Titanic is a word which originates from Greek mythology. The Titans were a race of giants reputed for their great size and force, and were eventually overthrown by the Olympian gods. The word "titanic" in English now likewise means "of, relating to, or held to have characteristics of the Titans," or "marked by very great size : of enormous magnitude, power, scope, strength, or influence : colossal, gigantic." Titanic was just the sort of name the White Star Line was seeking for the sister ships that were to be its newest triumvirate of transatlantic steamers.
In 1907, five years before Titanic would set sail, J. Bruce Ismay managing director of the White Star Line, and Lord William James Pirrie , chairman of the shipbuilder Harland and Wolff, met for dinner in London. It was on this night that the two discussed plans for three new liners that would be like nothing the world had seen. Harland and Wolff and the White Star Line had a very loyal partnership, but White Star had major competition from the Cunard line, who was enjoying great success with the Mauretania and Lusitania and their speed records for crossing the Atlantic. As ships were the only means for crossing the oceans in this era, and as an Atlantic crossing transit still took several days, people would inevitably spend a significant amount of time on ocean liners. White Star and Cunard understood this – while Cunard's priority was generally speed, backed by their revolutionary turbine engines, The White Star Line had generally opted for the more comfortable and slightly slower voyage. While White Star maintained this philosophy, the size and luxury of the newly conceived liners held promise to outdo the Cunard ships in more than one respect. The White Star flagships would have both reciprocating steam engines, the norm for the period, and a turbine engine to power the center of three propellers. Moreover, a double plated hull and a sophisticated system of watertight compartments provided the utmost in security.
The three Royal Mail Steamships were to be called Olympic, Titanic, and Gigantic. It was the tradition of the White Star Line to adjectivize its ships with the suffix "ic," thus describing the liners as well as naming them. They were to be virtually identical in size and structure, but Titanic was to be the true shining star. On the 29th of July, 1908, White Star, including Ismay, came to the shipyard of Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland to review the tentative plans for the conception of the ships. The creation of these initial plans was under the direct supervision of Thomas Andrews , the managing director and senior draftsman for Harland and Wolff. Andrews oversaw virtually every detail from blueprint to maiden voyage. About a year and a half after the idea was born for the White Star Titans, the keel was laid for the firstborn, Olympic.