What's the correct term in English describing the action of sending a brand-new ship out for its first voyage?

For example, if the ship's name is "Elisa", then it would be something like:

Finally, "Elisa" was ____________ yesterday. Her first point of destination is Calcutta.

Which of the following phrases is correct?

  1. lowered on water
  2. let to sail
  3. launched for sailing
  4. [something else?]

4 Answers 4


There are three distinct concepts:

  • A ship is launched. At this point the ship is named and the hull enters the water, however the ship is not yet complete, a great deal of work remains.
  • A ship is commissioned. This usually applies to Naval vessels. Prior to this, the hull is fitted out and sea trials are carried out. When the ship is commissioned, it is designated ready for service and the crew formally join the ship.
  • The ship sets off on its first voyage, the maiden voyage

Yesterday, the Elisa set sail on her maiden voyage, her first port of call will be Calcutta.

See this explanation of commissioning

  • 5
    Set sail is still used though sails are no longer set in modern ships, alas. [just a remark, not a criticism. The usage is right.]
    – Lambie
    May 31, 2019 at 19:28
  • There's also the important distinct step of a shakedown cruise, which could qualify as "first voyage" but doesn't seem to be what the OP means. Jun 1, 2019 at 18:47
  • 1
    Or, more simply: The Elisa set sail on her maiden voyage to Calcutta. Jun 2, 2019 at 4:25
  • 'Launched' could also refer to just being put in the water in general, not just the first instance of ti being done, especially when referring to small craft. The event of first putting a ship into the water is also sometimes referred to as 'floating' the ship in some cases. Jun 2, 2019 at 16:43
  • @JamesGeorge - the original post spoke of the "first point of destination". A voyage may visit several intermediate destinations, so I made the distinction between the overall goal of the maiden voyage and its first "stop". The term Port Of Call seems to be more technical than I realised, but I think for everyday usage the sense is clear. So I claim that the more complex sentence is needed to capture the original intent.
    – djna
    Jun 3, 2019 at 18:34

Launched is the only one of the given choices that sounds at all fluent. But it doesn't imply this is the boat's first voyage. You launch your boat every time you move it from land to water. For some boats, like small ones used for fishing on a lake or river, that could be every time you use the boat.

The most common idiom used to talk about a boat's first voyage is to call it the boat's maiden voyage.


A term commonly used in navies is a 'shakedown cruise', during which the systems of the ship are tested to work out any problems that may exist within the ship. The term 'sea trials' may also be used in the same way, but that term is primarily applied to the first ship of a class of ship.


Christening. Thats when the ship officially and ceremonially is launched and named, with the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle on the hull.

  • So can I say something like "This ship was christened yesterday"?
    – brilliant
    Jan 21 at 5:20

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