In the Star Trek franchise the Federation had several classes of vessels, i.e. Miranda-class science vessels, Constitution-class cruisers, Exeter-class starships, Galaxy-class starships, etc.

  • Were there consistent rules for the naming of Star Fleet vessels in a fashion similar to military navies of today?

  • Are there any canon examples, samples, or publications which support the tradition?

  • Were such traditions followed by other space-faring species of the Alpha quadrant?

  • Are you asking about ship names or ship class names? Both would make good questions, but asking about both at a time makes the question too broad IMO. Feb 29, 2016 at 19:01
  • I'm not sure "ship of the line" makes sense in space. Wouldn't it be a "ship of the plane"?
    – user14111
    Mar 19, 2018 at 5:04

2 Answers 2


In the 70s, between TOS and the movies, the Star Fleet Technical Manual attempted to impose the notion of rational name assignments to Federation starships. Constitution Class ships were all named for famous Earth ships-of-the-line, for example; Dreadnoughts were all named for kinds of governments and agreements (Imperium, Federation, Concordat, Entente); etc.

Thing is, except for the Constitution Class itself, all the other ships types were invented whole-cloth by Franz Josef (although Roddenberry signed off on it at the time), and except for a brief background mention of the scout Columbia in TMP, they're never seen or heard from again, except that Reliant looks a little bit like Franz Josef's transport/tug design.

After that, the answer is pretty much, "no". Writers used whatever names seemed cool at the time. Sometimes they were in-jokes (Yamato is as much named for the anime space battleship as it is for the WWII battleship from which it's derived). Sometimes they were symbolic (Defiant NX-74205, which became a symbol for defiance of the Dominion). Other times, presumably, they just sounded good.

  • 2
    Also - until the Dominion war in later series of DS9 (thanks to CGI models), we only see about 6 classes of ship on screen (Constitution/Constitution II, Nebula, Excelsior, Ambassador, Galaxy, and Oberth). In real life, ship classes are much more numerous and examples within each classes are smaller - making it easier to theme names within a type
    – HorusKol
    Apr 2, 2013 at 21:56
  • 1
    The WWII Yamato was not a battlecruiser, but a full battleship.
    – Oldcat
    Jan 29, 2014 at 21:52
  • @Oldcat - You're correct on the technicality and I've edited the answer to reflect that. The Japanese title of the series is frequently mistranslated as "Space Battlecruiser..." (or else I simply mis-remembered), and that's what I was basing it upon. Mar 18, 2014 at 22:04
  • Note that during the 24th century, there was a slight trend of naming ship classes for spatial phenomena - think Galaxy, Nebula, Nova, ... Feb 29, 2016 at 19:04
  • 2
    @HorusKol: Don't forget the Miranda class mentioned in the question and the similar Soyuz class, as well as the Constellation class. Also, the Danube class runabouts formally count as a full-fledged starship class (rather than a shuttlecraft type), too. Other than that, the Battle of Wolf 359 and the Qualor II surplus depot both more or less show a few more Starfleet ship classes. Feb 29, 2016 at 19:08

I remember a line from Deep Space 9, where Kira comments on such a great number of runabouts being destroyed throughout the series. It was something like "It's a good thing that Earth has so many rivers". This is referencing to the naming convention of runabouts being named after rivers. Shuttlecraft are also named after famous scientists. Those are the two conventions that I can think of off of the top of my head.

  • How do you know that line refers to naming conventions?
    – Obsidia
    Mar 19, 2018 at 4:46
  • 4
    @Bellatrix it's clear from context. They've got a new runabout to replace one that was destroyed, and they're discussing the new name (Rubicon).
    – hobbs
    Mar 19, 2018 at 5:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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