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U - What's the Secret Meaning of the USS in USS Enterprise?

U as in USS
All the Federation starships in the Star Trek universe have the designator USS, like USS Enterprise or USS Voyager, but what does it mean and where did it come from?

Officially, the designator means "United Star Ship (Federation of Planets)."

The creator of the show, Gene Roddenberry, was a US Navy man and his vision of Star Trek was of a Naval vessel in space.

In fact, the original pitch had the name USS Yorktown after a World War II aircraft carrier. It's usage dates back to the seafaring days when the US Navy used U.S.S. to mean  "United States Ship."

Obviously, this is pretty US-specific, so Gene Roddenberry's described it as a "United Space Ship."

In three episodes of the original series it was called by the name "United Star Ship." In the "The Cage," the Enterprise is refered to as the "United Space Ship Enterprise." Captain Kirk also used the term in "Elaan of Troyius" and Dr. McCoy did in the episode "Space Seed."

To confuse you even more, in the UK comic series it's known as "Universe Star Ship."

[Image Source: Smithsonian]

This post is "U is for USS," part of the "A-Z Blogging Challenge." We'll be posting something on our blog every day in April except for Sundays. The challenge is hosted by Arlee Bird , Jeffrey Beesler, AlexJ. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, Candace Ganger, Karen J Gowen, Talli Roland and Stephen Tremp. Visit them today and every day for the next month!


  1. Yeah, shouldn't it be more like United Federation Ship or something these days? Then again, Roddenberry did do a good homage to the phrase U.S.S. by incorporating it into the Enterprise's name.

  2. Hi. I am following Alex's DISQUS trail for the A-Z Challenge.

    When I see the word US, I can only think of the US, regardless if it tries to have other meanings. So USS immediately mean US Ship or US Spaceship to me.


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