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A 19th century cartoon portraying ratings on a Royal Navy ship. The man with a sword is a commissioned officer, as is the man on the ladder with the telescope. All others are ratings.

A naval rating or naval rate is a naval term that can have several closely related meanings depending on the context and country it is used in. In Commonwealth navies, both "rate" and "rating" interchangeably refer to an enlisted member of the navy ranked below warrant officers and officers. In the United States, the term "rate" refers to the rank of an enlisted sailor, while "rating" denotes a sailor's military occupation code.

The term comes from the general nautical usage of rating – a seaman's class or grade as recorded in the ship's books,[1]


British and Commonwealth naviesEdit

In the Royal Navy and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, the terms "rate" and "rating" are interchangeable and refer to an enlisted member of the Navy.

The system of conferring authority on sailors in the Royal Navy evolved through the recognition of competence; Landsman, Ordinary seaman or Able seaman and through the appointment of authority as a petty officer. The general structure now used in the majority of countries breaks down into four major groupings:[2]

Historically the term "rate" also applied to ships, denoting their combat strength by the number, and type, of guns, but this use of the term is now considered archaic.

United States naval rates and ratingsEdit

In the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, there is a distinction between the similar-sounding terms "rate" and "rating".

In the U.S. Navy, the term "rate" refers to an enlisted sailor's pay grade, and is legally and functionally identical to the term "rank" as used by other armed services. However, "rate" is considered the proper term when referring to the pay grades of enlisted personnel of the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Coast Guard previously used the term "rate" as well, but now refers to the pay grades of their enlisted personnel as "ranks".

In both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, "rating" refers to a sailor's occupational specialty.[3] Navy personnel in pay grades E-1 to E-3 may not have a rating and are broadly classed into one of five groups, namely, Seaman (SN), Fireman (FN), Airman (AN), Hospitalman (HN) and Constructionman (CN) until they are "rated" or given a rating. Petty Officers (E-4 to E-6) and Chief Petty Officers (E-7 to E-9) are referred to by a combination of rate and rating. For example, a Petty Officer Second Class with the rating of Gunner's Mate is addressed as "Gunner's Mate Second Class" (GM2). Similarly, a Chief Petty Officer with the rating of Quartermaster is referred to in formal occasions as "Chief Quartermaster" (QMC). On less formal occasions, however, senior enlisted personnel are referred to simply as Chief, Senior Chief, or Master Chief, as applicable. Rate badges[4] consist of insignia (symbols) that indicate the sailor's rate[5] and rating.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ New English Dictionary, p. 886
  2. ^ Debra Gray (2004). BTEC First Public Services (uniformed). Heinemann. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-0-435-45459-3.
  3. ^ a b "ENLISTED RATING INSIGNIA". America's Navy ( United States Navy. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  4. ^ "U.S. Navy Officer Ranks and Enlisted Rates". America's Navy ( United States Navy. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  5. ^ "RATE INSIGNIA OF NAVY ENLISTED PERSONNEL". America's Navy ( United States Navy. Retrieved 6 June 2013.


  • Baker, Ernest A., The New English Dictionary, Odhams Press, London, 1932.
  • Cutler, Thomas J., The Blue Jacket's Manual Centennial Edition, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2002. ISBN 9781557502087