What is the Difference Between a Ship and a Boat? [Explained]

You’ve likely heard the terms ‘boat’ and ‘ship’ used interchangeably, but are they actually interchangeable? Well, the truth is that there are different definitions for these two terms. And though most people tend to use them to mean the same thing, if you really want to sound smart you’ll want to take a look at a little more information about each of them.

What is the Difference Between a Ship and a Boat?

When it comes down to it, a ship is a large vessel that is intended to travel in the ocean or what’s called ‘deep-water transport.’ That’s it. Anything else that you see is considered a boat. So, if you are referring to a vessel that stays in lakes and smaller bodies of water then you’re referring to a boat.

When we look at all of the specifics, a ship is equal to or larger than 197 feet in total length. This means that it also must be quite large to be considered a ship. However, these larger sizes are fairly required when it comes to going out in the type of waters that a ship is known for. Smaller vessels are generally not able to survive it.

At What Point Does a Boat Become a Ship?

A boat becomes a ship when it reaches at least 197 feet. Not only that but it must be intended to travel on the ocean or deep-water of some type. Of course, boats of this size are not generally going to do well in any smaller bodies of water anyway.

If you do happen to refer to a ship as a boat, most will not fault you for this because the terms have long been used as interchangeable. Those who are more formal or who work on a ship might have a different opinion, however, and may actually be inclined to correct you about whether they are employed on a ship or a boat. The best thing is to make your best guess and be willing to adjust if you are incorrect.

What Defines a Ship?

A ship is defined based on the overall size as well as where it’s actually sailing. If the vessel is destined for the ocean or deep-water transport then it is considered a ship. If it is not then it is considered a boat. Also, a ship is at least 197 feet in length, while a ship is shorter to accommodate smaller bodies of water.

This means that you will want to consider the specific vessel you’re looking at when you think about what you want to call something. If you’re not sure what kind of vessel it is or you haven’t actually seen the vessel (such as if you are talking to someone who is a captain but don’t know anything further about their vessel) you can choose to refer to it in either way. Just be mindful that you might be corrected about what it is called. Or you could choose to refer to the vessel or craft until you know what to call it.

What’s Another Word for Ship?

Many people use the word boat to refer to a ship, and these two words are commonly used interchangeably. However, the more proper term would be a vessel or a craft or watercraft. While you might hear any of these terms, the vessel is generally the most common and appropriate.

Can You Call a Ship a Boat?

Technically you can call a ship a boat, but this is not the official or appropriate name for the vessel. Rather, it’s a name that has commonly been used or appropriated to refer to ships. This is something that you might want to think about when you’re referring to this type of vessel with someone more familiar with the field.

The general way to tell if something is a ship or a boat is to consider whether it is capable of carrying another vessel. A ship is able to carry a boat but a boat is not able to carry a ship. Also, if you know the size or where the vessel is sailing you will be able to determine whether you are looking at a ship or a boat.

Is a Submarine a Ship or a Boat?

This is one area where you may find some gray areas. In fact, submarines are technically considered ships because of the criteria used to classify them (such as traveling in deep water and oceans). However, they are actually classified more like boats.

Original submarines were actually quite small and therefore were considered boats because of this sizing. However, they have since become quite a bit larger and they also meet the qualifications for travel. However, most still refer to them as boats because this is the way they have been referred to for a long time previously.

What Does It Mean to Ship Someone?

Shipping someone doesn’t’ actually refer to the process of sailing or water vessels at all. Rather, it’s a word used to refer to fandoms and writings. It refers to a couple, usually, that fans want to see continue on together.

When you talk about ‘shipping someone’ it means that you’re really wanting those two to end up together or stay together because you really believe in and support them as a couple.


Boats and ships are definitely not the same things, even though the terms are often used in the same way. So, it’s important to think about which one you’re actually referring to before you say something to anyone who really knows what they’re doing with any kind of water vessel or craft.




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