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galleon,oceangoing warship used by the European naval powers in the 15th and 16th cent. A large, cumbersome vessel, the galleon was three-masted and square-rigged, usually with two decks, and with its main batteries in broadsides. Galleons were much used to transport treasure and other cargo from the Americas, particularly by Spanish and Portuguese traders. The military disadvantage of the typical galleon was shown clearly in the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), when unwieldy Spanish galleons were outmaneuvered by the lighter, swifter English vessels constructed by John HawkinsHawkins or Hawkyns, Sir John,
1532–95, English admiral. In 1562–63 and in 1564–65 he led extremely profitable expeditions that captured slaves on the W African coast, shipped them across the Atlantic,
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Nautical a large sailing ship having three or more masts, lateen-rigged on the after masts and square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast, used as a warship or trader from the 15th to the 18th centuries