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For the United States Naval Academy's Alumni Magazine, see Shipmate (magazine).

A shipmate is literally a mate on one's own ship (i.e., a member of the same ship).

Ship Large buoyant watercraft

A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world's oceans and other sufficiently deep waterways, carrying passengers or goods, or in support of specialized missions, such as defense, research and fishing. Historically, a "ship" was a sailing vessel with at least three square-rigged masts and a full bowsprit. Ships are generally distinguished from boats, based on size, shape, load capacity, and tradition.


In English-Speaking navies and the United States Coast Guard, the term 'shipmate' is used among sailors as a generic moniker. It is used in the third person by a member of a ship's crew to describe another member, or in the second person when referring to any other Naval service member.

United States Coast Guard Coastal defense and law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country's seven uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Navy by the U.S. President at any time, or by the U.S. Congress during times of war. This has happened twice: in 1917, during World War I, and in 1941, during World War II.

In the United States Navy "shipmate" is most accurately a term used by anyone in the Navy to reference anyone else in the Navy. It can be used with a range of connotations- most often as an expression of camaraderie, but also as a respectful way to address other crew members whose rank or naval rating is not obvious. It can even be used in a derogatory manner. It is used both on land and at sea and it is used among Naval service members without regard to whether they are in fact members of the same ship. The term is used so abundantly in the American Navy that the inflection, context, and tone of the speaker can connote more meaning than the term itself.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second largest and second most powerful air force in the world.

Military ranks are a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces, police, intelligence agencies or other institutions organized along military lines. Military ranks and the military rank system define among others dominance, authority, as well as roles and responsibility in a military hierarchy. The military rank system incorporates the principles of exercising power and authority, and the military chain of command – the succession of commanders superior to subordinates through which command is exercised – constructs an important component for organized collective action.

Naval rating enlisted member of a countrys navy

In a navy, a rate, rating or bluejacket is a junior enlisted member of that navy who is not a warrant officer or commissioned officer. Depending on the country and navy that uses it, the exact term and the range of ranks that it refers to may vary.

In the United States Navy, recruits are indoctrinated with heavy use of the term immediately upon beginning training at Recruit Training Command (or 'boot camp'). There, they use the term abundantly to refer to their peers in all but the least formal settings. Notably, recruits use the term superfluously and with enthusiasm to sound off to their peers in scenarios when referencing another person by name or title would be otherwise unnecessary. For example, a recruit in the chow line will add "shipmate" after identifying each item of food he or she wishes fellow recruits to place on his or her tray ("potatoes, Shipmate!", "green beans, Shipmate!", "bread, Shipmate!" etc.). In turn, the recruits serving his or her food will repeat the expression as the recruit moves down the line "potatoes, Shipmate!", "green beans, Shipmate!", "bread, Shipmate!"... to confirm that they understood the commands. It is used so abundantly during this stage of a sailor's training that it can sound curious to a new recruit or a visitor. The term is almost never used by superiors to refer to inferiors during recruit training except ironically or in a derogatory tone. Sometimes the term is modified to connote the derogation more explicitly, as in "Shipwreck" in reference to someone who is messy or fails to maintain a military bearing. As the extreme hierarchical distinctions in recruit training tend to fade once the recruit joins the regular Navy, so do the above distinctions. It is not uncommon to hear an Admiral or Captain refer to his lowest subordinates as "shipmate" in order to express camaraderie. Inversely, it is not uncommon for peers to refer to one another as "shipwreck" or use a vocal inflection that connotes derogation, usually with an accent on the "-mate."

The term is often used in a follow-on training status such as "A" School from superiors to their subordinates to point out deficiencies, usually when rank of the subordinate is not easily identified. An example would be "Hey shipmate! Fix your uniform!" The use of the term in this context would be similar to a division commander referring to a recruit as "Recruit".

Although the term is not commonly used outside maritime scenarios, it is often used by Navy veterans toward one another as a means to reminisce or bond about shared experience.

Usage in literature

Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, a popular maritime novel, is laced with the term, although the narrator Ishmael seldom uses the word: "This man interested me at once; and since the sea-gods had ordained that he should soon become my shipmate (though but a sleeping partner one, so far as this narrative is concerned), I will here venture upon a little description of him."

Usage in contemporary maritime dialogue

One might refer to a fellow crew member by saying, "He and I were shipmates before reporting for duty here in Norfolk." The word is used in this sense in the old song "Don't Forget Your Old Shipmates".

When getting the attention of a fellow sailor, one might simply call out "Shipmate!" or "Hey, shipmate!"

When speaking to a group or crowd of sailors, i.e. "My fellow shipmates..."

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White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War is the fifth book by American writer Herman Melville, first published in London in 1850. The book is based on the author's fourteen months service in the United States Navy, aboard the frigate USS "Neversink".

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<i>Shipwrecked</i> (1990 film) 1990 film by Nils Gaup

Shipwrecked is a 1990 family action-adventure film directed by Nils Gaup and starring Stian Smestad and Gabriel Byrne. The film is a dramatization of Norwegian author Oluf Falck-Ytter's book Haakon Haakonsen: En Norsk Robinson. In Norway, it was titled "Haakon Haakonsen".

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<i>Hey, Shipwreck</i>

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