A pairing name or ship name is a fixed name for a particular pairing or ship. Historically, different fan communities have developed different naming practices for ship names, although these practices have overlapped, spread, and changed over time. Sometimes a group of fans who ship a given pairing will get their own nickname.
Ship names may be used for a variety of purposes, such as:
- To label a particular fanwork
- To describe all fanworks featuring that ship
- Community and event names
- Tags on Pixiv, Tumblr, Twitter, or other multi-fannish sites
- To help shippers identify each other
Polyships may also have ship names. Though some may simply be called OT3/OT4/etc. or just be referred to by the characters' names, other receive specific and unique names such as SGA-1 or Stark Spangled Banner.
Ship names may be formed from several sources, including:
- Parts of the characters' names: Launt combines Niki Lauda and James Hunt's last names in Formula 1 RPF.
- Alternate names for (or concepts related to) each character: Sleeping Warrior combines Aurora's title of "Sleeping Beauty" with Mulan's warrior role in Once Upon a Time.
- Concepts related to the relationship between the characters: Lighthouseshipping refers to an event where Felix tries to rescue Sheba in the video game Golden Sun.
- Keywords or phrases associated with the relationship in canon: Anyone can fall is a line said by Raleigh to Mako in Pacific Rim.
- Systems unique to a fandom: 6x9 combines the numerical equivalent of Zechs's name (6) with the numerical equivalent of Noin's (9); numerical ship names are common in Gundam Wing fandom, where many of the characters have names derived from numbers in various languages.
- A mixture of the above: BlackHill combines Natasha's code name of "Black Widow" with Maria Hill's name in The Avengers (Marvel).
Name Smoosh, or Portmanteau Ship Names
- Main article: Portmanteau
In some cases, a pairing is given a name created by combining the letters of the two characters' names, as for example in Smallville, where the pairing of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor was sometimes referred to as "Clex." For more information, see the article on portmanteau pairing names.
The Virgule (slash, /)
The very practice of separating the initials of Kirk and Spock by a slash (or "virgule") to designate their pairing, K/S, or "Kirk slash Spock", has given the slash genre of fan fiction its name. Different fandoms and communities have different conventions regarding name usage, which may be the given name, the surname, a nickname, or even an assumed name for fighting crime.
Depending on the slash fandom subset, the order of the characters' names may or may not have any special significance. For example, the first name might refer to the higher-ranked character; or the focal character of the particular story; or the names might be switched around without any loss of connotation.
In most het and femslash fandoms for Western sources, the virgule is used in the above manner, as in Willow/Tara, or John/Aeryn. It is also used to identify multiple partners in OT3 or threesome fic, as in Harry/Ron/Hermione. Even in fandoms where other pairing name conventions exist (see below), the virgule is recognized as a standard symbol.
Many Western yaoi fandoms adopt pairing naming conventions from the Japanese fandoms', such as seen on doujinshi, in which the partners' names are separated by an x, and the order is vital. The first name is the pairing's seme, while the second is the uke.
Thus, "Light x L" (from Death Note) marks Light as the seme, or top; and L as the uke, or bottom in anal sex. Mixing up the order of seme and uke in most animanga fandoms will upset the reader's expectations, marking the writer as a newbie, and is generally frowned upon.
In fic where the partners exchange roles, the names can be repeated (e.g. SasukexNarutoxSaskuke indicates that Sasuke and Naruto both top one another at some point in the story.) Additional names can be used to label a threesome (or moresome), e.g. IchigoxRenjixChad. In some fandoms, an addition sign in place of the x (e.g. Shuuichi+Ryuuichi) indicates a relationship intended to be gen, preslash, or non-explicit slash.
In some fandoms, for example Gundam Wing, Saiyuki or Katekyo Hitman Reborn, the main characters' names were derived from or can be reduced to numbers. These numbers are often used in placement of character names, such that pairing labels begin to resemble multiplication tables (e.g. "1x2, 3x4, 13x6x5" in Gundam Wing) or look like a random numeric code (e.g. "8059, 692718 or D1869" in Katekyo Hitman Reborn).
Sometimes, pairings are given fanciful names deriving from some incident, object, or vocabulary item which those who ship them feel is significant to the pairing.
Roswell ship names
In Roswell fandom, nearly every conceivable pairing has been given a significant name. (Since three of the most written-about characters-- Max, Michael and Maria-- had the same first initial, using codes such as M/L or M/A would have been unhelpful and confusing, not to mention that M/M is already widely used in many fandoms to indicate a story with a male/male pairing.)
Roswell pairings have often been given names that characterized the mainstream fannish view of the relationship at the time, such as "Dreamers" for Max/Liz or "Brooders" for Max/Valenti. Other pairing names have been based on canonical shippy or slashy interactions between the couples, such as "Pepperjack" for Maria/Brody (based on the fact that she remembered his favorite type of sandwich).  
Popslash ship names
Popslash follows an idiosyncratic pairing-naming scheme; sometimes aspects of a name are altered as a joke or to sound more pleasing.
For instance, "JoLa" is a simple portmanteau of Joey and Lance from Nsync, while "Trickyfish" is a combination of Chris Kirkpatrick and Lance Bass, with "fish" as a pun on "bass." Other popular pairing names, such as "Lambs" for Justin/Lance, have no basis in the pairing members' names at all. Most pairings have several different names that are used in different parts of fandom, such as the use of "JuC" versus "Joshtin" for the JC/Justin pairing.
Harry Potter ship names
In Harry Potter fandom, ships have also sometimes been given names based on significant vocabulary. Some have been given names inspired by popular fanfics (such as Harry/Draco, dubbed "Guns and Handcuffs" due to the influence of the stories Snitch! by Alex and Irresistible Poison by Rhysenn). Some describe personality traits of the relevant characters, or are based on quotes, such as Neville/Luna, referred to as "The Government Stole My Toad". This naming habit has been especially prevalent in FictionAlleyPark. Although almost every pairing there has a name, the popularity/level of awareness of these long-form pairing names in the wider HP fandom varies greatly.
Shippers have also used their ship names to coin names for themselves: for example shippers of "Harmony" (Harry/Hermione) are sometimes known as Harmonians, shippers of Remus/Sirius are sometimes called "puppyshippers".
Forever Knight ship names
Forever Knight fandom also had pairing names for fans of each pairing, rather than the pairing itself. They referred to these as couple factions. Fans who wanted Janette and Natalie to get together were known as Nanettes, Seducers wanted LaCroix and Janette together; Immortal Beloveds were fans of Nick and Janette's romantic relationship. (see also Forever Knight Factions.)
Animanga ship names
The animanga fandom Yu-Gi-Oh has, in its later years, developed a particularly intricate system of pairing names, all in the form ___shipping. Presumably this system is inspired by Pokémon fandom, which was the first to make extensive use of "___shipping" codenames. Examples in Yu-Gi-Oh range from fairly common pairings such as Puzzleshipping (Yami Yuugi x Yuugi) and Puppyshipping (Seto x Jounouchi) to threesomes like Yamishipping (Yami Malik x Yami Bakura x Yami Yuugi) and even larger groupings, such as Flickshipping (Dark Mask x Light Mask x Yami Yuugi x Kaiba). While the inspiration for some of these names is obvious (ex.: 'Yami' for the fact the ship includes all three Yami characters), others have only tenuous links. According to the livejournal community 'Shippers Club', there are currently 558 listed ship names in the fandom.
Avengers ship names
In the Avengers (particularly the MCU), ships involving superheroes often combine their codenames rather than their personal names; for example, "BlackHawk" for the pairing of Clint "Hawkeye" Barton/Natasha "Black Widow" Romanov or "Iron Widow" for the pairing of Natasha "Black Widow" Romanov/Tony "Iron Man" Stark. Non-superhero characters get added to the mix using other defining characteristics; for example, Darcy Lewis's use of a taser makes "Widow Shock" the name for Darcy Lewis/Natasha Romanov. Sometimes ship names are a mix of superhero code names and personal names; for example, "CapsiCoul" is the name for Phil Coulson/Steve Rogers.
When pop cultural references are fortuitous, they get chosen as well: "Dr. Pepper" is the ship name for Bruce Banner/Pepper Potts. "Stark Spangled Banner" is the ship named for Bruce Banner/Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, often admired, and has been called "the most awesome threesome pairing name I've ever heard".
Implications of usage of fanciful names
As with portmanteau names, this system of pairing names has its detractors. Many fans argue that fanciful names are hard to keep track of for people who don't spend a lot of time participating in a particular fandom, and make it difficult to tell who is actually featured in a story. So the names act as fandom signifiers, where recognizing and using them is part of being within the fandom.
In Languages Other Than English
Ship names and related phrases are an international and multilingual phenomenon. For example:
|Relationship||Steve Rogers/Tony Stark|
|English||Stony, CapIron, Superhusbands|
Lists of Pairing Names on Fanlore
- List of Harry Potter Pairing Names
- List of Popslash Pairing Names
- List of Stargate Atlantis Pairing Names
- Forever Knight/Factions
- List of MCU Relationship Names
- List of Arrow & The Flash Pairing Names
- List of JAG Pairings
- List of OUAT Pairing Names
- List of Pokémon Pairing Names
- List of Smallville Pairing Names
- List of X-Men Pairing Names
- List of Percy Jackson & Heroes of Olympus Pairing Names
- List of Pirates of the Caribbean Pairing Names
- List of Roswell Pairing Names
- List of Teen Wolf Ship Names
- List of Vampire Diaries Pairing Names
- Shipping at the Golden Sun Universe wiki. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Gundam Wing fic recs list, (Accessed January 31st 2009)
- Reborn Numerical System, (Accessed May 4th 2011)
- OOTP Ship: SS The Government Stole My Toad (Neville/Luna) 2003-6, accessed 2015-6-13
- Ship Registry Submissions thread at FictionAlleyPark
- Shippers Club community, official ship list.
- Avengers Pairing Names - just curious by kuroneko3132 (2012-05-17, accessed 2015-06-13]
- Relationshipping at the Touhou Wiki includes a list of pixiv tags and common phrases used for Touhou Project ships in Japanese. For example: "The phrase 「僕の見つけた真実はレイマリ」 ("Boku no mitsuketa shinjitsu wa ReiMari" / "My discovered truth is ReiMari") is commonly used to express support for ReiMari." Accessed July 17, 2014.