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: see Portmanteau
- 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).
- Simply using the letter x or the character / between two character names to indicate the ship, such as Megatron x Optimus or Megatron/Optimus from Transformers.
- The use of acronyms, such as ZADR being used in place of Zim and Dib Romance from Invader Zim.
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, pre-slash, 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.)
Several fandoms use a system of ship naming where each pairing has its own codename in the form of "___shipping," where the blank is a word or phrase that somehow describes the characters or their relationship. For example, the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom refers to the pairing of Yugi/Jonouchi as Wishshipping, because their friendship started after Yugi made a wish to have a true friend. Other names have meanings that are more tangential, obscure, or even unknown.
This system originated in Pokémon fandom in the late 1990s, based on the use of the word "shipper" in X-Files fandom. The first Pokemon pairing name was most likely RocketShipping for Jessie/James, based on the "rocket ship" pun. From there, the naming convention spread to fans of other pairings and huge numbers of shipping names were eventually coined. Examples of Pokémon ship names include Pokéshipping (Ash/Misty), Palletshipping (Ash/Gary), Ferriswheelshipping (N/Hilda), and many more. As a grammatical note, names may or may not have internal capitalization: Perfectworldshipping and PerfectWorldShipping are both valid ways to write the pairing of Lysandre/Sycamore, and some fans may find the latter easier to read.
In recent years, the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom has made some efforts to standardize and clean up the old lists of shipping names, since some names were seen as unnecessary, unfitting, or in some way offensive. For example, Bronzeshipping (Malik/Yami Malik) was criticized as a racist name, since there was no apparent justification for it other than them both having "bronze skin," and the pairing was renamed Eclipseshipping after polling a group of fans. The new lists encourage that no shipping names be created for crack pairings which don't have any actual fanworks; that names have some sort of memorable and non-generic meaning; and that no names be chosen which overlap with popular shipping names from other fandoms.
The "___shipping" system of pairing names is most useful for fandoms where portmanteaus or use of a "/" would be difficult or confusing due to the number of characters or the way that those characters are named. In Pokémon, the plethora of different characters and continuities means that ship names let fans distinguish between cases like Huntershipping (Gold/Silver in the game canon) and PreciousMetalShipping (Gold/Silver in the manga canon). In Yu-Gi-Oh, some characters' names overlap with others (a fan who casually mentions "Bakura" could mean any of 3 different characters) or have different names in the English localization (whether you call the character "Joey Wheeler" or "Katsuya Jonouchi," you can still find content pairing him with Kaiba if you search for "Puppyshipping"). In this way, although they can be confusing or difficult to remember compared to other types of pairing names, "___shipping" names allows for greater specificity.
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".
RWBY ship names
RWBY fandom has a varied approach to pairing names that has evolved over time. Fans generally try to develop names based on characteristics of characters and how they would combine.
This started in the fandom's early days with ship names based off of the characters' trademark colors, such as Monochrome for Weiss and Blake's white and black color scheme, and Bumblebee for Blake and Yang's black and yellow color scheme. These color-based names became less common when the cast expanded, and there were fewer characters clearly identifiable by single signature colors. After some time, alternative spellings of common words came into use to make the ship names more easily searchable, such as Bumbleby developing from Bumblebee, or Cloqwork. Other ship names come from aspects like weapons and physical traits, such as Crosshares and Nuts and Dolts. However, there have also been portmanteau names that became standard, like Renora, Arkos, and Ironqrow.
Fans tend to start coming up with pairing names as soon as they start shipping a pair. Thus ship names can created with little context or knowledge of the characters. Often multiple names catch on at once, and ships usually don't have a single clearly favored name until they become significantly popular. Because many of the pairing names are not straightforward portmanteaus, fans have created numerous spreadsheets over time to catalogue every possible pairing name. Examples can be found here, here, and here.
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.
Chinese fandom has some very creative ship names, and name order indicates who tops. For example, the ship name for top!Wang Yibo/Xiao Zhan is Bo Jun Yi Xiao (博君一肖); Bo is for Yibo and comes before the Xiao for Xiao Zhan. It was also chosen because it's a homonym of 博君一笑, a Chinese phrase with a meaning like wanting to make someone smile.
Example of different language versions of the same ship:
|Relationship||Steve Rogers/Tony Stark|
|English||Stony, CapIron, Superhusbands|
|Chinese||盾妮 (dùn nī), 铁盾 (tiě dùn, "Iron Shield")|
Lists of Pairing Names on Fanlore
- List of Arrowverse Relationship Names
- List of Bandom Ship Names
- List of Game of Thrones Pairing Names
- List of Hanson Pairing Names
- List of Harry Potter Pairing Names
- List of Hobbit (film series) Relationships and Popularity
- Forever Knight/Factions
- List of JAG Pairings
- List of MCU Relationship Names
- List of One Direction Ship Names
- List of OUAT Pairing Names
- List of Percy Jackson & Heroes of Olympus Pairing Names
- List of Pirates of the Caribbean Pairing Names
- List of Pokémon Pairing Names
- List of Popslash Pairing Names
- List of Roswell Pairing Names
- List of Smallville Pairing Names
- List of Stargate Atlantis Pairing Names
- List of Supernatural Relationship Names
- List of Teen Wolf Ship Names
- List of The 100 Pairing Names
- List of The Originals Pairing Names
- List of The Walking Dead Pairing Names
- List of Vampire Diaries Pairing Names
- List of X-Men 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
- Yugioh DM Shippings List tumblr
- 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.
- gdgdbaby on curiouscat
- beidoushizun. "BO JUN YI XIAO ( BJYX ) in chinese usually apply to couple where one of them make something just to make another smile, it has a sweet meaning of 'all i do is to make you smile' and the actual word 博君一笑 have the same pronounciation as 博君一肖", Archived version, tweet, 17 January 2020.