Today I came across the following three sentences in a newspaper article:

Die „Aquarius 2“ war in den vergangenen Monaten mehrmals in die Schlagzeilen geraten. Sie fuhr bis zum 20. August unter dem Namen „Aquarius“ und wurde umbenannt, nachdem Gibraltar sie aus dem Schiffsregister gelöscht hatte.

Der italienische Innenminister Matteo Salvini hatte der „Aquarius“ Mitte Juni die Einfahrt in italienische Häfen verwehrt.

In the first and third sentences above both „Aquarius 2“ and „Aquarius“ are feminine. Should not „Aquarius“ in the third sentence be masculine (dem „Aquarius“), since Aquarius is masculine?

3 Answers 3


No, because it's the proper name of a ship and the referential gender of proper names of ships is feminine. See the table below, from Nübling, Die Bismarck – der Arena – das Adler: Vom Drei-Genus- zum Sechs-Klassen-System bei Eigennamen im Deutschen, Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik 43(2), 306-344, 309.

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As the previous answers already stated, ships are always referred to as female - nowadays.

However, this was different in former times, when ships that had a male name - like Kaiser (German word for emperor) or Jupiter, Odin (male gods) - where referred to as "he". This was common practice until early 20th century. In books printed in the 1920s or 1930s about the first World War you will most likely find ships with male names be called "he". So whenever you feel confused about that, take a look on the date of publishing before you throw your illusory wrong understanding over board.

  • 2
    Could you give and example for such usage in old books?
    – Arsak
    Oct 16, 2018 at 11:04
  • Walter von Schoen, "Auf Kaperkurs", Ullstein 1934, a book about German auxiliary cruisers (Hilfskreuzer) deployed as merchant raiders (Handelsstörer) Oct 17, 2018 at 7:06

As pointed out, ships are feminine, but the missing part is, that verwehren requires a dative object (the ship in your case) for the addressee of the rejection as well as an accusative object ( the admission) for what is rejected.

The fact, that aquarius is a masculine substantive in Latin is not important here, since for anything but a name Wassermann would be used in German.

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