I am curious if there is actual relation between all nouns ending in -ship, such as relationship, citizenship, sportsmanship, etc. with the vessel for transporting people or goods over the sea?

  • While it does seem to be true that from a practical standpoint, there is no relationship between the suffix ship and a sea or space fairing vessel, it's perhaps noteworthy that your question is a good one, and furthermore, that there are some parallels which could be drawn. Now to further complicate matters I can inform you that I myself am a dread pirate, who was told it could be acceptable to create new words using the suffix ship, and as a writer, that encouraging concession is rather like a ship itself.
    – Jesse Ivy
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 14:41
  • english.stackexchange.com/questions/369192/…
    – Jesse Ivy
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


-ship is added to a noun to establish status or condition.

  1. Indicating a state or a condition, e.g. to be in a friendship.
  2. Indicating the qualities belonging to a class of people, e.g. craftsmanship.
  3. Indicating office or profession, e.g. ambassadorship.

Quote from http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19990225:

The suffix -ship has been studied in some detail, but most of that detail is irrelevant to all but the most hardcore etymologist. The most important thing, in terms of its origin, is that it is unrelated to the word ship meaning 'a vessel, especially a large seagoing vessel'.

-ship is a suffix used to form nouns of state or condition, chiefly added to nouns and especially personal nouns. In Old English it was widely used with adjectives and participles, but only two of these survive (hardship and worship, from an adjective meaning 'worthy').

The uses can be divided into ever-finer distinctions, but there are some basic categories. It can denote 'quality; condition' (kinship; friendship 'the condition of being a relative/friend'). It can denote 'skill; act; power' (scholarship 'the acts of a scholar'; horsemanship 'the skill of a horseman'). It can denote 'number' (readership; listenership 'number of readers/listeners'). It can denote 'profession; office; position' (professorship 'the profession of a professor'). It can denote rank or title (ladyship; lordship).

The suffix was common in Old English, and is ultimately a form of the ancestor of the Modern English verb shape, in the sense 'to create; form'. Cognate suffixes are found in many Germanic languages; a form occasionally encountered is the German Wissenschaft 'science', from Wissen 'knowledge' and -schaft '-ship'.

  • -1 Would a "No" do for an answer? I thought the question was actually a non-Q. Next thing I could ask if "or" and "are" are distant cousins.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 6:48

For the hardcore etymologists who don't feel like looking this up and to complement the top answer, here's the etymologies of (-)ship from Dictionary.com.


before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English scip; cognate with Dutch schip, German Schiff, Old Norse, Gothic skip; (v.) Middle English s ( c ) hip ( p ) en, derivative of the noun

O.E. scip "ship, boat," from P.Gmc. *skipan (cf. O.N., O.S., Goth. skip , Dan. skib , Swed. skepp , M.Du. scip , Du. schip , O.H.G. skif , Ger. Schiff ), perhaps originally "tree cut out or hollowed out," and derived from PIE base *skei- "to cut, split." The O.E. word was used for small craft as well; in 19c., distinct from a boat in having a bowsprit and three masts, each with a lower, top, and topgallant mast. Fr. esquif , It. schifo are Gmc. loan-words. Ship-board "side of a ship" is from c.1200. Ship-shape "properly arranged" first attested 1644. Phrase ships that pass in the night is from Longfellow's poem "Aftermath" (1873). Phrase runs a tight ship is attested from 1971.


Middle English, Old English -scipe; akin to shape; cognate with dialectal Frisian, dialectal Dutch schip

O.E. -sciepe , Anglian -scip "state, condition of being," from P.Gmc. *-skapaz (cf. O.N. -skapr , O.Fris. -skip , Du. -schap , Ger. -schaft ), from base *skap- "to create, ordain, appoint." Cognate with O.E. gesceape

  • 5
    The answer seems to be "No".
    – Emre
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 17:03
  • @Emre ha yeah. they both share a fork at different scip's.
    – mfg
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 17:06

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