admiral

noun
ad·​mi·​ral | \ ˈad-m(ə-)rəl \

Definition of admiral

1 archaic : the commander in chief of a navy
b : a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard who ranks above a vice admiral and whose insignia is four stars — compare general
3 archaic : flagship
4 : any of several brightly colored nymphalid butterflies — compare red admiral

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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.

Examples of admiral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Commissioned in 1932, it was outfitted with quarters for an embarked admiral or dignitary. Walter R. Borneman, WSJ, "‘Indianapolis’ Review: Supreme Sacrifice," 30 Aug. 2018 There aren’t speeches by admirals or brigadier generals. John Wilkens, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Remembering war's fallen, one name at a time," 28 May 2018 McCain, who died Saturday after battling brain cancer, selected the out-of-the-way spot over the grandeur and solemnity of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where his father and grandfather — both admirals —are buried. Laurie Kellman, The Seattle Times, "McCain to be buried near best friend at US Naval Academy," 27 Aug. 2018 Allegations against him are also threatening to derail his military career and promotion to two-star admiral, The Post's Lisa Rein, Dan Lamothe and David Nakamura report. Washington Post, "The Health 202: Trump to deliver first-time speech on drug prices in early May," 27 Apr. 2018 McCain was born in 1936, at a Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone, a literal child of U.S. imperialism whose father and grandfather were both Navy admirals during their lifetimes. Prince Shakur, Teen Vogue, "The Legacy Left Behind by John McCain Is Imperfect Yet Impactful," 27 Aug. 2018 The retired Navy admiral has, however, criticized the president before. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Leader of bin Laden raid tells Trump: revoke my clearance, too," 17 Aug. 2018 Jackson, a Navy admiral with very little management experience, faced mounting concerns in the Senate over allegations of misconduct. Alex Ward, Vox, "Trump names Robert Wilkie as the next veterans affairs secretary," 18 May 2018 Jackson, a one-star Navy admiral whose tenure at the White House spans three administrations, has been criticized as too inexperienced to take on the monumental task of leading an organization comprising more than 360,000 employees. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Ronny Jackson withdraws as Trump's nominee to lead Veterans Affairs," 26 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of admiral

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for admiral

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.

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Last Updated

4 Jan 2019

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

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More Definitions for admiral

admiral

noun

English Language Learners Definition of admiral

: a high-ranking officer in the navy

admiral

noun
ad·​mi·​ral | \ ˈad-mə-rəl, -mrəl\

Kids Definition of admiral

: a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard ranking above a vice admiral

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