I recently heard "classification society" in a conversation - I thought it's an organization that classify or sort things somehow. My friend later explained a classification society is actually a regulatory body in shipping standards.

However, looking up "classification" in the dictionary, I found no definition relevant to marine engineering or shipping.

Why is this the case? And how does "classification" relate to shipping?

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    Industries can create jargon pretty much however they want.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 11, 2016 at 2:49
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    @Tosh - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classification_society should fill in the blanks
    – Icy
    Apr 11, 2016 at 3:38
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    @Icy Although this article provides detailed information on such organizations, I did not find any answers to my questions pertaining to the English language.
    – Tosh
    Apr 11, 2016 at 3:41
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    If your English question is "... I found no definition relevant to marine engineering or shipping. Why is this the case?...? It may be that this is a term of the trade - specifically underwriting (insurance). As such it may not be in common use elsewhere. A law or business focused dictionary might be a better source. I will quote briefly from the link cited above for the second part of your question. "...In 1760, the Register Society was formed [...] to publish an annual register of ships. This publication attempted to classify the condition of the ship’s hull and equipment. ..."
    – Icy
    Apr 11, 2016 at 4:08
  • If it's a society created by a group of like minded people then it's name is a pronoun and as such would not be expected to appear in the dictionary, and might not even make it into any online references unless it's quite a large organisation. This question isn't really about the english language. Jun 6, 2016 at 9:08

1 Answer 1


I would say since ships are organized into classes (destroyer class, tanker class, etc.) and the classification society inspects ships to see that they meet their classification, that the classification society is using the word as it should be used: IE. they classify things and they are a society of sorts (or that sorts?), but in any case, nomenclature would still trump the common usage you'll find in dictionaries when discussing meanings particular to an industry or group--even if the usage seems odd by dictionary standards.


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