Why do people use “SS” in their boat names?

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Have you ever wondered why so many boat names start with SS? It’s a tradition that goes back centuries, and has a fascinating history. Let’s take a look at the origins of this tradition and find out why it has persisted for so long!

So why do boat names start with “SS”? Boat names nowadays don’t have to start with the “SS” as it actually stands for “Steam Ship”. Most boats in modern days that have SS in front of the name are not steam ships, however this tradition has stuck through the time from when boats were moved by steam power.

Can you use “SS” even if it isn’t steam powered?

The SS can be used for any boat name. It doesn’t matter if it is powered by steam power diesel or gasoline engines.

You should definitely check your local laws, however modern consumer boats (not ships) are not held back by their names in any way, and people like to use the “SS” to make their boats sound cool and more traditional. In fact, as long as your boat is correctly registered, you don’t need to name your boat at all.

What other prefixes are there?

SS isn’t the only prefix that boats can have, so let’s dig into what different prefixes you can actually be using on your boat! While large ships have to have these prefixes used, boats that you find in lakes and smaller normal boats generally don’t require a name and these are just for show. Check your local laws, or consult a professional in regards to this!

  • SS – As mentioned earlier in this article, SS stands for “Steam Ship”, however it can also stand for “Sailing Ship”. The more common version has to do with steam though.
  • MV – This stands for “Motor Vessel”, and is actually what most people should be calling their boats in modern days. However MV doesn’t sound as cool as SS.
  • RV – RV stands for “Research Vessel” and these are used specifically to research something in the water.

There are of course others used by plenty of people, and there are no official mandates for how to name your boat, and even if you should name your boat. That said, make sure to check with your local government on if this does or does not apply to your boat.


There you have it! SS is the traditional prefix for boat names, and has been used for centuries and stands for “Steam Ship”. The meaning behind this tradition is fascinating, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it! If you’re looking to buy a boat (even if its bigger than you need) or are just curious about boat naming conventions, be sure to do your research! There are plenty of other prefix