I am writing some menu labels for a website and I'm not sure if I should use the word "Ship" or "Ships" to identify what is inside the linked databases. Those databases obviously contain more ships, not just a single one. So is it correct to use "Ships Databases" which sounds like "The databases contain ships" or "Ship Databases" which sounds "The databases contain general information about 'ship' items"?


Standard practice when using a noun (such as "ship") to modify another noun (such as "database") is to use the singular form of the modifying noun.

  • Ship Databases

This is appropriate whether each database contains data for only one ship (which seems quite inefficient) or data for many ships.

  • I think in general that's true. "Rat poisons"are those substances which poison rats. "Passenger manifests" are lists of passengers, "Ship databases" are databases of ships. But since a rat is a rat is a rat, and a passenger is a passenger is a passenger, but not all ships are alike, "Ships databases" would not be ungrammatical. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 30 '15 at 12:31

Yes, there is a difference, in that "Ship Databases" is correct ("Ship" is used as a noun modifier) whereas "Ships Databases" is incorrect.

This is because the modifier is always expressed as a singular form.

If you really want to emphasise that the databases are databases of many ships, then you need to use genitive plural, i.e: "Ships' Databases". Inelegant, but not wrong.

You can also use genitive singular, i.e: "Ship's Databases", but that has a different meaning, it refers to many databases related to one ship.

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