.

Learn more about the Order of the Arrow (OA):


There are six main components to the scouting organization. Each is intended to support the boys in their development as young men within the Scouting program. The components are: The boys, parents, troop, committee, BSA organization, and community.
Boys The BSA is all about the development of young men into honorable, honest, valuable young men. Boys in the Scouting program should look to be adventurous, have fun, grow, learn, and make awesome relationships with other scouts and leaders. Advancing in rank is important but it is the vehicle to helping a Scout develop crucial values and views on life. Boys will be successful who put their heart into the Scouting program.
Parents Although many may not understand it, parents are the most critical element of a young man's success in the Boy Scout program. They should motivate, support, and stay up-to-speed on their boy's progress. If the parents catch the vision of what needs to happen in the program they will be able to play a huge role in a Scout's progress towards Eagle. See the section on what parents can do to help.
Troop A troop consists of a number of boys and adult leaders. The troop is generally defined by some physical boundaries or the boundaries of some other organization like a church group.

Leadership in the troop is important. The boys are to run the troop with the council and guidance of the adult leaders.

Troops are broken up into patrols which are mini units of organization. Each patrol has a Patrol leader as well as boys serving other leadership positions. Patrols report to the troop leadership which consists of Senior Patrol Leaders, etc.

The Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters are available to aid in the progress of the troop and the advancement of the individual boys.

Committee Little known to many is the importance of a troop committee. The committee consists of adults striving to support the troop and the development of the boys. They meet monthly or weekly depending on need to discuss troop finances, inventory, transportation, permission slips, advancement, etc. Typically members of the committee will be appointed to look over one specific area of the troop. When events or trips are organized they work closely with the Scoutmaster and the Senior Patrol Leader to make sure things run smoothly.
BSA organization (District/Council) The official organization of the BSA provides huge resources in direction and ideas for a successful troop. Commonly the District and Council will sponsor events and provide training . The local troop should look to participate in as many larger events as possible. Often many merit badges and other forms of advancement can be earned at these functions.

Find your local Council Office:

Local Council Office

Community The boys are to learn how to function within the community, globally and locally. They interact frequently with members of the community during their activities and merit badge requirements. The boys also may ask for funds from people within the community usually by having some type of fundraiser. It is important that the troop in an area be aware of their impact on the community and function as a service group as often as possible to maintain good standing with the public.

Patrol Flag

Patrols can take pride in their small organization. A patrol flag is a crucial part of a patrol's identity. Patrols usually have a name, a call, a symbol (bear, eagle, bobcat, lynx) and they will design their flag to represent what they stand for. Patrols tend to treat their flag like they would the flag of their country while obviously respecting the difference in importance between them. A major difference is that sometimes a patrol flag may be stolen (not defaced) in a friendly game of capture the flag.


A Rendezvous refers to the way mountain men used to meet to learn from each other, trade things they had made or acquired, or just enjoy the food and camaraderie. It is usually run at the council or district level and set up for the boys to learn and grow. It is often a great place to earn fun merit badges and other awards.

Round Table

The BSA organization focuses heavily on leader training. That is why it has been successful for many years. Round Tables are usually held monthly by some number of troops depending on council and district specifications. Often council leaders oversee the proceedings and trainings. Scoutmasters can learn how to motivate, discipline, and train their Scouts as well as learning what role they play within a troop. Senior Boy Scout leaders often attend to become prepared for future leadership positions and to be able to know how to run the troop. Remember, the Scoutmaster is there to oversee but not run the troop. The boys are to do that. If the boys are not ready for that then they will be trained over time to take the reigns. Round Table is a critical meeting to attend regularly if you want to have a successful troop. Round Tables are usually well organized and run by people who embody the Scouting purpose.

Scoutmaster's Handbook

Just as the Boy Scout Handbook is critical to guiding a boy through the Scout program, the Scoutmaster's Handbook is equally important. You will learn organizational info as well as ways to manage a troop and work with the boys. You will learn to either start up a troop or keep an established one running. Learn from years of experience and program development to have a successful program.

Scoutmaster's Minute

Though many Scoutmasters may not realize it they are huge examples to the boys in their troop. The way a Scoutmaster acts, talks, prepares, and lives a Scout life will affect the boys for the rest of their lives. One tool every Scoutmaster should use on frequent occasion is the Scoutmaster's Minute. This is when the Scoutmaster sits the boys down and takes a minute to share some life learned wisdom. It is often best to share a story or experience the boys may relate with to promote an important value for the boys. They learn quickly that this is a reverent time without horseplay and their attention should be undivided so they may learn some wisdom. The Scoutmaster responsibility is significant during these 2 to 10 minutes. Be sure to focus on positive influence. This is the Scoutmaster's chance to shine.

Service Project

The man who brought Scouting to America was William Dickson Boyce. He visited London and was met by an unknown Scout who helped him find his way. He offered the boy a tip and he replied, "No, sir, I am a scout. Scouts do not accept tips for Good Turns."

The Scouting program is intended to teach key values. One of them is to serve other regularly without receiving reward. A service project is an event organized by the troop or a scout to serve some worthy cause (there are many out there) without receiving reward. Maybe a trail or road needs to be maintained. maybe the elderly need some aid. Maybe children need to be taught how to stay safe. The idea is to be creative in helping others.

Skill Award

Skill awards were once required as a young scout to show that he was ready to advance. They were done away with as a requirement.

"Basic Skills and Skill Awards. The first three ranks have always contained a long list of basic skills to learn. In 1972, this list was reorganized into 12 "skill awards." Each skill award was a metal belt loop that provided "instant recognition" for completing a group of related skills (the 12 awards were: Camping, Citizenship, Communications, Community Living, Conservation, Cooking, Environment, Family Living, First Aid, Hiking, Physical Fitness, Swimming). In 1989, the BSA dropped the skill awards, returning to the system used before 1972." - Troop 97: A Brief Background of Scouting in the United States 1910 to Today


Skits are miniature plays that teach some moral or serve as pure comic relief. They usually last a couple of minutes and involve members of most of a troop or patrol. Typically they are planned spur of the moment and done around a campfire or makeshift stage in the outdoors.


Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters become "trained" once they have attended the specific BSA program called the Fast Start Training Program. It takes a few hours and may be sponsored by the council. You will receive a trained patch to be worn below and touching the emblem of leadership on the left shoulder.

Learn more about the Fast Start Training Program:


The Scout uniform is very important and required at most Scouting functions.

Learn about and Purchase Scouting Needs:

Placement of Scout Insignia:



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