The original 31,938 grt, 790 ft (240.8 metre) long Mauretania liner was built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson for the British Cunard Line, and launched on 20 September 1907. She was the world's largest ship until the launch of the RMS Olympic in 1911 as well as the fastest until the launch of the Bremen in 1929. After obtaining the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing during her 1909 inaugural season, Mauretania held the speed record for twenty years.
The ship's name was taken from an ancient Roman province on the northwest African coast, not the modern Mauritania which is now to the south. The Mauretania's running mate, Lusitania was named after the Roman province directly north of Mauretania, across the Strait of Gibraltar, the region that now is Portugal.