Following this question, why are Romulans using warp scale for speed when it’s clearly a Federation unit? They do so in many episodes (for example in "Face of the enemy"), while at the same time using onkians (a clearly Romulan unit) for temperature (for example in "The Defector").

Are they using the same scale as the Federation or their own? And what is going on with this at all? Somehow I can't imagine any species or nation using one scale for some measurements and a different (alien?) scale for others. This just doesn't make any sense.

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    The universal translator corrected it (pure speculation) Jan 20, 2015 at 10:50
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    @trejder: but you hear him giving the order in English, not Romulan, right? That’s your TV’s universal translator doing the conversion. Jan 20, 2015 at 10:54
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    Whether it's the universal translator or the magic TV translator, everything that Romulans say is translated into English. There's no reason why the units wouldn't be translated as well. If you have any evidence of Romulans talking about warp factors in Romulan, then please post it.
    – Mike Scott
    Jan 20, 2015 at 11:09
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    @trejder I'm addressing you, as the original questioner.
    – Mike Scott
    Jan 20, 2015 at 11:35
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    @MikeScott Then I miss your point completely. This question asks, how it is, that one Romulan commander uses (verbal order) a Federation unit of speed, while another Romulan commander uses Romulan unit for temperature. This difference in units doesn't make any sense to me, no matter, if these units are spoken in English, Romulan or any other language. I thought, that previous comments about translator were jokes. Going this way, we can start arguing, why Romulans speaks English on boards of their ships (where using translator in not required). But, that is not a point of this question.
    – trejder
    Jan 20, 2015 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


Warp is never defined on screen. There is no explanation of it, or why the scale changes between TOS and TNG+. There are only a few benchmarks of how fast a certian warp factor is; warp 1 is the speed of light, warp 10 is everywhere at once, warp 5 is "here to Uranus and back in 10 minutes" or some such. There is nothing in the series that states that it is a Federation, Human, or natural unit (a universal constant).

Knowing this, one possibility is that Warp is just the English word for a universal constant, where the Romulan unit of kinetic energy is not a natural unit (neither is Celsius) and is not trivially translated.

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    Also the terms humans use for warp ect, are probably related to vulcan terminology. as immediately after discovering FTL travel the vulcans land on earth. their may have already been terms used between vulcans and others, or since the romulan language is essentially a dialect of vulcan the romulans naturally used the same terms for warp travel.
    – Himarm
    Jan 20, 2015 at 14:05
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    @Himaram I think pointing out the common technical linguistic heritage of the three cultures is worthy of an answer (...do the Klingons use warp numbers?)
    – Schwern
    Jan 20, 2015 at 17:46
  • @Schwern Yes, they do, if only I'm not mistaken. I can't recall direct example in any particular episode, but I'm pretty sure, that I heard at least few Klingon commanders in TNG ordering a speed of "Warp X".
    – trejder
    Jan 20, 2015 at 20:04

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual (which is semi-canonical since it was written by the technical consultants for TNG, Michael Okuda and Rick Sternbach, and was based on a document that was used as a guide for the writers) indicated that there were 9 local minima in the graph of power usage vs. warp factor, so many species may have independently chosen to use a "natural" scale in which each minimum is assigned an integer value 1-9:

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    This answer deserves upvoting. Warp speed factors can relate to some discrete natural quanta. Think like the orbital energies of atoms. So it is natural that there would be an easy mapping between terminologies of different races. Temperature scales are basically continuous so arbitrary. Jan 22, 2015 at 19:31

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