Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 07:57:17 -0800

From: Dan Moonhawk Alford dalford[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]S1.CSUHAYWARD.EDU

Subject: Re: why are ships referred to as she (fwd)

I have a buddy who's an old salt, and one of my specialties has been

animacy in English pronouns for quite a while, so here goes:

For whatever reason (probably lack of females on board and the sea

herself being called she), ships are indeed SHE -- but only as long as

they are 'in use'; as soon as a military ship is decommissioned, it goes

back to being called 'it'. Therefore the animacy itself has to do with

the animate activity going on, and the 'she' is dependent on a functional


On Mon, 29 Jan 1996, Benjamin Barrett wrote:

One of our area libraries directed this question to us which we have not


very successful in answering. Apparently a class has been given the

assignment of finding out why ships and boats are referred to as SHE.

We have looked in all sorts of ship and sea lore books but all we can find

is, yes they are referred to as SHE. Any information and sources as to why

sailing vessels are spoken of in the female gender would be appreciated.

Nothing but a guess here. I always thought it was because sailors were male

and they always talked about being married to the sea, etc, etc. I guess it

could be the other way around, though it seems less likely.

I also have so no particular reason, perhaps, that mother country is the

reason we refer(red) to countries as she also.


Benjamin Barrett