Wikipedia:Naming conventions (ships)

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This guideline describes Wikipedia's conventions for naming articles about ships and for referring to ships in the body of articles. See Wikipedia:Article titles for more general naming conventions. See WikiProject Ships for more guidance on writing articles about ships.

Ships share names with people, places, animals and other things. Articles about ships must be named to distinguish them from other similarly-named ships, as well as from other things with which they share a name.

Naming articles about civilian ships[edit]

Civilian ship articles should follow standard Wikipedia naming conventions. These rules apply to named boats and yachts as well as to ships.

Optional prefix[edit]

A typical civilian ship article name has the following form: <optional prefix> <italicized name> <(optional disambiguation)>[1]

An article about a ship not known to have a prefix should use only the ship's name, if that name is unambiguous:

Since the optional prefix is, in fact, optional, it may be omitted for ships with unambiguous names even when common prefixes (e.g. MS or MV) are sometimes used for them in other sources:

However, if a ship is best known in combination with a ship prefix, include the prefix in the article name. Use of the prefix can also provide disambiguation:

If a ship has had more than one prefix during its lifetime, choose the best-known for the article and create a redirect from the other prefixed names:

Italicized name[edit]

Ship names are always italicized:

  • Niña, not Niña

Optional disambiguation[edit]

When the name is ambiguous, append disambiguation information in parentheses.

The date of launching should be used if there are several ships with the same name. Sometimes vessels will share a launch date as well as a name. In that case adding the place of launch is necessary:

Naming articles about military ships[edit]

Military ship articles should follow standard Wikipedia naming conventions. These rules apply to both named and unnamed vessels.

A typical military ship article name has the following form: <prefix> <italicized name> <(hull or pennant number or disambiguation)>[1]

Many military ships and boats were not named and are known only by their hull or pennant number (see §Ships with hull number only).

Some navies don't use standard ship prefixes (see §Ships from navies without ship prefixes).


For ships of navies that have standard ship prefixes, use the prefix in the article name:

Do not use punctuation within the ship prefix:

  • USS Monitor, not U.S.S. Monitor

Do not use the hull classification symbol as a prefix:

  • USS Nimitz, not CVN Nimitz

Do not use prefixes that predate their use, even though some authors sometimes "backdate" prefixes in this way. In particular, do not use the HMS prefix for English ships from before 1660. The term "His Majesty's Ship" was introduced around 1660 and was routinely abbreviated HMS from about 1780 onwards:

  • Henry Grace à Dieu, not HMS Henry Grace à Dieu.

Italicized name[edit]

Ship names are always italicized:

  • HMS Dreadnought, not HMS Dreadnought

Hull or pennant number or disambiguation[edit]

See §Disambiguating ships with the same name. For an article about a modern-day ship, include the ship's hull number (US Navy hull classification symbol) or pennant numbers (Royal Navy, and many European and Commonwealth navies), if it is available, sufficiently unique, and well known:[1]

For a ship that does not have a hull and pennant number, and especially when more than one ship had the name, disambiguate the article name with the ship's launch year.

In instances where a ship was captured or otherwise acquired by a navy and the article is placed at that title, use the date of capture or entry to the navy, rather than the date of launch, so the name and prefix are in agreement with the date disambiguation.

On Wikipedia, US Navy and US Coast Guard hull numbers are hyphenated (the US Navy itself is not consistent in this respect). Coast Guard hull numbers always start with a "W". Pennant numbers do not have a hyphen or space (this matches the number as it typically appears on the side of the ship). Note that not all pennant numbers have an initial letter ("flag superior"), for example HMS Ark Royal (91). Also note that in recent decades the Australian and Canadian navies have moved towards American-style three letter pennant number prefixes. These should be written with a space, for example HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331).

If a ship had several hull numbers in her career, use the best-known for an article title. If none of the several hull numbers is clearly the best-known, use the first. Redirect others to the article, listing all in the article's lead section:

Hull number only, alphanumeric names[edit]

Many types of ship, such as American PT boats and German U-boats, are officially known only by a hull number. In these cases, it can be best to spell out the ship type (e.g. German submarine U-238), but be sure the ship type name is correct. In many cases, the designation is not an abbreviation and may not relate directly to a ship's class or even type. For example, PT-658 can be a redirect to the main article Motor Torpedo Boat PT-658, but U-238 must be disambiguated, because U-238 also refers to Uranium 238.

Articles about vessels with alphanumeric names should use the prefix followed by the name, such as HMS A1, HMS E11, HMS M1.

Ships from navies without ship prefixes[edit]

Some navies or nations don't use standard ship prefixes. Titles for articles about these ships have the form: <nationality> <type> <italicized name>


The ship's country in adjective form; for example:

  • Brazilian
  • Japanese (though later Japanese ships use JS (Japanese Ship) or JDS (Japanese Defense Ship))
  • Ottoman (though later Turkish ships use TCG (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Gemisi))
  • German (though early German ships use SMS (Seiner Majestät Schiff))


Do not be over-specific about the ship type:

  • Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō, not Japanese light aircraft carrier Shōhō

Italicized name[edit]

Ship names are always italicized:

Invented prefixes[edit]

Do not make up a ship prefix for a navy that did not use one. Thus:

  • German battleship Bismarck, not DKM Bismarck
  • Japanese battleship Yamato, not HIJMS Yamato or IJN Yamato
  • Italian battleship Giulio Cesare, not RM Giulio Cesare
  • Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, not RFS Admiral Kuznetsov

Some authors use invented prefixes for consistency with "USS", "HMS" etc. It was not a mistake for these authors to do that in their own works, but at Wikipedia we choose not to do so. To forestall attempts to move articles to the wrong place, you might want to add redirects from popular invented ship prefixes:

Naming articles about ship classes[edit]

Articles about a ship class should follow standard Wikipedia naming conventions.

A typical ship class article name has the following form: <class name>-class <ship type>

Class name[edit]

A ship class may be named for a member of the class (usually the first or lead ship) or the class may be named for an attribute common to all of the ships of the class. When the class is named for a member of the class, the class name is italicized. When the class is named for a common theme or attribute, the class name is not italicized:

  • Evergreen State is a member of the Evergreen State class
  • HMT Juniper is a member of the Tree class
  • not HMT Juniper is a member of the Tree class

Ship type[edit]

The type of ship that comprises the class: aircraft carrier, trawler, frigate, icebreaker. Do not be overly specific in the type:

  • aircraft carrier, not light escort fleet assault carrier

Use the singular form of the ship type:

  • submarine, not submarines

Uses of the class name as a noun are not hyphenated, while adjectival references are hyphenated. Article names that follow the form just described are adjectival because the compound phrase made up of <class name> and "class" modifies the noun <ship type>. As such, article titles should be hyphenated:

  • Evergreen State-class ferry, not Evergreen State class ferry
  • Tree-class trawler, not Tree class trawler

In article titles and in article text, use a hyphen; do not use an en dash (–) or em dash (—).

  • Tree-class trawler, not Tree–class trawler or Tree—class trawler

Using ship names in articles[edit]

A ship's name is always italicized. Prefixes, hull or pennant numbers, and disambiguation suffixes are rendered in normal (i.e., non-italic) font.

  • USS Nimitz, not USS Nimitz or USS Nimitz
  • USS Nimitz (CVN-68), not USS Nimitz (CVN-68)

Use the ship's prefix the first time you introduce the ship, and thereafter omit it. The prefix need not be given if it is obvious from context (for example, in a list of ships of the Royal Navy there is no need to repeat "HMS"). When writing about civilian ships, consider omitting common prefixes (e.g. "MS") from the article body, as italicizing the ship's name is often enough to identify it as a ship.

Do not use the definite article the before a prefix or when introducing a ship for the first time; e.g., at the beginning of the lead section:

  • HMS Victory was ..., not The HMS Victory was ...

Generally, a definite article is not needed before a ship's name, although its use is not technically wrong:

  • Victory was Nelson's flagship ... (preferred)
  • The Victory was Nelson's flagship ... (not recommended)

Occasionally use of the article makes text less ambiguous

  • The Belfast was bombed (unambiguous)
  • HMS Belfast was bombed (unambiguous)
  • Belfast was bombed (ambiguous, though the italics are a hint)

Make a link from the first mention of each ship in an article, even if Wikipedia does not yet have an article about that ship. If you do not know how to disambiguate it, link to the index page for its name: this will allow the link to be found and fixed later.

Do not give the hull number or other disambiguation information unless it is immediately relevant. Someone who needs to know can follow the link:

  • Vanguard was Nelson's ..., not Vanguard (1787) was Nelson's ...
  • Yorktown was sunk ..., not Yorktown (CV-5) was sunk ...
  • "the later Lexington (CV-16) was laid down as Cabot but renamed in honour of the earlier Lexington (CV-2)"—disambiguation information is needed.

Always use the full name of the ship unless a widely known shortening, akin to a nickname, exists. Do not omit parts of the name just because they are, for example, common for all ships of a shipping company.

  • Edward M. Cotter, not Cotter

Possessive form of a ship's name[edit]

When using the possessive form of a ship's name in articles, use the {{'}} template to provide proper styling and avoid encoding problems that can occur when an apostrophe follows italicized text. The apostrophe and "s" are not italicized:

  • Linked names: {{USS|Ticonderoga||2}}{{'}}s displays as Ticonderoga's
  • Regular names: ''Ticonderoga''{{'}}s displays as Ticonderoga's


Ships may be referred to by either feminine pronouns ("she", "her") or neuter pronouns ("it", "its"). Either usage is acceptable, but each article should be internally consistent and exclusively employ only one style. As with all optional styles, articles should not be changed from one style to another without clear and substantial reason.[2]

Using ship class names in articles[edit]

A ship class can take the name of a class member or it can take a name that is thematically common to all members of the class. When the class takes its name from a member of the class, the name is italicized:

Thematically common class names are rendered in normal font:

Additionally, ship class names have a noun form and an adjectival form:

When creating links to ship-class articles, useful editing shortcut templates are: {{sclass}} (italicized font, hyphenated) and {{sclass2}} (normal font, hyphenated). See the template documentation for usage guidelines.

Use the noun form when the class name does not modify another noun:

  • Construction of the Natick class began at ...
  • ... last tugboat of the Natick class.

Use the adjectival form when the class name modifies another noun:

  • Natick-class names ...
  • ... two Natick-class z-drive tugs ...

Disambiguating ships with the same name[edit]

It is extremely common for many ships to share a name. Therefore disambiguation needs special attention.

For older ships predating the modern pennant/hull number system, the most widely recognisable fact about the ship is its date of launch or construction. This is a unique identifier for a ship with a particular name in navies where names are customarily re-used and is applicable generally to all ships, unlike local naval identification numbers:

In instances where a ship was captured or otherwise acquired by a navy or shipping company, or simply renamed, and the article is placed at that title, use the date that is in agreement with the name and prefix (such as the date of capture or entry to the navy or fleet, or the date of the renaming) rather than the date of launch.

In a few cases, one ship is so much better-known than others of the same name that she need not be disambiguated. For example:

It should be noted that European navies reuse pennant numbers, so ships of the same name may have the same pennant numbers; the second and third RFA Sir Galahad (L3005), for example are disambiguated by launch year:

Make an index page that lists all the ships in a navy with the same name:

For well-known names that are shared between navies, or between military and civilian ships, also disambiguate at the usual Wikipedia disambiguation page for the name:

Discussion at WP:SHIPS in November 2017 resulted in consensus that ships bearing the same name will be disambiguated by way of lists, in the form of Set Index Articles, such as List of ships named Albatross, with naval ships such as HMS Albatross, SMS Albatross, USS, etc. redirecting to the list. For editing guidance, see WP:SHIPMOS.

Ships that changed name or nationality[edit]

An article about a ship that changed name or nationality should be placed at the best-known name, with a redirect from the other name. Examples:

But if the ship had significant careers in two navies, it may be best to create two articles with one ending at the transfer and the other beginning then, depending on how long the articles are and how extensive the transformation of the ship. For example:

Ships whose class and designation changed[edit]

If an entire class of ships was reclassified (such as in the 1975 USN ship reclassification), be consistent and make the decision once for all the ships of the class:

  • The Knox- and Garcia-class frigates are named with the FF (frigate) classification, not DE (destroyer escort). (Justification: known as frigates for the majority of their service.)
  • The Castle-class corvettes are named with pennant numbers starting K, not F. (Justification: best known for service during World War II.)

Ship class articles[edit]

Articles about a ship class should be named (class name)-class (type); for example, Ohio-class submarine. Do not be overly specific in the type; for example, use "aircraft carrier", not "light escort fleet assault carrier". Use the singular form of the ship type; for example, "submarine", not "submarines".

Uses of the class as a noun are not hyphenated, while adjectival references are hyphenated, as in Ohio-class submarine: if in doubt, do not hyphenate. Note the separation of submarine as a separate link; this is not required, but does allow the reader to look up the general term directly instead of being plunged into the technical discussion of a ship class.

When the class is named after a member of the class, italicize the class name, for example the Lion class of battlecruisers is named after HMS Lion. But when the class is not named after a member of the class, the class name is not italicized, for example the Battle class of destroyers is named after battles; there is no HMS Battle that is a member of that class.

Ship classes may need to be disambiguated by either nationality or launch date:

Country and navy-specific articles[edit]

Articles which name the country or navy in the article title should conform to the country-specific guidelines. This states that:

In general, country-specific articles should be named using the form: "(item) of (country)"... This will usually hold true in other geography-specific topics, such as for cities, continents, provinces, states, etc.

Note navies are country or geography-specific.


  1. ^ a b c If there is only one ship of the name, it is wrong to disambiguate, per WP:PRECISE.
  2. ^ 2019 discussion

See also[edit]