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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"?

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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.

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  • 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.
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 12:31
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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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