Ship naming conventions

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Ships are usually given names based on ship naming conventions. These vary based on who owns the ship, and under what flag they are registered.

United States Navy

Within the United States Navy, all ships begin with the designation of USS. This was established by Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt. Originally the designations where:

  • USF (United States Frigate)
  • USFS (United States Flagship)
  • USS (United States Ship)

Of these, only the USS remains in use.

Following the name of the ship, the hull classification and hull number are written in parentheses. If the ship was launched before the hull classification, it is often written with the year of the launch. This helps distinguish different ships with the same name. For example, the Enterprise:

Royal (British) Navy

The names of British ships begin with HMS, standing for Her/His Majesty's Ship.

This has not always been the case. Edward III's personal warship was '"Cog Thomas". James Cook's ship "Endeavour" is often still referred to as HMB (for bark/barque). Matthew Flinders began his ill-fated return to England in a ship designated HMCS "Cumberland". His Majesty's Colonial Ship.

Canadian Forces Maritime Command (MARCOM)

The names of Canadian ships begin with either HMCS or NCSM—Her/His Majesty's Canadian Ship and Navire Canadien de Sa Majesté, respectively.