Which is correct, A or B? As he turns over the command, Kirk says

A) 'You have the COM' [as in Command]


B) You have the CONN.' [as in ???]

I've always assumed the former, A, is correct, but a recent television commercial for the new Star Trek app, claims B, which has left me thoroughly confused.

  • 17
    I don't have a Star Trek specific reference, but en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conn_(nautical)
    – user38763
    Jan 9, 2019 at 1:14
  • 4
    Is he turning over command? I think he's only turning over control of the ship and its actions. He's always the one in command - unless he leaves the ship on some solo venture for a sustained period of time, I think. (Boinking an alien isn't a long enough period of time: He's still in command, then.)
    – davidbak
    Jan 9, 2019 at 19:00
  • 1
    @HamSandwich - That seems a little unfair. There are multiple mentions of officers being "left in command" or "in command" of a vessel.
    – Valorum
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:30
  • 1
    Granted, but "com" never means "command," does it? Jan 9, 2019 at 22:45
  • 3
    @HamSandwich - How is OP supposed to know that?
    – Valorum
    Jan 10, 2019 at 1:18

4 Answers 4


The command is "you have the conn", as can be seen in this original screenplay from Star Trek: The Motion Picture

KIRK: Mr. Decker, I'd like to see you in my quarters.
(toward helm)
You have the conn, Mr. Sulu.

The term "conn" is a naval/nautical expression;

One of the most important principles of ship handling is that there be no ambiguity as to who is controlling the movements of the ship. One person gives orders to the ship's engine, rudder, lines, and ground tackle. This person is said to have the "conn."

— James Alden Barber, 2005, "Introduction", The Naval Shiphandler's Guide, p. 8.

The etymology is lost, but it may have something to do with the conduct of the vessel.

  • 17
    Yes, it is definitely CONN - as in submarine CONNing tower - bridge CONNing stations. Hunt for Red October "Conn, Sonar, Crazy Ivan!" (Communication from sonar station to the Conn) Battlestar Galactica - The Captain's Hand: Garner:"I have to get down there, you have the conn" Adama: "Yes sir, I have the conn"
    – Andrew
    Jan 9, 2019 at 3:38
  • 7
    The etymology's not entirely lost. The noun comes from the verb (also "conn"), which the Oxford English Dictionary believes most likely comes from the verb "cond". "Cond" itself comes from "condue" which in turn is from the French "conduire". Lastly, that French word comes from Latin "condūcere", which you could trace back further...
    – Laurel
    Jan 9, 2019 at 4:57
  • 19
    @Laurel - That's certainly one theory about the etymology. But when the OED uses words like 'most likely' you know that they're hedging their bets
    – Valorum
    Jan 9, 2019 at 7:58
  • 26
    Just be careful on pronunciation. Otherwise, you have Kirk shouting, "You have the KHAN!"
    – Ghotir
    Jan 9, 2019 at 14:36
  • 4
    @BrianOrtiz It is fairly common, nautically at least, to have an officer junior to the commanding officer doing conns, even while (s)he is present. (S)He will counter any order he deems unwise or unfit, or issue orders deemed necessary and otherwise let whomever has the conn do it.
    – Stian
    Jan 10, 2019 at 10:15

My memory was 'You have the bridge'. So I checked and


gives a good explanation of both the usages

The conn, likewise is the station one uses to directly control the ship's maneuvers. The "conning tower" on a submarine, for example, is so named because when a sub is on the surface, it can be commanded and steered from a secondary helm (or "conn") on the top of the conning tower. Both the watch officer (such as the captain) or the helmsman can be said to "have the conn" at any given time. The helmsman has the conn because he is physically manning the station and steering the ship. A watch officer may have the conn because while he doesn't man the station, he directs the helmsman, at the conn, where the ship is to be steered. It is often mistakenly misunderstood to represent the bridge itself, because the same watch officer that is said to "have the conn" is also said to "have the bridge" as he is in charge of the entire bridge watch.


Star Trek attempted to give verisimilitude to the show by basing the ship's culture on naval military structures, officers, and lingo. The proper expression is "you have the CONN." TNG was consistent in using "CONN" not "COMM." However, Shatner was famous for his mispronunciations of certain words, and he seems to use "COMM" rather than "CONN." In true seamanship lingo, there is no such statement as "you have the COMM"--the idea that this is short for command is incorrect.

Others have already clearly described what "you have the CONN" means in seamanship, but it is true that Star Trek often seems to use "CONN" to mean command, though at other times it seems to just refer to control of the bridge, referring to the more traditional meaning of the steerage or helmsmanship of the vessel. If Kirk or Picard is just going to his quarters, the meaning is clearly closer to the traditional one whereas if the captain beams down to a planet, the term "CONN" seems to refer to something more like "command." Scottie clearly makes command-like decisions when he has the CONN when Kirk is on a planet surface, though he still operates within the Captain's orders. In any case, fiction can take liberty with these terms in ways actual seaman would never do; but the original expression is CONN, not COMM.

  • 'TNG was consistent in using "CONN" not "COMM."' - note that in the 24th century, the term "conn" seems to have drifted a meaning a bit, as from TNG onward, "conn" is the helm station (or its officer). Consequently, Picard customarily says "You have the bridge." Sep 7, 2022 at 16:06

“You have the conn” is borrowed from naval terminology. It most likely refers to the role of conning officer, who is the officer of the deck (OOD). This officer is responsible for carrying out the captain’s orders which includes controlling the direction and speed of the ship. The officer has full responsibility when the captain is off of the bridge. On naval ships the conn officer will stand watch at 4 hour intervals. The origination of the term conn and conning is uncertain but could come from conduct (conducting the ship) or from conning line, a rope that connected the wheel to the ship’s rudder.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. The top answer already gives the relevant parts of this information, and the rest is really commentary rather than responsive. When you earn some reputation you'll be able to leave comments, in the meantime please don't post duplicate answers.
    – DavidW
    Dec 29, 2023 at 2:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.