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The name frigate in the 17th to early 18th centuries was given to any full-rigged ship built for speed and manoeuverability, intended to be used in scouting, escort and patrol roles. The term was applied loosely to ships varying greatly in design. In the second quarter of the 18th century, the 'true frigate' was developed in France. This type of vessel was characterised by possessing only one armed deck, with an unarmed deck below it used for berthing the crew.
Late in the 19th century (British and French prototypes were constructed in 1858), armoured frigates were developed as powerful ironclad warships, the term frigate was used because of their single gun deck. Later developments in ironclad ships rendered the frigate designation obsolete and the term fell out of favour. During the Second World War the name 'frigate' was reintroduced to describe a seagoing escort ship intermediate in size between a corvette and a destroyer. After World War II, a wide variety of ships have been classified as frigates. Often there has been little consistency in usage. While some navies have regarded frigates as principally large ocean-going anti-submarine warfare (ASW) combatants, others have used the term to describe ships that are otherwise recognisable as corvettes, destroyers, and even nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers. Some European navies use the term "frigate" for both their destroyers and frigates. The rank "frigate captain" derives from the name of this type of ship.