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as a phrase has two technical meanings recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...
- In relation particularly to the staff of the British royal household
A Royal Household in ancient and medieval monarchies formed the basis for the general government of the country as well as providing for the needs of the sovereign and his relations....
, and more generally to those employed by the Crown, it is used as a suffix showing that the appointment is to the regular staff, for example a chaplain in ordinary, or a physician-in-ordinary, being a cleric or doctor in regular attendance. The usage goes back to the seventeenth century. See for example: :Category:Physicians-in-Ordinary; Principal Painter in Ordinary
The title of Principal Painter in Ordinary to the King or Queen of England or, later, Great Britain, was awarded to a number of artists, nearly all mainly portraitists. It was different to the role of Serjeant Painter, and similar to the earlier role of "King's Painter"...
; Lords of Appeal in Ordinary.
- In naval matters, vessels in ordinary (from the eighteenth century) are those out of service for repair or maintenance, a meaning coming over time to cover a reserve fleet
A reserve fleet is a collection of naval vessels of all types that are fully equipped for service but are not currently needed, and thus partially or fully decommissioned. A reserve fleet is informally said to be "in mothballs" or "mothballed"; an equivalent expression in unofficial modern U.S....
or "mothballed" ships.