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What does “ship” mean online and how do I use it?

Marcel Lirolla /

When you see someone talking about “ship” or “navigation” on the Internet, chances are they are not talking about ship or logistics. Here’s what a “ship” means online and how to use it.

Love relationship

On the Internet, a “ship” is often an abbreviated slang word for “relationship” and it usually refers to a romantic relationship between two fictional characters. For example, if you are currently watching Titanic, you might say, “There’s a ship growing between Jack and Rose.” “

“Ship” is also commonly used as a verb to show your support for a particular romantic couple. For example, if you like the chemistry of the tracks in Titanic, you can say, “I’m sending Jack and Rose.” The word also communicates a feeling of interest or affinity for a particular romantic couple. It is common to see people saying “this is my ship” about a particular couple in order to show them strong support. This is similar to OTP, or “a true pairing”.

This should not be confused with real ships, which are nautical vessels used to transport people and goods. A good rule of thumb is to check if the poster refers to romantic relationships in its post. If not, it may be a reference to a real marine vehicle.

The origin of “ships”

Do not worry; we will not bore you with the history of boating. While the word “ship”, which means “boat,” has been in the English language for a very long time, its definition in Internet slang is much more recent. The first entry for “ship” in the Urban Dictionary dates back to 2003 and reads: “Short for a romantic relationship, popularized in fanfiction circles.” The site even specifies that it can be used both as a noun and as a verb.

The term was already in use on early fan websites in the 1990s and became even more important when fans created communities around media franchises like Harry Potter, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Subgroups of these communities would form around romantic pairs of characters and create spinoff stories called “fanfiction”.

Eventually, the term would spread to the rest of the internet through social media websites and personal conversations between users. Nowadays, the use of the term “ship” is not limited to fictional characters. Many people on platforms like Twitter report sending couples who are dating in real life. You can even say that you are sending two of your friends who are currently seeing each other to support their relationship.

Ships and Cannons

Amy Adams and Henry Cavill in Superman Movie
Photos of Warner Bros.

Ships tend to have a surprisingly large influence on both internet culture and pop culture at large. For example, popular ships are used to promote romance movies and TV shows. When Hollywood turned the fantasy novel Twilight into a film series, its marketing leaned heavily on the central love triangle. It was a way to tap into the very large community of Twilight fans, especially those who “shipped” the protagonist with different love interests.

Particular ships or pairings would even get “ship names”. For example, the pairing of Clark Kent and Lois Lane from Superman is called “Clois”, a coat rack of their first names. Most fandoms have a dedicated “wiki,” which is a repository of all information about this work, including their ships.

In some cases, ships even influence the work of fiction itself. This is related to another term, “canon”, which designates elements of a fictional story that is part of the officially published work. Many artists and directors have said that fan-driven campaigns to have certain “ships” become “guns” influenced the final release, ultimately resulting in fan-favorite romantic couples on the show. When a ship goes gun, fans often say “the ship has sailed” as a nautical-themed pun.

RELATED: 21 Wellness Rom-Coms You Can Spread Right Now

Expedition in life

In addition to its place in Internet fandom culture, the word “ship” has become a popular verb to encourage a couple. If you see two of your friends who are in a relationship, it is quite common to say to them, “I send you two”. This indicates that you think they are a good pair and that you support them in continuing their relationship. You can also say “I’m sending John and Jane” to a third person who is also aware of their association.

You can even use “ship” to joke to refer to things that you think go hand in hand. For example, you could post a message in a group chat: “Pineapples and pizza? I ship it. This indicates that you are in favor of having pineapples on your pizza, which might be an unpopular opinion in your circle of friends.

How to use “Vessel”

Romeo and Juliet on stage
Igor Bulgarin /

Before you start telling people you are shipping everyone, there are a few things you need to remember. It’s a very informal slang term and only makes sense to those who are active in internet circles. Also, in the messages it can very easily be mistaken for a ship or parcel shipping service. Use it only when you make it clear that you are referring to a romantic couple.

Here are some examples of the slang term “ship” in action:

  • “I’m shipping Romeo and Juliet.”
  • “Mark and Marlene are such a great couple! I send them. “
  • “Wow, I can’t believe Monica and Chandler ended up together. The ship has sailed!
  • “I really ship burgers and fries. “

Do you want to learn more about other popular internet slang terms? Read our guides on sus, FML, and WBK, and you’ll be a walking web dictionary in no time!

RELATED: What does “WBK” mean and how do you use it?

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