The name originates from the French word for stern, la poupe, from Latin puppis. Thus the poop deck is technically a stern deck, which in sailing ships was usually elevated as the roof of the stern or "after" cabin, also known as the "poop cabin". On sailing ships, the helmsman would steer the craft from the quarterdeck, immediately in front of the poop deck. At the stern, the poop deck provides an elevated position ideal for observation.
On modern, motorized warships, the ship functions which were once carried out on the poop deck have been moved to the bridge, usually located in a superstructure.
Located at the stern, this short deck takes its name from the Latin word puppis – which means after deck or rear. Guns were rarely carried on this deck. It was mainly used as a viewpoint and signalling platform. The poop deck also gave protection to the men at the wheel and provided a roof for the captain's cabin. The ropes controlling the yards (spars) and sails of the main and mizzen masts were operated from the poop deck.