Ships used to have something like "S/S" (for "Steam Ship") or "M/S" (for "Motor Ship") in front of their name.

Why exactly did they do this? Why did it matter so much how exactly their engine worked to justify putting this in front of the name?

Was it somehow related to security? Or just bragging? And why have "S/S" before there were any more modern form of engine?

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    What do you mean "used to"? It is normal current practice.
    – Chenmunka
    Sep 6 at 20:36
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    I don't know for sure, but I would expect that it helps others understand their manoeuvrability parameters, which can be helpful in collision avoidance - a bit like aeroplane call sign modifiers such as "heavy". That certainly explains the use of SS when most vessels were wind-powered. Sep 7 at 8:30
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  • "Used to" is supported by the Wikipedia link, which says "These days, general civilian prefixes are used inconsistently, and frequently not at all." Sep 7 at 16:00

Nothing to do with security or bragging rights - simply a very practical set of descriptors so those who needed to would know what kind of a vessel it was.

Knowing what type of ship helps you understand how it may perform, its steering and stopping capabilities, its requirements in dock, for fuelling, when being towed, under pilot, at anchor, under way etc.

In an emergency, the prefix also helps responders - a steam ship has different dangers to a motor vessel, for example. And both a very different to a sailing ship.

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