Definition of 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.
Origin and Etymology of admiral
Middle English, from Anglo-French amiral commander & Medieval Latin admiralis emir, admirallus admiral, from Arabic amīr-al- commander of the (as in amīr-al-baḥr commander of the sea)
First Known Use: 15th century
ADMIRAL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of admiral for English Language Learners
: a high-ranking officer in the navy
ADMIRAL Defined for Kids
Definition of admiral for Students
: a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard ranking above a vice admiral
History for admiral
The word admiral looks a lot like the word admire. The two words, though, are not related. Admire came from a Latin verb that meant “to marvel at.” Admiral came from an Arabic title that meant “commander.” It may have been part of a phrase that meant “commander of the sea.”
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