The most infamous and famous ship names from history

The most infamous and famous ship names from history 2018-02-16T14:38:00+00:00

A handful of famous ships have helped shape world history.

Where would we be without the HMS Beagle, the Santa Maria or the Lusitania?

Come to think of it…Leonardo DiCaprio might not even have a career without the Titanic.

Yes, its true. A noble collection of old, historical ships have etched an indelible mark on our world. In this article, we briefly discuss the most famous boat names in history. We then offer our list of the best ship names…or at least the funniest.

But…first we must distinguish between a ship and a boat.

Is it a ship or is it a boat?

Well … what is the difference between a ship and a boat?

The official answer is this…In general, a ship is larger than a boat and it’s designed to cross vast oceans.

Therefore, a commercial shipping container is a ship, it is not a boat.

The Santa Maria was a ship, not a boat.

Or…to put it more succinctly, ‘A ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship.

Ok, now that that’s settled, let’s move on to discuss some historic ships. We first list some famous ship names. Then to keep things light, we included a list of some funny ship names.

Fair winds!

Famous ship names

American Queen – A recently built river steamboat, possibly the largest of its kind.

Andrea Gail – The commercial fishing vessel immortalized in the book, ‘Perfect Storm’. The Andrea Gail was then made more famous by the subsequent George Clooney movie.

USS Arizona – This American battleship was tragically sunk during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Arthur Foss –  A classic old wooden tugboat from the Pacific Northwest.

SS Baychimo – A steel steamship operated by the Hudson Bay Company as they traded their way down western Canada.

famous boats

The USS Arizona is launched from a Brooklyn boatyard. The Williamsburg Bridge can be seen in the background.

ship names

The Beagle, famous for carrying Charles Darwin around the world, is laid on its side for repairs near a river mouth in Tierra del Fuego.

funniest boat names

About the author…

Captain Curran began boating and crabbing and fishing in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest. He now teaches at a university in San Diego and keeps his boat near Cabo San Lucas. Curran has written extensively about electrical systems on boats. His most widely read articles are:

More historical ships, famous boat names and warship names

HMS Beagle – The Beagle was a 10-gun sloop from the Royal Navy made famous by carrying Charles Darwin around the globe. Darwin formulated his theory of evolution while aboard the Beagle.

Bismark – The Bismark was one of two enormous battleships built for the Nazi forces.

HMS Bounty – This small merchant ship built by the Royal British Navy was made famous by a mutiny against Captain Bligh.

The Essex – An American whaleship from Nantucket, MA. Captained by George Pollard Jr., the ship was sunk by a sperm whale in 1820. This was the inspiration for Melville’s classic book, Moby Dick.

USS Gabrielle Giffords – A U.S. Navy littoral combat ship named after a politician and shooting victim.

USS George H.W. Bush – The last of the famous Nimitz class super-carriers. This vessel was named after the 41st president of the U.S.

Golden Hind – This famous British ship was captained by by Sir Francis Drake. Between 1577 and 1580, Sir Drake completed the first circumnavigation of the globe on the Golden Hind.

CSS Hunley – One of the first submarines used in warfare, she was dangerous to everyone near her. The Hunley was built by the Confederates in 1863 for the purpose of sinking Union ships that were blocking harbors. The CSS Hunley submarine did sink a Union ship but also sank itself repeatedly.

RMS Lusitania – This British ocean liner was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. That bold move precipitated America’s entry into the first World War.

USS Maine – This ill-fated warship played a pivotal role in the short-lived Spanish-American War. A mysterious explosion aboard the USS Maine caused the ship to sink in Havana harbor, off the coast of Cuba. 89 seamen perished. Believing the incident to be an act of sabotage, the United States took the offensive again Spain.

Mayflower – This ship delivered British Separatists, known today as the Pilgrims, to Massachusetts in 1620.

Merrimack – A frigate ship, used as the platform for the construction of the CSS Virginia during the Civil War.

Misaka – This historic ship was internationally regarded as one of the best of its time. The International Japanese Navy made good use of Misaka. In 1904 and 1905, while patrolling the Yellow Sea and the Tsushima Straight, the Misaka sunk multiple Russian boats.

USS Misouri – The “Mighty Mo” is a very famous historical warship, in that World War 2 officially ended aboard this ship. The surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. This massive vessel went on to sea action in the Korean War and the Persian Gulf in 1991.

USS Monitor an iron steamship built during the American civil war.

Potemkin The Russian revolution began in 1905. This famous warship receives credit for firing the first shots of this war.

Santa Maria – The largest of the three ships used by Columbus as he ‘discovered’ North America in 1492.

HMS Victory This was Lord Nelson’s ship used in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The Victory was a top-notch man-of-war. It was the pride of the Royal Navy. Under Lord Nelson’s command, the HMS Victory defeated a vastly out-numbered French/Spanish fleet off the coast of Cape Trafalgar. This defeat helped shut down Napoleon’s advance towards Britain.

CSS Virginia – The first iron-hulled warship used by the Confederate Navy.

Yamato – The biggest and deadliest of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s battleships. The Yamato displaced more water than any battleship in history. Her massive 18 inch guns propelled 3,000 pound ammo up to 30 miles towards an enemy.

famous boat names

A replica of the HMS Bounty, the ship famous for a mutiny on Captain Bligh.

famous ships

The HMS Bounty replica tragically sinks during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Funny Ship Names

So, as we’ve just learned, ships are serious business. Nations tend to roll out the big famous ships in times of war and conquest.

But…there is also the lighter side of ships. There will always be a few jovial skippers who try to inject a touch of comedy into their sea-faring vessel. This is good, it reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. Here’s a few of the best ship names that we’ve come across.

Do you know any other funny ship names??

Please let us know, send us a message here and we’ll add it to our list. Thanks!

Our list of funny ship names


Ship for Brains


Ship Happens


Deep Ship




Ship Faced




USS Virginity

ships names

The Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

warship names

The USS Monitor at sea.

And one more thing…

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These are my main hobbies, so when I see something cool, I let you know.

This week I’m sharing a really cool woodworking resource.

Ted McGrath has put together a collection of 16,000 woodworking plans. As far as I know, this is the largest and most detailed collection of plans.

It’s quite impressive and can save you lots of money as you begin building all your own stuff.

Click here to learn more about Ted’s Woodworking Resource.

TedsWoodworking Plans and Projects

Other boat name categories…

Thanks for visiting! We hope you learned something about historical ships. If we have left out any warship names or famous boat names, please let us know. We update this page every year. It’s our intention to include the best ship names, so if any slipped through the cracks, we will be happy to include them soon. As mentioned, you can send us your comments here.

Fair Winds!