From Dictionary.com:

a·vi·a·tion noun

  1. the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft.

  2. military aircraft.

If aviation is the design, production, and use of aircraft, then what is the corresponding word for the design, production, and use of water vessels?

At first I thought it's naval or navy, but the first is an adjective and the latter describes the military branch itself, so those are probably not the right words.

  • Actually, aviation merely means the "flying & operation of aircraft", it does not cover design, development, production or other aspects.
    – Kris
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:07
  • 2
    @Kris - You don't know the (other) half of it. Most dictionaries (at least, the four I just checked, in addition to the one provided in the question) seem to disagree with you.
    – J.R.
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:10
  • @JR Usage! cf. navigation, ask me for more details.
    – Kris
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:12
  • @Kris - Most Boeing employees work in the aviation industry, irrespective of whether they fly on the planes or operate the aircraft.
    – J.R.
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:13
  • 1
    GinKin: In some contexts, marine or maritime could work, particularly when aviation functions as an adjective, as in avaition regulations vs. maritime regulations, or aviation technology vs. marine technology.
    – J.R.
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:56

3 Answers 3


The design, development and production of nautical vessels: shipbuilding or boatbuilding (depending on the type of craft);

The operation and use of nautical vessels: navigation:

  1. The process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route:
    Columbus corrected his westward course by celestial navigation
  2. The passage of ships:
    transporter bridges to span rivers without hindering navigation


  • Hmm navigation isn't exclusive for ships like aviation is for planes.
    – GinKin
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:21
  • 2
    No, it's not; but that doesn't mean it's not the word to use.
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:23
  • @GinKin It was exclusive until the flyers hijacked it.
    – Kris
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:32
  • @Kris you can also navigate on foot or when driving a car.
    – GinKin
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:38
  • @GinKin I can "navigate" sitting beside the driver, or sitting at home. Think of it. -- That "navigation" is a different kind of animal, do not confuse with it.
    – Kris
    Feb 28, 2014 at 12:40

You can consider seamanship which covers maritime navigation as well. Still does not cover ship building though.

It involves topics and development of specialised skills including: navigation and international maritime law; weather, meteorology and forecasting; watchstanding; ship-handling and small boat handling; operation of deck equipment, anchors and cables; ropework and line handling; communications; sailing; engines; execution of evolutions such as towing; cargo handling equipment, dangerous cargoes and cargo storage; dealing with emergencies; survival at sea and search and rescue; and fire fighting.

Marine, maritime, naval, nautical are used before nouns depending on the context also.

Note: There is the word airmanship similar to seamanship.

  • If you design planes, you can say you work in aviation, but if you design boats or ships, you wouldn't say you work in seamanship. Also, seamanship covers skills like navigation and the use of navigational systems, but not shipbuilding. It's "The art or skill of handling, working, and navigating a ship" m-m
    – DjinTonic
    Apr 10, 2022 at 13:31
  • @DjinTonic Thank you for the details. I've already mentioned that seamanship does not cover ship building. However, there isn't a term that covers everything the OP is asking for: "the design, production, and use of water vessels". Shipbuilding is a separate field. I've tried to find the closest and most comprehensive hypernym for the maritime equivalent; and offered an alternative approach also.
    – ermanen
    Apr 15, 2022 at 11:26

Seafaring is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the use of the sea for travel or transportation". That covers most aspects of using a boat on the water, and it's often used to refer to the technology and knowhow needed to go by sea, including both boatbuilding and navigation, e.g. "Its power and wealth came from seafaring and trade, and its cultural and economic influence stretched from its home island of Crete all the way to Egypt."


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