Is the ship a 'she'?

There is a tradition of referring to ships and boats of any size as "she". Some argue that it is anachronistic, even insulting towards women (see, for instance, The Guardian). I find it pointless and confusing, like a purposeless exception to a rule.

What do you think? Would you still say "the boat and her crew" in a contract or a court document? And does "its crew" sound wrong to you?


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These objections contributed to the decision by the National Weather Service to discontinue its practice of identifying hurricanes solely by women's names.
The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style (2005)​
I asked around re this usage and found that the tradition of referring to a ship as 'she' is alive and well. People will still say 'the ship and her crew', esp. if they have an affinity for the vessel: if, for instance, a member of the crew is talking about the ship. The vessel may be called 'Bruce' and still be referred to as 'Bruce and her crew.'

The tradition is gender-based, but the amount of sexism brought into it depends on individual bias & intentionality. One may refer to a vessel as 'she' because one believes 'she' must be treated right. Or because one has thrown a lot of money at 'her', the implication being that women are extravagant.

I was thinking about this tradition while watching "Ford v. Ferrari", where Ken Miles (Christian Bale) repeatedly refers to his car as 'girl'.

That said, 'a ship & its crew' is perfectly acceptable, probably even preferable. Personally, I wouldn't use 'her' in an official document.
Ενδιαφέρον άρθρο για το θέμα:

Metaphorical Gender in English: Feminine Boats, Masculine Tools and Neuter Animals

Seafarers, historians and writers alike provide various reasons for the tradition of calling ships she, ranging from viewing a vessel as a motherly, womb-like, life-sustaining figure to jokingly likening a ship to a woman who is expensive to keep and needs a man to guide her and a lick of paint to look good. Some view the practice as outdated and patronizing toward women, while others view it as an important tradition and a sign of respect toward the vessel.
Just as we have abandoned feminine pronouns for hurricanes, and as the explicit mention of gender (when irrelevant) and gender stereotypes become increasingly criticized, many institutions have begun referring to ships as neuter entities. The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) as well as the style guides for the Associated Press and the New York Times recommend treating ships as neuter. However, the Royal Navy and the US Navy continue to refer to ships using both she and it. In general, feminizing and masculinizing inanimate objects is considered outdated or poetic in English, and the practice is discouraged in official documents, newspapers and other formal contexts.


Staff member
Ωραία ερώτηση, που μας επιτρέπει να κάνουμε προεκτάσεις.

Τι ονόματα δίνουμε στα άψυχα (εργαλεία, μηχανήματα κ.ο.κ.); Δηλαδή πώς τα αισθανόμαστε, από τη στιγμή που τα ανθρωποποιούμε;

Για αρχή, ξεκινώ από τα βάθη της ιστορίας: Athenian trireme names


There calls the mariner
There comes a ship over the line
But how can she sail with no wind in her sails and no tide
See, onward she comes
Onward she nears out of the sun
See, she has no crew
She has no life, wait but here's two


Εγώ αναφέρομαι και στα μωρά ως it και με αγριοκοιτάζουν οι Άγγλοι γιατί όλα τα μωρά είναι she.


Staff member
Όχι μόνο τα πλοία (της θάλασας) αλλά και τα πλοία του αέρα (αερόπλοια και αεροσκάφη).

Why are airplanes called ‘she’?

What is the reason that airplanes in English have a female gender?
Much of aviation has a history in nautical terms, lore... and law.
Aircraft, like ships, can evoke a fair amount of affection on the part of the aircrew, or ship's crew.

What is the gender of an aircraft?

If an aircraft is given a gender, it is normally female, along the same lines as for ships and for much the same reasons (complex creatures with very fickle attitudes toward their men, that are nonetheless objects of affection).

The anthropomorphism of aircraft is rarer than for ships, but still very common especially in the military, where bombers and even fighter aircraft have traditionally been given a name and "nose art" for good luck (more commonly as simply something for the lonely pilots and ground crew to ogle). The bigger the plane, the more likely it is to be anthropomorphized. Race cars are also anthropomorphized by their drivers from time to time.

Όχι μόνο τα πλοία (της θάλασας) αλλά και τα πλοία του αέρα (αερόπλοια και αεροσκάφη).

The Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named after Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets.
(is mother proud of Little Boy today?)