Love words? Sign up for our Word of the Day!
Old English scip "ship, boat," from Proto-Germanic *skipam (cf. Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Gothic skip, Danish skib, Swedish skepp, Middle Dutch scip, Dutch schip, Old High German skif, German Schiff), "Germanic noun of obscure origin" [Watkins]. Others suggest perhaps originally "tree cut out or hollowed out," and derive it from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split."
Now a vessel of considerable size, adapted to navigation; the Old English word was used for small craft as well, and definitions changed over time; in 19c., distinct from a boat in having a bowsprit and three masts, each with a lower, top, and topgallant mast. French esquif, Italian schifo are Germanic loan-words.
Phrase ships that pass in the night is from Longfellow's poem "Elizabeth" in "Tales of a Wayside Inn" (1863). Figurative use of nautical runs a tight ship (i.e., one that does not leak) is attested from 1965.
c.1300, "to send or transport (merchandise, people) by ship; to board a ship; to travel by ship, sail, set sail," also figurative, from ship (n.). Old English scipian is attested only in the senses "take ship, embark; be furnished with a ship." Transferred to other means of conveyance (railroad, etc.) from 1857, originally American English. Related: Shipped; shipping.
early used in foreign commerce by the Phoenicians (Gen. 49:13). Moses (Deut. 28:68) and Job (9:26) make reference to them, and Balaam speaks of the "ships of Chittim" (Num. 24:24). Solomon constructed a navy at Ezion-geber by the assistance of Hiram's sailors (1 Kings 9:26-28; 2 Chr. 8:18). Afterwards, Jehoshaphat sought to provide himself with a navy at the same port, but his ships appear to have been wrecked before they set sail (1 Kings 22:48, 49; 2 Chr. 20:35-37). In our Lord's time fishermen's boats on the Sea of Galilee were called "ships." Much may be learned regarding the construction of ancient merchant ships and navigation from the record in Acts 27, 28.