|See also:||OTP, OT3, OT4, Skinship, Multishipping|
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I will go down with this ship,
And I won't put my hands up and surrender.
There will be no white flag above my door.
I'm in love and always will be.
Shipping in fandom is the act of supporting or wishing for a particular romantic relationship — that is, a het (opposite-sex), slash (male/male), femslash (female/female), or poly (three or more partners) ship — by discussing it, writing meta about it, or creating other types of fanworks exploring it. Fans who have and promote favorite ships are called shippers. They might assert that the relationship does exist or will exist in canon, that they would like it to exist, or simply that they enjoy shipping it. Shippers who support multiple ships within a single canon are often referred to as multishippers, especially if they support those ships equally.
Some fans ship relationships that are portrayed or acknowledged as established in canon, some shippers like relationships that exist only as subtext (whether intentional or accidental -- itself a topic of debate), and some ship relationships where the characters have no subtext discernible to non-shippers. Some fans ship characters who never even appear in canon together! It is important to note that some percentage of fans actively do not want their ship to become canon, especially wrongshippers and fans who don't trust TPTB to "do it right". Shippers have been known to regret it when their wish came true.
The term originated in the X-Files fandom, where viewers who wanted to see a romantic relationship between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were dubbed "relationshippers," or "shippers." Some were self-described intellishippers. It was also used on discussion groups for Lois and Clark, where "shippers" were those who were pushing for the pair to get together romantically onscreen.
"Shippers" evolved into the shortened term "ship," used to refer to a potential romantic pairing a fan supported or wished to see become canon. "Ship" was subsequently used as a verb: "(to) ship a certain pairing."
"Shippers" has sometimes been used to refer exclusively to fans of heterosexual pairings, as opposed to "slashers" who wanted two male characters to get together.  Today, it now also means fans of slash pairings.
A clash between rival groups of pairing supporters is called a shipwar or shipping war.
Because of their homophones, the terms are often accompanied or embellished by nautical or maritime imagery (for example, if canon makes a particular pairing unlikely or difficult to write, shippers may say it has "sunk their ship.") When the song "White Flag" by Dido came out, one of its lyrics, "I will go down with this ship," became a motto for passionate shipping, appearing on many, many LJ icons.
- T'Mar. Slashing versus 'Shipping, or Why it's Easier to be a Slasher, published on 02 March 2004 at the Fanfic Symposium. (Accessed 05 October 2008.)