ad·​mi·​ral ˈad-m(ə-)rəl How to pronounce admiral (audio)
archaic : the commander in chief of a navy
: a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard who ranks above a vice admiral and whose insignia is four stars compare general
archaic : flagship
: any of several brightly colored nymphalid butterflies compare red admiral

Did you know?

It is a curiosity of history that the word admiral has its source in Arabic, the language of a desert people who acquired their seafaring skills after the great expansion of Islam in the seventh century. As the name for a Muslim chieftain, the Arabic word amir appears as a loanword in medieval Latin documents in spellings such as amiratus, admirandus, and admirallus. These words display a variety of suffixes and an added d, through confusion with the Latin verb admirari, “to admire.” The ending -allus is probably from the Arabic article al, which actually belongs to the following word in phrases such as amir al-‘ali, “supreme commander.” The application of admirallus to a commander of a fleet originated in 12th-century Sicily, was adopted by the Genoese, and then spread to countries throughout western Europe, including France and England.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Crosby, like the Doors’ Jim Morrison, whose father was an admiral in the Vietnam War, had a background out of keeping with his hippie image. Bill Wyman, Vulture, 20 Jan. 2023 The King wore an admiral's uniform adorned with Swedish chivalry orders for the portrait. Stephanie Petit, Peoplemag, 4 Jan. 2023 Of the 30 people without life jackets, 18 have been rescued and the rest are still missing, the admiral said. Kocha Olarn, CNN, 21 Dec. 2022 The phone rule started many years ago, according to Stoneman, when an admiral came to I-Bar and was dismayed to see so many eyes glued to so many phones. Joe Berkowitz, Vulture, 11 Oct. 2022 After his family subsequently settled in America, Rosenthal joined the U.S. Naval Reserves, prompting his father to speculate about his future career as an admiral. Katherine Ellison, Discover Magazine, 28 Oct. 2015 The command investigation, led by a three-star admiral, sent a team of investigators on a prodigious and methodical examination of the fire. Megan Rose, ProPublica, 23 Sep. 2022 Isoroku Yamamoto, now an admiral, takes command of the Imperial Navy. George Petras, USA Today, 7 Dec. 2022 Grassley beat the retired Navy admiral after a race that had been seen as more competitive than the typically easy victories the veteran Republican had achieved since first being elected to the Senate in 1980. Katie Mcinerney,, 9 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'admiral.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English admirail, admiral, amiral "emir, Saracen chieftain, naval commander," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin admiralis, admirallus, amiralius, borrowed from Arabic amīr-al- "commander of the," in such phrases as amīr-al-baḥr "commander of the sea" (initial adm- for am- probably by association with Latin admīrārī "to admire")

Note: From the 9th century, the Arabic word amīr, "commander," appears in Medieval Latin documents with a variety of suffixal formations, as amiratus, admirandus, and admirallus; the ending -allus in the latter form has usually been construed as the Arabic definite article al, which belongs to the following word in collocations such as amīr al-'alī, "supreme commander." The more specific application of admirallus to the commander of a fleet originated in 12th-century Norman-ruled Sicily.

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of admiral was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near admiral

Cite this Entry

“Admiral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


ad·​mi·​ral ˈad-mə-rəl How to pronounce admiral (audio)
: a naval commissioned officer with a rank above that of captain
especially : an officer with a rank just above that of vice admiral
: any of several brightly colored butterflies
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?