WHARF, a place for loading or unloading ships or vessels, particularly a platform of timber, stone or other material along the shore of a harbour or along the bank of a navigable river against which vessels may lie and discharge their cargo or be loaded. The O. Eng. word hwerf meant literally a turning or turning-place (hweorfan, to turn, cf. Goth, hwairban, Gr. /capiroj, wrist), and was thus used particularly of a bank of earth, a dam which turns the flow of a stream; the cognate word in Dutch, werf, meant a wharf or a shipbuilder's yard, cf. Dan. vaerft, dockyard, and the current meaning of the word is probably borrowed from Dutch or Scandinavian languages.
In English law all water-borne goods must be landed at specified places, in particular hours and under supervision; wharves, which by the Merchant Shipping Act 1895, 492, include quays, docks and other premises on which goods may be lawfully landed, are either " sufferance wharves," authorized by the commissioners of customs under bond, or " legal wharves " specially appointed by treasury warrant and exempt from bond. There are also wharves authorized by statute or by prescriptive right. The owner or occupier of a wharf is styled a " wharfinger," properly " wharf ager," with an intrusive n, as in " messenger " and " passenger."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)