I've been watching Star Trek: Enterprise lately, and I noticed "Aye, Captain" and "Aye, Cap" are used quite often. It's quite a safe bet that Enterprise (and thus the future Federation) is drawing its military structure from US Navy, ok, but... "Aye Cap"?

Is this something that has been included in the show to give it a little more colour, or did they pick it from real US Navy speech? Do US Navy personnel really talk like a bunch of pirates? Arrrr?

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    So you're asking if the US Navy talk like that?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:27
  • I'm asking if "Aye cap" has been invented for the show or if it's in actual use in the US Navy. If I got it correctly that the Federation is inspired somehow from US Navy, clearly.
    – motoDrizzt
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:28
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    @motoDrizzt - Actually Roddenberry drew a great deal of inspiration (regarding military procedures) from the British Navy.
    – Valorum
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:33
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    @motoDrizzt about the [star-trek] tag: it's just the policy around here to tag anything part of a franchise with said franchise tag. Just as we have Borg questions which only tackle TNG but still have the [star-trek] tag, etc
    – Jenayah
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:38
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    @motoDrizzt sorry, I’m just making sure here, you’re asking if “aye-aye captain” is real, or if “aye cap” is real? Making sure you aren’t using slang, because that can confuse the issue.
    – Broklynite
    Feb 7, 2019 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


As a US Marine Corps veteran and avid Trekkie I can confirm that the term “Aye Captain” is from British nautical etiquette and used in the US Coast Guard, the US Marine Corps and US Navy. The rank structure is borrowed heavily from all US and British Naval terms. https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-phrase-aye-aye-captain-originate

Aye, aye literally means yes, yes. It came from the British Royal navy hundreds of years ago.

This phrase is used constantly in the U.S. Marines, and the usual form is “Aye, aye, Sir!”. I uttered it myself many thousands of times as an enlisted marine.

Note that if you said, “Aye, aye, Captain!” to an officer of any other rank (in any service branch), you would immediately be in trouble and under suspicion as a possible impostor. This is because the entire rank structure is taught in recruit training. The real U.S. military is quite unlike Star Trek.

It’s used as an acknowledgement of a direct order by a superior, especially to any officer.

The repeating is done because aboard ship (especially in combat) there may be a lot of background noise or confusion involved. It repeats so the person issuing the order knows that the person being ordered to do something is sure of their responsibility.

Yes, yes would be much harder to hear, and using a conventional phrase like aye, aye avoids that as well as the possibility of a wink or nod of the head, so others nearby know that an order was given and acknowledged, and avoids less respectful acknowledgements like yeah, or okay. It helps to maintain esprit de corps.

  • When is "Aye, aye" applicable and when is a single "Aye" used? I seem to recall one ship's Captain sternly saying "One 'Aye' will do, Mister!" once in a Trek episode.
    – Kerr Avon
    Feb 7, 2019 at 22:02
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    “Aye sir!” is used to is used to confirm commands in the US Marine Corps, but “Aye, Aye, Sir” is used aboard naval vessels and when in combat if I remember correctly. Also the latter is used more commonly by Navy and Coast Guard while the former is more used in the Corps. “Aye aye sir” tends to be affirming and active order whereas the singular “aye sir” is used when affirming one’s reception of information or understanding of an explanation.
    – user111346
    Feb 7, 2019 at 22:14
  • Adding to this, when you have background noise “yes” will drown out to mostly the tail sibilant (sssss) which is easily lost, whereas “aye” is much more easily heard and understood. The second half of “age” where the word gets swallowed is the first part of “yes”. So “yes” starts with a swallowed sounds and moves to a sibilant. Whereas “aye” has a projected beginning and is easier to hear and distinguish. Not sure if that makes sense.
    – Broklynite
    Feb 8, 2019 at 13:01

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