All of the flagship starships of humanity/the Federation get the name Enterprise: Enterprise NX-01, USS Enterprise NCC-1701, USS Enterprise NCC-1701 D, etc.

Flagships of the United Federation of Planets could be named under a naming convention following from the first Warp 5 starship of humanity, the Enterprise NX-01 (humans were the dominant race in the Federation after all). But, how did Enterprise NX-01 get its name? And how did this naming convention arise?

What's the in-universe history behind this naming?

  • 1
    @Mark Its not a duplicate if you read the question carefully.
    – user931
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:25
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    What part of your question is not answered by the accepted answer of that other question: "Prior to the events of the Star Trek canon, in real history, six tall (sailing) ships, two aircraft carriers, and a space shuttle have borne the name "Enterprise". They, plus a fictional sublight interstellar ship from the 2100s numbered ECV-330, are paid homage to in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and in other ways through the canon." Jan 16, 2013 at 13:29
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    @Mark Extra details of an answer doesn't make the question duplicate. We've discussed this before.
    – user931
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:33
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    @SachinShekhar Then you need to edit this to make the question more distinct. As it currently stands, your accepted answer here doesn't have anything that the other question's answer doesn't have. So this is both duplicating questions and answers.
    – user1027
    Jan 16, 2013 at 15:58
  • 4
    @SachinShekhar Keen is not the one lacking common sense here. Please keep it civil.
    – user56
    Jan 16, 2013 at 21:07

6 Answers 6


Captain Decker showing Ilia the ships named "Enterprise" in Star Trek: The Motion Picture:


And from Enterprise history on Memory Alpha:

  • First image: The Enterprise was a noted sailing frigate, either of the Royal Navy or of the US Navy. She was active in the late 18th century. (ENT: "United")
  • Second image: The USS Enterprise (CV-6) was an aircraft carrier that served in World War II. (ENT: "Storm Front") Its successor was the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
  • Third image: The first space shuttle was the Enterprise OV-101. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
  • Fourth image: An early Warp starship was the USS Enterprise (XCV 330). (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
    • Notable for not having the traditional nacelles+saucer design of usual Starfleet ships.
  • Fifth image: The original NCC-1701 from The Original Series. (At least according to Memory Alpha. I don't recognize it from the above screenshot.. Odd shadows.)

Not in the above, but featured in the opening sequence of Star Trek: Enterprise:

  • The HMS Enterprize was a noted sailing ship of the British Royal Navy. A galleon, she was active sometime between the 16th century and the early 18th century.

Additionally, I'm fairly certain Captain Archer had a similar scene as the above, where he explains the history of the name "Enterprise" to Commander Shran. I don't recall which episode, though..

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    Little fun fact: The first space shuttle (which was a prototype and never actually went into space, lacking both thrusters and heat shielding) was originally named Constitution. Because a huge number of Star Trek fans asked for it, it was then renamed Enterprise. So the space shuttle was actually named after the ship from the tv show. Jan 16, 2013 at 12:40
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    I've always been amused by the 5th picture since that was the same Enterprise they were standing on in the movie. It had just undergone an extensive refit just prior to the movie, but it was still the same ship.
    – BBlake
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:17
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    @Sebastian_H: minor correction. It was going to be named Constitution, but it never actually was. And President Ford didn't cite the letter-writing campaign when he asked for it to be named Enterprise. And while in the Navy he served on a ship that serviced the CV-6 Enterprise. So, officially, it's not named after the TV ship.
    – Plutor
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:54
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    @Plutor True, it was going to be named Constitution. An oversight on my part. However, NASA always gives the viewers write-in campaign as the reason why the name Enterprise was choosen. The cast was also invited to the rollout of the OV-101. So this sounds official to me, even if the President didn't cite the letter. Or maybe he agreed with it because of the reason you stated. Now I would really like to know if the desicion was influenced by the fans or not. But in the end its still just a large pr gag if you ask me. Jan 16, 2013 at 14:57
  • @Sebastian_H I think that would be on topic, go Ask Question! (^_~)
    – Izkata
    Jan 16, 2013 at 16:08

George Kirk, Kirk's father, convinced his friend and Captain Robert April that the appropriate name for the ship was the Enterprise after so many famous ships in history. The novel is Final Frontier from Diane Carey published in 1988. The ship was experimental and they were to secretly take her out to test her systems.

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    Fine... but, it doesn't say anything about Enterprise NX-01...
    – user931
    Jan 16, 2013 at 9:01
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    @SachinShekhar True, but it is hard for a book published prior to a retconning TV show to account for the future actions of said show.
    – Xantec
    Jan 16, 2013 at 13:16

Often time the name Enterprise is given to the first or second vessel of a line, or a vessel involved in exploration. As such they are often the most advanced vessel in a fleet technologically or design wise. Even the word Enterprise has connotations of difficult undertakings, taking on new ventures, initiative, leading the way.

Also Flagship does not only refer to the best or most important ship in a fleet, but the ship that carries the commander of a fleet or subdivision of a fleet. As such the Defiant served as the flagship of the second fleet on occasion. In the movie First Contact, the Entrprise-E is not the flagship, but the unnamed vessel of Admiral Hayes. Once it is destroyed Picard takes command of the fleet.

Also, as far as I can find searching the transcripts the only time the Enterprise is referred to as a "flagship" in The original series era is the reboot. The word flagship is mentioned in TOS in the Balance of Terror and Enterprise Incident referencing Romulan Flagships, and the Corbomite Maneuver in reference to the Fesarius. (If I have missed something from the TOS era comment on it and I will remove this section)

Here are some historical examples culled from wikipedia:

  • HMS Enterprise 1774 - first of a class of 6th-rate frigates commissioned by the British Navy
  • USS Enterprise 1775 - first sloop-of-war captured by Colonial Navy and acted as flagship of the Lake Champlain squadron.
  • Enterprise 1814 - first steamboat to successfully navigate the Ohio river from Louisville to Pittsburgh opening up a new trade route.
  • HMS Enterprise 1848 - Arctic discovery ship making voyages to the arctic from both the Pacific and the Atlantic.
  • Enterprise (balloon) 1858 - Originally built for a transatlantic crossing, eventually put to use with the Union Army during the American Civil War.
  • Enterprise 1862 - first in a line of sternwheelers that would travel the Fraser River in British Columbia
  • HMS Enterprise D52 1918 - One of 2 Emerald class light cruisers with prototype twin 6" turrets. Lead ship in Assault Force "U" during invasion of Normandy.
  • USS Enterprise CV-6 1938 - US aircraft carrier regularly used as a flagship during WW2, equipped with advanced radar.
  • USS Enterprise CVN-65 1958 - First nuclear powered US aircraft carrier
  • HMS Enterprise A71 1959 - Echo class survey ship
  • Space Shuttle Enterprise 1972 - Prototype orbiter module
  • HMS Enterprise H88 2002 - Multi role survey vessel of the Royal navy.
  • VSS Enterprise 2009 - First Virgin Galactic commercial spacecraft
  • Building on this answer, remember that TOS was made during the Cold War by Americans, so Enterprise (a capitalist term) being the flagship is sort of an insult to Communism, showing the capitalism will always lead the way. (Just a historical note) Mar 6, 2014 at 3:44
  • @N source for that?
    – Gaius
    Nov 14, 2014 at 12:21
  • @N_Soong I'm not 100% sure about TOS, but I didn't find TNG's economic system particularly capitalist. And they were both made by the same person, so I must disagree with your notion.
    – elaforma
    Nov 25, 2015 at 20:53
  • @fNek agreed on Roddenberry's socialism, but not on the part of the writers. Many episodes were anti-cold war, but there was a fair amount of rah-rah Americanism as well. See "the Omega Glory" for example.
    – Ber
    Mar 25, 2017 at 16:20
  • Building on this answer, USS Enterprise 1775 was the first ship in the Colonial armed forces (steward's comment about the USS Alfred notwithstanding) before the Continental Navy existed. It is my (uninformed) hypothesis that this started the tradition of naming "firsts" Enterprise. Side trivia: Enterprise was captured and named by Colonel Benedict Arnold of the Colonial Army, who used it to fight the British on Lake Champlain. Since it is the custom to refer to the commander of a ship "Captain" regardless of rank, the first Captain of the USS Enterprise was Benedict Arnold. Feb 3, 2018 at 20:06

According to a primary source - the United States Navy - "the first ship of the new Continental Navy was named Alfred in honor of Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex." ( http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq63-1.htm )

All eight ships of the United States Navy named Enterprise, and their stories, are on the United States Navy site for Enterprise (CVN-65) at http://www.public.navy.mil/airfor/enterprise/Documents/Enterprise/the_legend.html

  • 1
    This is nice background information, but the question is looking for an in-universe answer.
    – Null
    Nov 14, 2014 at 6:25

The Enterprise was the first US ship ever created. There is therefore a tradition that at all times in the US fleet a ship named Enterprise. I'd surmise that the original ship was named after this tradition, and then Starfleet made a tradition like the US's tradition.

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    Can you point us at a reference for this being the case, please? Feb 1, 2013 at 3:51

The Enterprise (NCC-1701) was a Constitution-class heavy cruiser. By naval tradition, the class shares its name with the first ship of that class. For example, the first Nimitz-class carrier was the USS Nimitz, the first Kitty Hawk-class carrier was the USS Kitty Hawk, etc.

So, the Enterprise was actually the SECOND ship of its class. The first ship of its class was... the NCC-1700 Constitution, of course. The NCC-1701-A was actually the NCC-1798 Ti-Ho, a refitted Constitution-class starship which was a testbed for transwarp technology alongside the USS Excelsior. After Kirk was exonerated, it was given a new name and number. The NCC-1701-B, NCC-1701-C, NCC-1701-D, and NCC-1701-E were Excelsior-class, Ambassador-class, Galaxy-class, and Sovereign-class. So, in every case (except for the NX-01), the Enterprise was NOT the first ship of its class.

Thought I'd better point that out, for anyone who thought that the Enterprise had some sort of special importance from being the "first of its class" or any such nonsense.

  • While informative, this doesn't appear to address the main question of why the flagship is named Enterprise.
    – Longshanks
    Mar 7, 2017 at 13:45
  • The question doesn't claim that the first ship of each class is called Enterprise. It claims that the "Flagship" is always called Enterprise.
    – Blackwood
    Mar 7, 2017 at 14:10

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