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

A shipmate is literally a mate on one's own ship, ie. a member of the same ship.

Typically the term 'shipmate' is used amongst sailors as a generic name for those who are not on a name-to-name basis with each other. Because many ships have hundreds, if not thousands, of crew members aboard; shipmate is a universally acceptable name for all crew members. Within the United States Navy it serves as a convenient and respectful way to address other crew members when rank or naval rating is not immediately obvious. It also serves as a more professional expression in lieu of vernacular words such as 'dude', 'man', and 'bro'.

In the United States Navy, one earns the name of a shipmate when he or she graduates from Recruit Training Command (or 'boot camp'). Prior to graduation from boot camp, only the term 'recruit' is used - a term that is considered for the most part derogatory. Earning the term 'shipmate' is a great honor for all new sailors in the U.S. Navy.

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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