AskDefine | Define shipmate

Dictionary Definition

shipmate n : an associate on the same ship with you

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A fellow sailor serving on the same ship as another.
  2. Any sailor (when used as a form of address by a sailor).

Extensive Definition

For the United States Naval Academy's Alumni Magazine, see Shipmate (magazine).
A shipmate is literally a mate on one's own ship, ie. a member of the same crew. A sailor of the oceans and seas who demonstrates selfless dedication and loyalty, putting the crew, the ship and the mission above his/her self interests.
Depending heavily on context, the term can also take on a sarcastically derogatory meaning when directed at familiars, for example in the phrase "Hey, Shipmate!". "Shipmate" is very prevalent in modern maritime lexicon, particularly the U.S. Navy. It is sometimes shortened and spoken "shippy" (typically only in the sarcastic usage).

Usage in literature

Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, a popular maritime novel, is laced with the term, although the narrator Ishmael seldom uses the word: "This man interested me at once; and since the sea-gods had ordained that he should soon become my shipmate (though but a sleeping partner one, so far as this narrative is concerned), I will here venture upon a little description of him."

Usage in contemporary maritime dialogue

In a non-derogatory sense, one might refer to a shipmate by saying, "He and I were shipmates before reporting for duty here in Norfolk." The word is used in this sense in the old song "Don't Forget Your Old Shipmates".
The derogatory sense of shipmate is much more common in modern Navy lexicon. For example, one might speak down about a fellow sailor by saying, "He spent 12 hours in the rack [bed/bunk]. Some shipmate." Sometimes the word is used when a superior is correcting a more junior sailor, for example when a Senior Chief corrects a seaman by saying, "Shipmate...why are you hands in your pocket?"
The word shipmate can also be used as a verb to refer to the practice of using the word in a derogatory sense. The recipient of the insult is said "to have been shipmated" (as in "Dude, you got shipmated."). In this usage it may also refer to being left with more work by what is sarcastically termed a good shipmate.
In the Canadian Navy, the rank master seaman called matelot-chef in French.


Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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