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Legacy Vessel Naming

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Holodeck Panel: Please enter program.
Scotty: The android at the bar said you could show me my old ship. Let me see it.
Holodeck Panel: Insufficient data. Please specify parameters.
Scotty (irritated): The Enterprise! Show me the bridge of the Enterprise ya chatterin' piece of...
Holodeck Panel: There have been five Federation ships with that name. Please specify by registry number.
Scotty (slowly): N. C. C. One. Seven. Oh. One. No bloody A... B... C... Or... D.

A newly built ship, spaceship, or other large named vehicle is christened with the name of another vessel, one that has been previously destroyed or decommissioned after an illustrious service life. This is done to demonstrate a profound attachment the ship crew had to their old ship, or how illustrious the predecessor ship was, but simultaneously serves as a bad omen regarding the new ship's fate (or not).

In Nautical Folklore, naming a ship after a vessel chiefly remembered for having bad luck is considered taboo. Probably few shipbuilders would consciously believe in such superstition; they would believe that few passengers would get on. Likewise few passengers would be consciously believing this. Still it would somehow "not be proper" to launch a second Titanic. See What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?.

Sister trope of Dead Guy Junior. Compare Legacy Character.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Reinforce and Reinforce Junior in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam. Notably, the original starship wasn't "sunk" but disassembled and its parts were recycled in the construction of the new ship.
  • One Piece: The Straw Hat Pirates' original ship Going Merry is finally destroyed at the end of Enies Lobby arc, and Franky built the Thousand Sunny as replacement. Then, in the beginning of Thriller Bark arc, Franky reveals a surprise for the crew from the Sunny: the Mini Merry II, essentially Merry revived as a small motorboat.

    Comic Books 
  • Iznogoud: "The Caliph's Cruise" starts with a sailor whose ship is named Shipwreck XXVII, the first 26 having been, well, shipwrecked. Iznogound books a cruise on the ship for the Caliph the next day, by which time the sailor has already had to move on to the Shipwreck XXVIII.
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four: When Johnny is given the opportunity to name the team's new shuttle, he goes with "The Awesome". Despite Reed's objections, the name sticks. Near the end of the series, Ben is making his own shuttle, and we see that he decided to name it "Awesome II".

    Fan Works 
  • In the epilogue of Intelligence Factor, Tapu Lele is on a ship called the U.S.S. Thiver, named after her Inteleon.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Flushed Away, Rita's beloved ship the Jammy Dodger sinks. The movie ends with the launching of the Jammy Dodger II.
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: At one point, Benny is given an inflatable inner tube named Titanic II by the butler so he can float in the pool. Benny has the feeling he's heard that name before... naturally, Snerdly's planning to shoot it out from under him with a harpoon gun.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Ships named Enterprise have a long and storied history in Star Trek movies:
    • At the end of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock the Enterprise is destroyed. At the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home the crew is assigned to a new Enterprisenote , complete with the same registry number with an "-A" appended to it, starting a Starfleet tradition for ships named Enterprise.
    • The opening of Star Trek: Generations takes place aboard the maiden voyage of the USS Enterprise-B and has Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov of the two previous Enterprises as honorary guests. At the end, the Enterprise-D is mostly destroyed (the stardrive section explodes from catastrophic damage, the saucer section lands on a planet and can't be recovered). At the beginning of the next movie (Star Trek: First Contact), the crew is aboard the new Enterprise-E. This is even lampshaded when the heroes decide to engage the self-destruct to kill all the Borg infesting her:
      Beverly Crusher: So much for the Enterprise-E.
      Jean-Luc Picard: We barely knew her.
      Crusher: Think they'll build another?
      Picard: (smiling) There are plenty of letters left in the alphabet.
    • At the end of Star Trek Beyond, the Enterprise is a loss at about the end of the first act, and by the end, we see her successor, the Enterprise-A, get constructed in time-lapse speed.
  • Rescue from Gilligan's Island, the first Reunion Movie. After the crew rescues themselves, everyone tries to return to their old lives. The Skipper uses his insurance money to buy a new boat, naming it Minnow II, and restarts his charter business. They have a reunion cruise. Guess what happens.

  • Enforced in the Honor Harrington universe by the Royal Manticoran Navy's Roll of Honor. Ships that are destroyed in a valiant action have their names placed on the Roll. Traditionally, there is always a serving ship bearing every name on the list, and when one is removed from service its name is given to a new ship under construction, with all battle honors passing to it.
    • On the flip side of the coin is the Solarian League ship Joseph Buckley. There have been nearly a dozen commissioned over the League's history. The cast debate whether the two that vanished in mysterious circumstances count towards the otherwise universal tendency of the ships to be destroyed in bizarre accidents.
    • Similar to the Star Trek examples, Honor herself captained two ships named HMS Fearless in succession, with the second one, a heavy cruiser, being commissioned soon after the previous, a light cruiser, was written-off and decommissioned after being badly damaged in the first book.
    • Similar to the Real Life examples below, sometimes ships get renamed so that a legacy name can be reused. The main example is that by tradition, the name HMS Nike is always given to the lead ship of the most advanced class of battlecruiser in service. When a revolutionary new class of battlecruiser is introduced in the interregnum between the First and Second Manticore-Haven War, it is named Nike since the previous Nike is scheduled to be decommissioned. However when hostilities flare up again the old Nike has to be bought back into service and is renamed Hancock Station, which was where that particular Nike fought in its first engagement.
  • Definitely the case in Animorphs; in the last book, the team sets off to save Ax in a ship which they name the Rachel, after their teammate who died in the final battle.
    • In the same book, Ax is awed to learn that one of the Andalite ships that have come to Earth is named after his dead brother, Elfangor.
  • In the Wing Commander Expanded Universe, many ships are named in honor of previous ships which were decomissioned or destroyed in battle. At least one case of this, the TCS Concordia, was the subject of a Continuity Snarl when the authors couldn't decide if the pre-war carrier Concordia featured in Action Stations was meant to be the same ship as the Dreadnought that featured in Wing Commander II.
  • In The Lost Fleet, it was common for new ships to be named after recently destroyed ships - especially since every ship in the Alliance fleet tended to get destroyed or damaged to the point of decommissioning within two to three years of being commissioned, and this keeps them from having to continually come up with new names. This has led to superstitions among the Navy that certain names are bad luck - usually either names that were shared by ships that the specific sailor had already been shot down in, or the perennially reused ship name Invincible, which gets destroyed so frequently that the entire fleet thinks that the name is Tempting Fate, and captains refuse to use parts that were salvaged from a destroyed Invincible for fear of the bad luck rubbing off. In one book, the officers decide to name the captured Kick superbattleship Invincible, figuring that such a massive ship is less likely to kick the bucket. When they return to Alliance space, HQ is furious at this breach of protocol, but they aren't going to antagonize fleet officers by countermanding it. The Invincible does end up being destroyed at the end of the first sequel series, though, but at least it's for a good cause.
  • In Rihannsu is revealed that the Romulans always keep in service ships named after the Journey Ships that brought their ancestors on the Twin Worlds. Aside for that, they have a penchant for ships named Avenger.
    • Though a Romulan commander is shocked when Kirk says his vessel is named for the spirit of Enterprise, as opposed to a particular enterprise. To the Romulans that's hubris.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin in the Skylark Series of E. E. "Doc" Smith: The Skylark of Space, Skylark Three, Skylark of Valeron, and Skylark DuQuesne all refer to a series of spaceships named Skylark. Note that Skylark Three is the second book, despite referring to the third Skylark.
  • Mentioned in the first Arrivals from the Dark novel. Some USF ships are named after wet navy ships of the past. The example given, the cruiser Oberon, was named after the British submarine HMS Oberon. The book then does a brief comparison of their specs and points out that the new Oberon could easily take on all the navies of the 20th century combined.
  • In the Star Trek novel Ship of the Line, after the Enterprise-D is destroyed, Starfleet rechristens the Sovereign-class ship being completed at Starbase 12 as the Enterprise-E. At the end of the novel, another ship is rechristened as the Bozeman II.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 is the fifth and last of the Babylon space stations. The first four blew up or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
    • Played With in the case of the White Star, the Cool Starship that the heroes used for much of the third season. Near the end of the season, it was revealed that she was merely the prototype, with an entire fleet of ships being built and pushed into service, all named White Star followed by a number. Henceforth, the original ship was called White Star One. Only one White Star, the Maria, bucked the tradition due to the Captain being old-fashioned.
      • The White Star herself was named as an inversion of the Minbari flagship Drala Fi (Black Star), which was destroyed by Sheridan by luring her into an ambush and the only time a human ship commander managed to destroy a Minbari capital ship and live to tell the tale (most others were destroyed by ramming). While the Minbari warrior castle consider Sheridan's tactic to be dishonorable, the spiritual caste feels differently, hence the name of the new ship.
  • The Benny Hill Show: Benny as Fred Scuttle is being interviewed about a rocket ship he's built in his backyard.
    Scuttle: We're going to the moon in that! Indestructible the Second!!
    Interviewer: What happened to Indestructible the First?
    Scuttle: It fell apart, sir.
  • Doctor Who: In "Voyage of the Damned", an intergalactic cruise liner which transports alien tourists to Earth is named Titanic in honour of one of the most famous vessels in Earth's history. Aside from the Doctor, the only person aware of the name's significance is the Big Bad, who named the vessel and intends for it to crash into London.
  • There were actually three starships named GameStar in Raumschiff GameStar: the first was trapped in a Stable Time Loop in season one, the second, destroyed during season three finale, and the third, blown up in the "Grand Finale" of the series.
  • The Star Trek franchise has a long tradition of legacy naming of ships. Although many ships in sequel series have been named after ships from earlier series, the Original Series actually named the bulk of Federation starships mentioned in the series after Earth naval vessels, either directly (e.g. Enterprise, Hood, Potemkin) or indirectly (Defiant being derived from the HMS Defiance).
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation's main setting is aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, fifth Starfleet ship to bear that name and registry number, following the precedent set in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
      • The season 3 episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" where the previous ship, the Enterprise-C accidentally traveled forward in time in the middle of the battle that would see her destroyed defending a Klingon colony from a Romulan attack. The disappearance looked like flight from battle and thus cowardice to the Klingons, who are now winning an attrition war against the Federation. The episode's plot is about sending the Enterprise-C back to face her doom while fending off angry klingon warships in the present.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: During the push to Cardassia, after the destruction of the USS Defiant, the USS São Paulo is delivered to DS9 as a replacement. Along with the vessel came a special dispensation from the Chief of Starfleet Operations to change the vessel's name to USS Defiant.
    • The first Defiant-class USS Defiant is itself an example of this, since it was named after the Constitution-class USS Defiant from Star Trek: The Original Series, the one that ended up getting sucked into the Mirror Universe.
    • Sisko's previous starship, the Saratoga (destroyed in the Battle of Wolf 359), was named after one of the ships disabled by the alien probe in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
    • A Time Travel in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Azati Prime" confirms that there have been at least 10 ships named after the original Enterprise: A—J.
    • Interestingly, only the Enterprise is directly witnessed to get the "more advanced version of its predecessor, with a letter added" treatment. We never meet another ship with a letter suffix like the Enterprises, and we see many ships with the same name as a past ship but nothing in common design- or number-wise. Even DS9's second Defiant of the same class as the original gets the same number with no "A." (likely due to budgetary/convenience reasons: Stock Footage can continue to be used and models don't have to be altered.)
      • This is finally extended to other ships with the brief appearance of the 32nd century USS Voyager, NCC-74656-J, in the Discovery episode "Die Trying". Additionally, the USS Tikhov in the same episode has the registry NCC-1067-M and it's mentioned that the Tikhov has served as a seed vault since the 23rd century; this combined with its low registry number suggests that the ship is the latest (specifically the 14th) in a line of ships that have borne the same name, rather than the exact same ship from 900 years ago. Finally, in the episode following, "Scavengers," the tradition is extended to DISCO herself, as the ship gets an -A suffix in addition to a thousand years of Mid-Season Upgrades.
    • When Archer mentions the history of the name Enterprise to Shran, he says the Andorians have the same tradition; Shran's own ship, the Kumari, is named after the first icecutter to circumnavigate Andoria.
    • Star Trek: Picard sees the Enterprise legacy explored in the third season. A couple predecessor Enterprises are at the Fleet Museum under the curation of Commodore Geordi LaForge; the NX-01 and the Enterprise-A. The Enterprise-E is mentioned to have been lost while under Captain Worf's command. The Enterprise-F has a cameo during her final act before decommissioning: to lead a demonstration during Frontier Day. When Frontier Day goes horribly awry when the Borg trigger their plan to hijack all the networked ships and inflict a new assimilation method on all the young adult Starfleet officers on board, the old heroes of TNG flee back to the Fleet Museum, where Geordi reveals his secret project: the (mostly) restored and fully functional Enterprise-D, pieced back together from other mothballed sister ships meant for a museum showcase but still ready to save the day one last time. And in the denouement, the Titan-A, another ship with a legacy name and registry number, gets re-christened the Enterprise-G, with Captain Seven of Nine in command.
  • Defied in Stargate SG-1 after Stargate Command refuse Colonel O'Neill's request to name the X-303 Enterprise. Instead it was named the Prometheus, much to his dismay.
    O'Neill: "It's a Greek tragedy, who wants that?"

  • The BBC Radio sci-fi sitcom The Spaceship is set on board a ship called the Really Invincible II. The original Really Invincible... wasn't.

    Video Games 
  • After the SSV Normandy SR-1 is destroyed in the opening cutscene of Mass Effect 2, Shepard and Joker name their new ship Normandy SR-2. It is strongly implied that the decision was a no-brainer.
  • A level in Batman: Arkham Origins is The Penguin's docked freighter The Final Offer. A conversion between two mooks has them discussing rumors that Penguin is planning to destroy the ship and get another one. They wonder what he'll call it, and one of them suggests that he'll just name it The Final Offer II. The other one disagrees, reasoning that The Final Offer is The Final Offer, and you can't really have another.
  • Ships in Stellaris have unique names picked from a name list. But since the name list is finite, names (especially for corvettes and destroyers) tend to be recycled with incremental Roman numerals added after the name.
  • Similarly, Star Trek: Armada has ships start getting letters added after their names when the name list runs out. Unfortunately, it can also make it possible for more than one ship of the same name (not counting the letter) to be in the fleet at the same time.

  • The Rogue later revealed to be Petey from Schlock Mercenary has so many ships he evidentially struggles to come up with enough names that fit his Theme Naming scheme, judging by some of the names resorted to. He also reuses names when a ship is destroyed. The result, five separate vessels have gotten the inspiring name of Predictably Damaged. As the comic explains a normal human would likely have picked a new name by now, but the Rogue enjoys the irony.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, Prince Dirk's current horse is named Artax XIII.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: Before their falling-out, Stan and his twin brother Ford worked on a boat called the Stan O' War with dreams of adventure on the high seas. In the final episode, the brothers, now reconciled, are doing just that on the Stan O' War II.

    Real Life 
  • It is quite common for navies to name new ships after older ones after the older ones are destroyed or, more likely, retired. For example, there have been eight United States Navy ships (if you include the Continental Navy, the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War) named USS Enterprise. And if you go back even further (beginning 1705), fifteen ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Enterprise (or HMS Enterprize).
    • When the eighth US Navy Enterprise (CVN-65) was decommissioned, it was announced that a ninth one (CVN-80) would be built.
    • The opening sequence from Star Trek: Enterprise features a montage of a number of historical ships named Enterprise, from the 1705 original through to the titular starship in 2151.
    • Likewise, there have been five British ships named Ark Royal, with the original having been the English flagship against the Spanish Armada.
    • As a rule, most of the world's navies have no hesitation to give a ship a name of a previous vessel lost in action or at sea, provided the loss occurred "honourably". Thus for instance the Royal Navy continued to use the name Invincible, despite the predecessor that fell victim (in rather spectacular fashion) to a German battlecruiser that it actually outgunnednote  at Jutland in 1916. USS Hornet (CV-8), which was in service for barely a year before its loss in battle in late 1942, gave its name to CV-12, which entered service a year and a bit after that. And the larger ships (i.e. light cruisers and above) of the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic and its Nazi successor, the Kriegsmarine generally received the names of ships of the Imperial German Navy that had been sunk by superior forces during World War I or they got names that had not been used before. Conversely, ships that were lost "dishonorably" would taint their name. Thus, the Royal Navy did not have another Bounty, and when the Knyaz Potyomkin-Tavrichesky was handed back to the Russian Navy, it quickly was renamed Panteleymon.
    • When the US in WWII launched its new Essex-class aircraft carriers, CV-10, the second ship of the class was supposed to be named Bonhomme Richard, but while under construction it was decided to name it Yorktown after the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown CV-5 who had just been sunk at the Battle of Midway. Curiously the CV-5 was already the third US ship named Yorktown, making CV-10 the fourth.
    • Sometimes navies are in such a rush to use a name for a new ship, they don't even wait for the old ship to be put out of service. The pre-dreadnought battleship USS Texas was re-christened USS San Marcos to free up the name for a new dreadnought in 1914.
    • Likewise, during WWII, the escort carrier CVE-63 USS Midway (commissioned 23 Oct 1943) was renamed St. Lo on 10 Oct 1944 (while engaged in combat operations) to free up the Midway name for a new fleet carrier (CV-41). It didn't end well; St. Lo was sunk by a kamikaze two weeks later. note 
  • After in 1831, captain Dutch navy captain Jan van Speijk blew up his ship with himself still on it rather than have it fall into the hands of the Belgian insurgents, Dutch king Willem I issued a Royal Decree that as long as the Dutch will have a navy, there will always be a warship called Speijk to honor the captain’s name. The current frigate HNLMS Van Speijk (F828) is the seventh Dutch warship of that name.
  • Similarly, many merchant shipping lines named ships after older vessels of theirs that were retired or otherwise lost.
    • Cunard for instance has had two ships each named Mauretania, Ivernia, Saxonia, Parthia, or Carinthia, three each named Caronia, Franconia, and of course, the sequentially named Queens, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 (the latter of which, oddly enough, was succeeded by a third Queen Elizabeth, but without a "3" suffixnote ).
    • Holland-America Line is an even bigger offender, with three Nieuw Amsterdams, four each named Maasdam and Statendamnote , and six Rotterdams.
  • Professional land speed record holder Art Arfons named each of his vehicles the Green Monster.
  • Someone is actually building a Titanic II. As an identical duplicate of the first using 21st century technology.
  • Chuck Yeager named all of his planes, including the Bell X-1 he broke the sound barrier in, Glamorous Glen or Glamorous Glennis, after his wife. The P-51D in which he became one of the USAF's first Aces in a Day was Glamorous Glen III.
  • In the age of sail, ships were often captured from an enemy and then pressed into service without being renamed. The captured ship then might have more ships named after it, hence British ships being given French names like Guerrière or Téméraire. The country that originally built the captured ship might also keep naming more after it, leading to confusion when ships with identical names were on opposing sides.
    • Amusingly enough, as of 2023, both Britain and France have commissioned vessels in their navy named Temeraire. But there's not likely to be much confusion between the two, as while the French Le Téméraire is a ballistic missile submarine, the British "ship" HMS Temeraire is a shore establishment in Portsmouth.
  • This is becoming a reality with spacecraft as well. The Crew Dragon Endeavour (a reusable space capsule) was explicitly named after the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour (both crew from the first flight of Crew Dragon Endeavour had had their first spaceflights on the Space Shuttle Endeavour). The Space Shuttle Endeavour was named after one of the vessels commanded by James Cook, the British explorer of the Pacific and Australia from the Age of Sail, but also honored the Command Module from the Apollo 15 mission (which in turn had also been named after Captain Cook's sailing ship). In fact, all of the Space Shuttles were named after oceangoing vessels of exploration and research.