Is there a single word to describe an entity (for example a boat, ship or power station) that requires some crew, staff or manning in order to function?

This is subtly different from using the words manned or crewed to describe an entity that is currently staffed, since this does not mean that it must be staffed to operate.

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    I'm sure NASA's boffins would distinguish one of the two kinds of spacecraft they might work on as "manned", long before there was actually a crew inside it. Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 15:22
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    I disagree. "Manned" means that it has a crew, not that it needs one.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 15:51
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    non-automated? Automated would say doesnt need a crew.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 17:37
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    @Chad: non-automated sounds technically exactly right, but takes some thought to realize that it means 'necessarily manned'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 0:44
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    @mitch I agree which is why i didnt want to post is as an answer, I don't think I would be happy with that for this question were it mine. My problem is coming up with a word that encoumpasses both needs a crew but doesnt have one and needs a crew and has one.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 12:46

6 Answers 6


The straightforward

'does not require a crew' -> 'unmanned'

leads me to think that it is appropriate to use:

'requires a crew' -> 'manned'

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    I would think that "manned" more describes the current state of having a crew rather than the state of needing a crew. Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 15:46
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    This is precisely how "manned" is used by, for example, NASA.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 15:52
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    So, literally, 'manned' means 'currently has people on board' and doesn't imply necessity. But I think there is an implication that the mention of it being 'manned' means it needs to be. There's no affix in English (that I am aware of) that adds 'needs to be'. So the perfect single word may not exist.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 16:31
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    @frustrated: "manned" is most definitely used to describe a vehicle that requires occupants without the need for the occupants nor the craft to even exist. ( docs.google.com/… )
    – horatio
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 18:12
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    There is apparently a conception amongst the comments here that a "manned spacecraft" can only be called "manned" when there are actually people sitting in the chairs. My comment merely offers a real-world example of how this requirement is not in fact the case.
    – horatio
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 20:12

"Must be manned" works but you require one word. Ununmanable means what you want, but it doesn't sound right and isn't a word. Manned works, but only in certain contexts. In others it can mean currently manned. It is your best bet for a single word though.

Other short phrases you could use. Dependent on crew. Manually controlled.

  • Sounds good to me. I agree that "manned" is probably the best single-word option, but unlike the current top-rated Answer you at least point out that it isn't a perfect choice for all contexts. And you've suggested other phrases as more precise alternatives, which does no harm if there isn't a "Perfect Answer" available. Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 22:12


This is the opposite of autonomous which can mean to operate independently with out need of outside influence. Autonomous is often used to decribe automated robitic structures that do not require input from humans to perform their tasks.


The problem with "manned" and "unmanned" is that is can be confused with the autonomous state of the object. Unmanned aerial vehicles are actually piloted by remote control from an undisclosed location, and could not achieve the required task without the crew being present.
I think a better word would depend on how you are describing the entity, like a factory could be automatic in nature or require operators. Maybe "Automatic" to indicate no crew required, and piloted/staffed/manned for an entity requiring an operator.


my suggestion:

"The spaceship must be occupied."

to occupy:

–verb (used with object) 1. to take or fill up (space, time, etc.): I occupied my evenings reading novels. 2. to engage or employ the mind, energy, or attention of: Occupy the children with a game while I prepare dinner. 3. to be a resident or tenant of; dwell in: We occupied the same house for 20 years.

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    does suggest a very small single "seat" sort of craft with a little green sign on the door lock though!
    – mgb
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 15:56
  • I don't see any reason for swappinig to "occupied", when your phrasing would be far more precise (and common, I think) if it used OP's own "crewed" or "manned". Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 22:05

Is there a single word to describe an entity that needs a crew/staff or requires manning in order to function.

Will "recruiting" do? as in A company needs crew, so it is recruiting

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    This does not address the OP's question. Recruiting is an action, not a description.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 14:19

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