" Why is she called a she ?", she asked...

... Old sailors used to answer this with a sexist joke: "Like a woman, a ship is unpredictable." 

 A more likely suggestion relates to the idea of goddesses and mother figures playing a protective role in looking after a ship and crew. Linked to this is the common practice of giving ships female figureheads and names, often after deities or members of a shipowner's family. 

Another theory comes from the roots of language. Many Indo-European languages have "male", "female" and sometimes "neuter" words. English instead has evolved into using neuter words such as "the". So it could be that making ships female and calling them "she" is an example of a really ancient, English-speaking practice of giving a gender to an inanimate object. 

And then their are those who believe it could be because they are similar to women : They are expensive, need a lot of paint - and they always have a lot of men around them !



Sailors were aware of mother nature's power and wanted to please her, so they gave ships female names to appease her.

One source suggests that a ship "was nearer and dearer to the sailor than anyone except his mother." What better reason to call his ship "she"?

This old tradition is thought to stem from the fact that in the Romance languages, the word for "ship" is always in the feminine. For this reason, Mediterranean sailors always referred to their ship as "she", and the practice was adopted over the centuries by their English-speaking counterparts.

Some sources suggest it's because the Latin word for ship, "navis" is feminine, but this doesn't hold water. We get the word "table" from the Latin word "tabula", also feminine, yet we don't think of a table as a "she".

Feminizing ships is a markedly entrenched practice, the tradition tracing back in English to as early as the 14th century according to the Oxford English Dictionary. A boat may have a mothership and sister ships. Even ships named after men, such as the German battleship Bismarck, are treated as feminine:

On her maiden voyage, the Bismarck collided with another ship but she sustained no damage.

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 Some view the practice as outdated and patronizing toward women, while others view it as an important tradition and a sign of respect toward the vessel.

Although women were considered to bring bad luck at sea, mariners always use the pronoun "she" when referring to their ships. Whether its proper name is masculine, or whether it is a man o'war, a battleship, or a nuclear submarine, a ship is always referred to as "she."