the act or business of a person or thing that ships.
a number of ships, especially merchant ships, taken as a whole; tonnage.
Obsolete. a voyage.

Origin of shipping

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at ship1, -ing1
Related formsnon·ship·ping, adjective



noun Slang.

the act or practice of taking an interest in a romantic relationship between fictional characters or famous people, whether or not the romance actually exists, as by writing fan fiction: the shipping of TV characters; shipping in webcomics.

Origin of shipping

First recorded in 1990–95; (relation)ship + -ing1




a vessel, especially a large oceangoing one propelled by sails or engines.
  1. a sailing vessel square-rigged on all of three or more masts, having jibs, staysails, and a spanker on the aftermost mast.
  2. Now Rare.a bark having more than three masts.Compare shipentine.
the crew and, sometimes, the passengers of a vessel: The captain gave the ship shore leave.
an airship, airplane, or spacecraft.

verb (used with object), shipped, ship·ping.

to put or take on board a ship or other means of transportation; to send or transport by ship, rail, truck, plane, etc.
Nautical. to take in (water) over the side, as a vessel does when waves break over it.
to bring (an object) into a ship or boat.
to engage (someone) for service on a ship.
to fix in a ship or boat in the proper place for use.
to place (an oar) in proper position for rowing.Compare boat(def 10).
to send away: They shipped the kids off to camp for the summer.

verb (used without object), shipped, ship·ping.

to go on board or travel by ship; embark.
to engage to serve on a ship.

Verb Phrases

ship out,
  1. to leave, especially for another country or assignment: He said goodby to his family and shipped out for the West Indies.
  2. to send away, especially to another country or assignment.
  3. quit, resign, or be fired from a job: Shape up or ship out!


    jump ship,
    1. to escape from a ship, especially one in foreign waters or a foreign port, as to avoid further service as a sailor or to request political asylum.
    2. to withdraw support or membership from a group, organization, cause, etc.; defect or desert: Some of the more liberal members have jumped ship.
    run a tight ship, to exercise a close, strict control over a ship's crew, a company, organization, or the like.
    when one's ship comes in/home, when one's fortune is assured: She'll buy a car as soon as her ship comes in.

Origin of ship

before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English scip; cognate with Dutch schip, German Schiff, Old Norse, Gothic skip; (v.) Middle English s(c)hip(p)en, derivative of the noun
Related formsship·less, adjectiveship·less·ly, adverbmis·ship, verb, mis·shipped, mis·ship·ping.pre·ship, verb (used with object), pre·shipped, pre·ship·ping.
Can be confusedbarge boat canoe cruise ship sailboat ship yacht




a romantic relationship between fictional characters, especially one that people discuss, write about, or take an interest in, whether or not the romance actually exists in the original book, show, etc.: popular ships in fan fiction.

verb (used with or without object), shipped, ship·ping.

to discuss, write about, or take an interest in a romantic relationship between (fictional characters): I'm shipping for those guys—they would make a great couple!

Origin of ship

First recorded in 1995–2000; shortening of relationship Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for shipping

ship, freight, passenger, steam, sailing, trucking

Examples from the Web for shipping

Contemporary Examples of shipping

Historical Examples of shipping

  • But the clearest trace I have of him is from the shipping agents.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • "Coom down," he clenched the bargain; and set about shipping the sweeps.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • And so all government protection of our shipping was withdrawn.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • If she'd only understood me—seen what it was I was trying to do—for American shipping—Yankee sails!

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • She was nowhere to be seen among the shipping in that narrow, rock-bound harbour.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for shipping



  1. the business of transporting freight, esp by ship
  2. (as modifier)a shipping magnate; shipping line
  1. ships collectivelythere is a lot of shipping in the Channel
  2. the tonnage of a number of shipsshipping for this year exceeded that of last



a vessel propelled by engines or sails for navigating on the water, esp a large vessel that cannot be carried aboard another, as distinguished from a boat
nautical a large sailing vessel with three or more square-rigged masts
the crew of a ship
short for airship, spaceship
informal any vehicle or conveyance
when one's ship comes in when one has become successful or wealthy

verb ships, shipping or shipped

to place, transport, or travel on any conveyance, esp aboard a shipship the microscopes by aeroplane; can we ship tomorrow?
(tr) nautical to take (water) over the side
to bring or go aboard a vesselto ship oars
(tr often foll by off) informal to send away, often in order to be rid ofthey shipped the children off to boarding school
(intr) to engage to serve aboard a shipI shipped aboard a Liverpool liner
informal (tr) to concede (a goal)Celtic have shipped eight goals in three away matches
See also ship out
Derived Formsshippable, adjective

Word Origin for ship

Old English scip; related to Old Norse skip, Old High German skif ship, scipfī cup
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for shipping

c.1300, "a ship," from ship (n.). Meaning "act of sending (freight) by a ship, etc." is from late 15c. As "ships generally or collectively" from 1590s.



Old English scip "ship, boat," from Proto-Germanic *skipam (cf. Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Gothic skip, Danish skib, Swedish skepp, Middle Dutch scip, Dutch schip, Old High German skif, German Schiff), "Germanic noun of obscure origin" [Watkins]. Others suggest perhaps originally "tree cut out or hollowed out," and derive it from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split."

Now a vessel of considerable size, adapted to navigation; the Old English word was used for small craft as well, and definitions changed over time; in 19c., distinct from a boat in having a bowsprit and three masts, each with a lower, top, and topgallant mast. French esquif, Italian schifo are Germanic loan-words.

Phrase ships that pass in the night is from Longfellow's poem "Elizabeth" in "Tales of a Wayside Inn" (1863). Figurative use of nautical runs a tight ship (i.e., one that does not leak) is attested from 1965.



c.1300, "to send or transport (merchandise, people) by ship; to board a ship; to travel by ship, sail, set sail," also figurative, from ship (n.). Old English scipian is attested only in the senses "take ship, embark; be furnished with a ship." Transferred to other means of conveyance (railroad, etc.) from 1857, originally American English. Related: Shipped; shipping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shipping


In addition to the idioms beginning with ship

  • ship of state
  • ship out
  • ships that pass in the night

also see:

  • desert a sinking ship
  • enough to sink a ship
  • shape up (or ship out)
  • tight ship
  • when one's ship comes in
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.