Everyone's doing it whether they realise it or not.

That couple you're cheering on in your favourite TV show, book or movie, that friendship or romance you desperately wish would get more screentime - that's your 'ship'.

'Shipping' is derived from the word relationship and is defined as "the desire by fans for two or more people, either real-life or fictional characters to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise."

Evening Times:

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall in Outlander with on-screen love interest Jamie Fraser played by Scottish actor Sam Heughan

It's a general term for fans emotional involvement and investment with the ongoing relationship in a work of fiction.

Shipping often takes the form of creative works by incredibly talented and devoted fans, including fanfiction, fan art, fan videos and music usually published online.

Favourite Nightmare - an original song by UK singer-songwriter, Fyval, inspired by The Evil Queen character on the TV show Once Upon a Time 

A ship that has been confirmed by series creators is called a canon ship, which means "true to the series" and is often represented on-screen or on the page by the portrayal of a romantic couple.

Shipping can involve any kind of romantic relationship between any character.

A pairing between characters who are unlikely to be together, including those who come from different series, is called a 'crack ship' and a character paired with an inanimate object is called a 'cargo ship'.

Evening Times:

#BugCedes crackship from Once Upon a Time 

OTP stands for One True Pairing and refers to an individual fan's ultimate ship while NoTP is the fan's least favourite pairing.

Shipping usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can be applied outside of the romance realm. Simple friendships are referred to as a 'BrOTP' - combining bromance and one true pairing.

Shipping in fanfiction between a same-sex couple is known as slash fiction (femslash for two women), a concept that dates back to the 1970s with the characters of Captain Kirk and Spock from the television show, Star Trek.

Evening Times:

Leonard Nimoy as Spock and William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk in Star Trek

The actual term 'shipping' dates back to 1990s and was adopted by fans of The X-Files, who believed the two main characters, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, should be or were involved in a romantic relationship.

Evening Times:

David Duchovny as Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in The X-Files reboot. 

A 'shipping war' is when two ships contradict each other, causing fans of each ship to argue. This can sometimes bring out the ugly side of fandoms with fans turning online banter into outright bullying. 

Actors can find themsleves drawn into these online ship battles, often trying to placate both sides and remind fans of their unversal love of the particular TV show that united them in the first place. 

Various naming conventions have developed in different online fandoms to identify prospective couples, likely due to the clunkiness of the 'character one and character two' format.

The most common method of identifying relationships between characters is the use of hybrid terms such as portmanteaus and clipped compounds to abbreviate character pairings.

Case Study: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time is an American fairy tale television series which airs on Netflix in the UK and on the ABC network in the USA.

The show takes place in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the real world and robbed of their memories by a curse.

Snowing - Snow White and Prince Charming (canon ship)

Josh Dallas as Prince Charming and real-life wife, Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White

This a canon ship. They met in the Enchanted Forest while Snow was a bandit. When Snow White was placed under a Sleeping Curse, Charming woke her with True Love's Kiss. Snow later returned the favour when Charming was placed under a Sleeping Curse.

Rumbelle - Rumplestiltskin and Belle (canon ship)

Glasgow's own Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin with on-screen wife and true love, Belle played by Emilie de Ravin

Rumplestiltskin and Belle are currently husband and wife, whether or not they have fully reconciled after the drama of season 5 remains to be seen. Their relationship is based on the Beast and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

OutlawQueen - Robin Hood and Regina Mills aka The Evil Queen (formerly canon, currently pending)

Lana Parrilla as Regina Mills with former Grange Hill child actor, Sean Maguire, as Robin Hood

According to the pixie dust that Tinkerbell used, Regina and Robin are soulmates and share true love - although they have never shared True Love's Kiss.

Their relationship was tested with the apparent return of Robin's  wife, Marian, who was believed to be dead (killed by Regina in Fairy Tale Land during her Evil Queen days, but saved by Emma when she travelled back in time). Big reveal later and it turns out Marian was actually Regina's half-sister Zelena, The Wicked Witch, in disguise.

Their relationship ended when Robin was destroyed by Hades (Zelena's new lover).

Regina brought Robin back to Storybrooke from Fairy Tale Wish Land after she woke Emma from her self-imposed curse in a life where she was no longer the Saviour - but not with True Love's Kiss.

CaptainSwan - Captain Hook and Emma Swan (canon ship)

Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan and Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Hook aka Killian Jones 

In Neverland, while Ennna was looking for her son, Henry, alongside his other-mother, Regina, Captain Hook made his feelings for the Saviour known. 

They shared a kiss (not True Love's) after Hook saved the life of her dad, David aka Prince Charming. 

Despite their kiss, Emma decided not to take it any further and denied returning his feelings.

They returned to Storybrooke after rescuing Henry, although Emma and Henry were forced to leave Storybrooke to escape Peter Pan's Dark Curse. (thanks to Regina)

Hook finds Emma and Henry one year larer living in New York and takes them back to Storybrooke.

Zelena curses Hook's lips so that the next time he and Emma kiss, Emma's magic will disappear. When Hook refuses to go along with Zelena's plan, she tries to drown him, forcing Emma to perform CPR which involves mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. (Not True Love's Kiss)

Emma loses her magic and after Zelena's subsequent defeat and later apparent demise, Emma and Hook inadvertantly travel back in time to the Enchanted Forest.

Eventually, Emma's magic returns and when they are back in Storybrooke, Hook tells Emma that he sold his ship to find her.

This causes Emma to kiss him outside Granny's Diner. (still not True Love's Kiss)

The pair eventually went on a date and are currently in a relationship, although they've yet to share True Love's Kiss.

SwanQueen - Emma Swan and Regina Mills (non-canon)

Lana Parrilla as Regina Mills and Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan

SwanQueen has become one of the show's most popular and active ships without even being canon because like much of Emma and Regina's relationship, it doesn't need words — actions speak louder.

Whether the moments between the pair are down to acting choices on behalf of Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parrilla or if they actually exist within the pages of the script it doesn't look like we'll know anytime soon.

Their relationship has developed so naturally and fluidly since their first meeting when young Henry ran off to Boston to find his birth mother (Emma) claiming that his adoptive mum (Regina) was The Evil Queen and that she had placed a curse on the town. 

Their relationahip started off as sworn enemies, gradually shifting over the seasons into a trusting, co-parenting dynamic with a splash of the unknown.

One thing's for sure, the Swan-Mills family has never been stronger, which begs the  question, is SwanQueen endgame?

Lana Parilla as Regina Mills, Jared Gilmore as Henry Mills and Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan 

New episodes of Once Upon a Time air Wednesday's on Netflix