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What does 'shipping' mean? Unpacking the romance-focused internet slang

When you hear the word "ship," the image of a large boat probably comes to mind.

But if you're involved in a fandom, you might have a different definition for "ship." Even if you're a casual fan of certain movies, television shows, books or celebrities, you might partake in "shipping" without realizing it.

It's time for a history lesson in fandom culture and a primer on what "ship" means.

What does 'ship' mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, "" is "to wishfully regard (specific people or fictional characters) as being or having the potential to become romantically involved with one another." As a noun, "ship" refers to the pairing of said people or characters.

The term dates back to an "X-Files" fan forum , Merriam-Webster reports. Users who were fans of the romantic pairing of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder referred to themselves as "relationshippers." This was later shortened to "shippers."

In a similar sense, "ship" is shortened from "relationship." Therefore, "shipping" refers to creating a relationship between two individuals. This can be applied to books, movies, television shows or anything that has a fandom.

The slang was popularized in the early 2000s, but the action of "shipping" predates it by several decades. One of the earliest ship pairings is from "Star Trek" in the 1960s.

Fans might ship their favorite characters based on small interactions or subtext, regardless of the media's , or true events. Some fans may make nicknames for their ships by combining the characters' names.

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How to use 'ship' 

Here is how to use "ship" in a conversation:

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