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I was reading about the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer Finalizer, the First Order's destroyer shown in The Force Awakens, when something struck me as odd. The official site starwars.com describes it as

The first of the new Resurgent class constructed in violation of treaties with the New Republic [...]

So the Finalizer is the first Star Destroyer of the Resurgent class. This is odd. According to real-world European and American conventions, a military ship's class is usually named after the first (or the leading, or at least one of the earliest) vessel of its kind. There are some exceptions (some countries use numbers or single letters), but when there is a name, it's almost always the name of the first of the class. Therefore, I would have expected the first ship of the Resurgent class to be named Resurgent!

Whatever the real-world convention, it seems the Old Republic, the Galactic Empire and the First Order don't use it. There is no Venator, Acclamator, Victory, Imperial/Imperator or Resurgent names for prominent or leading ships of their corresponding classes, as far as I can see (that is, reading Wookieepedia). Which brings me to my question.

What is the naming convention used for classes of capital ships like Star Destroyers?

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    Absolutely no bloody rhyme or reason: theforce.net/swtc/isdlist.html – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 4:51
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    Some are named for impactful words (nowns and adjectives?) - Fearsome, Invincible, Interrogator. Some for Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them (Chimaera, Basilisk). Some for real Earth animals: Duck, Wolf's Claw, Tiger. Just kidding about Duck. That was a Rebel frigate. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 4:53
  • The most plausible theory: they taped a spelling bee. And use the word list for naming. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 4:56
  • @DVK Great! I know the author/authors of theforce.net believe the "Imperial-class" naming is nonsense, and that "Imperator-class" should be preferred; I assume it's because there is an actual "Imperator" in that list! But, like you, I fear in general there is no rhyme or reason :( – Andres F. Jan 2 '16 at 5:07
  • Just like Imperial Star Destroyers? – Petersaber Jan 29 '16 at 16:00
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I can't find anything explaining the naming convention as intended by the filmmakers, but there is a bit of a pattern: the class names describe the state and/or intentions of the political entity at the time that it used the ship.

  • The capital ship used by the Republic at the beginning of the Clone Wars was the Acclamator-class assault ship. The class name is derived from the word acclamate, which means "to acclaim" (i.e. praise). These ships and the clone troopers they carried saved the Republic from a Separatist droid army that was preparing for war at a time in which the Republic Senate had not raised an army; thus, the name may mean that the Republic was praising the efforts of the new Grand Army of the Republic.

    Also, Wiktionary notes that "acclamate" might be used as a misspelling of acclimate, which means "to adjust to a new environment". I suspect this might have been what the filmmakers were going for, as these ships were used at the beginning of the Clone Wars when the Republic was getting acclimated to war after a thousand years (or generations, depending on the quote) of peace.

  • The Acclamator-class was replaced by the Venator-class Star Destroyer. "Venator" is the Latin word for "hunter". This class of Star Destroyer was used from the middle until the end of the Clone Wars, and suggests that the Republic intended to "hunt down" the Separatists and their leaders (e.g. General Grievous), and end the war.

  • Within five years of the Republic victory at the end of the Clone Wars (and the creation of the Empire), the Victory-class Star Destroyer was introduced. The class name seems to have been chosen to commemorate the Republic/Empire's victory.

  • The Empire then designed an even bigger Star Destroyer, and the Imperial-class Star Destroyer became the symbol of Imperial might.

  • The Empire suffered a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Endor and was ultimately forced to make peace with the New Republic. Remnants of the Empire went on to form the First Order, intending to be the successor state of the Empire. The First Order used the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer, hoping to use it to help ensure the resurgence of the Empire.

  • +1 Thanks. Note however that I understand the meaning of the names; I just don't understand why there are no leading ships with the name of their class, as is often the case in the real-world (with the possible exception of the Imperator, which as theforce.net notes, was an actual ship). So I guess the pattern is "the name of a class is chosen independently from the names of the actual ships in that class"... – Andres F. Jan 2 '16 at 6:04
  • Simple answer: George Lucas is no military man, so he doesn't follow conventions he isn't aware of. In fact, he does what I feel is more natural and intuitive: create a class, name it, then create instances of the class, and name them. That's what happens in the object-oriented software paradigm, which mimicks the real world. – thegreatjedi Jan 29 '16 at 12:39
  • @thegreatjedi At the risk of going off-topic, do note that the OO paradigm is under question, precisely because it doesn't accurately mimick the real world. As evidence, I present this very question! In the real world, ship classes aren't created and named beforehand, but actually use the first ship of their class as a template. The real world is more prototype-based than class-based, if you want to use a programming analogy :) – Andres F. May 29 '18 at 21:46
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In our world ships have a name, are of a type and a class.

So HMS Duncan, commissioned in 2013, is a Daring class Type 45 Destroyer.

To break that down, the name of the ship is HMS Duncan, the class is Daring class and Type 45 (technically the class is Type 45, with Daring being the first of the class, so the class takes on her name as well), and the type of ship is Destroyer.

So in the Star Wars Imperial Navy, you would have the Finalizer being a Resurgent class of the Star Destroyer type.

Equally, you have the Executor being an Executor class of the Super Star Destroyer type.

All of the Star Destroyers we see in the original trilogy are of the Imperial-I class or Imperial-II class and Star Destroyer type.

  • I understand the real-life convention. So the Imperials don't use it, then? (Otherwise, the Finalizer would be Finalizer-class, since there are no ships named Resurgent and the convention is that the class is named after the first or most prominent ship of the class). Also, it's been arguend by fans that the "Imperial-I" & -II classes are nonsense :) – Andres F. Jan 29 '16 at 14:04
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    To clarify, note that the Finalizer is the first ship of the Resurgent class, that's what brought this question to my mind. To me this indicates the Imperials (actually, the First Order) don't follow our Earthling conventions. – Andres F. Jan 29 '16 at 14:06
  • Convention is not fact, as the other answer shows - but it does generally follow how ships, classes and types are named in the real world, if you accept that the real world also has exceptions. – Moo Jan 29 '16 at 14:07
  • Sure, I agree. Though I suspect that, rather than explicitly breaking with a convention, the scriptwriters simply didn't understand them. I can't prove this, of course. – Andres F. Jan 29 '16 at 14:12
  • Do we absolutely know there are no commissioned Resurgent class ships called the Resurgent? How about there being issues in its construction which necessitated the Finalizer being commissioned first? This has happened before in real life. – Moo Jan 29 '16 at 14:18
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Maybe because the relatively few classes of star destroyers compared to the sheer number of star destroyers in that class means having a lead ship of that class as per real world navies would be strange and not achieve much?

For example in the real world there were many types of destroyer active at the same time, i.e. the County, Daring, Weapon, Battle and C Classes all overlapped with at least one class during their service. A name was a good way to differentiate them - better and more impressive than 'Type 82' anyway.
Note: Only 1 of these classes of destroyer from the Royal Navy has the class named after the lead ship, that is the Daring Class, so the part of the question "This is odd. According to real-world European and American conventions, a military ship's class is usually named after the first (or the leading, or at least one of the earliest) vessel of its kind." may actually be flawed.

If all the Star Destroyers in the Imperial class are made to the same specification then a one name catch-all for everything to come under would probably serve a better purpose. It would also allow the same name to be used on different classes, names ultimately being a finite resource (especially fear inspiring ones), for example you could have an Victory Class - Tarkin and and Imperial Class - Tarkin.

This said you might then expect then the ships in that class to have naming conventions that match the name if following real world examples. i.e. County Class ships are all named after British counties, City Class after British cities and Weapon Class all named after types of weapons.

Ultimately the classes for ships in Star Wars do not follow any recognisable naming convention from the real world, and it will be speculation as to why that is.

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    re name reuse - in modern naval terms, a ships name is important and has history behind it (either as other ships or as important people or events), so you would not have two ships commissioned into a Navy with the same name at the same time. A new ship can be commissioned with an old name after the old ship has been decommissioned and pensioned off. – Moo Jan 29 '16 at 12:48
  • @Moo I know, technically my dad is still associated with HMS Diamond as he served on the 1949 iteration. I was talking about the possibility of renaming in the galactic republic fleet, which is already shown to not follow real world conventions, and how this might be why they have generic class names. – Cearon O'Flynn Jan 29 '16 at 12:50
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    You are right that not all navies follow this convention. So yes, maybe my question is flawed. But the US Navy follows it, doesn't it? – Andres F. Jan 29 '16 at 14:08
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    @AndresF. so far, yes the USN does seem to follow the convention with a few exceptions such as the USS Oak Ridge and a few others. – Moo Jan 29 '16 at 14:17
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    @AndresF. THE USN does follow it, the French Navy half follows it with some classes named after the lead ship and some not, the Russians generally don't follow this convention, the Japanese mostly do with some exceptions, The Royal Canadian Navy follows it, the Royal Australian Navy mostly do with a couple of exceptions. So its not a hard and fast rule either way even for countries that mostly follow one convention – Cearon O'Flynn Jan 29 '16 at 14:29

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