It is unknown how exactly the Xebec was first developed, but sources indicate that it was derived from the dhow, a sailing ship used off the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, Sindh, India, and East Africa. The name itself is somewhat of an enigma, and is thought to refer to a fishing vessel used in North Africa.
That said, the most common use of the Xebec in Western memory has been as a pirate raiding vessel, being outfitted with both oars and broadside guns. For this reason, the Xebec was popular with pirate crews who terrorised the Mediterranean, because its shallow draught allowed it to be hidden along the small islets that dotted the Mediterranean, and its agility also allowed it to take on larger but clumsier merchant vessels. This efficacy was not lost on the Spanish and the French, who subsequently maintained fleets of similarly-styled warships in their Mediterranean fleets well until the 19th century.