noun ad·mi·ral \ˈad-m(ə-)rəl\

Definition of admiral

  1. 1 archaic :  the commander in chief of a navy

  2. 2a :  flag officerb :  a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard who ranks above a vice admiral and whose insignia is four stars — compare general

  3. 3 archaic :  flagship

  4. 4 :  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.

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


noun ad·mi·ral \ˈad-m(ə-)rəl\

Definition of admiral for English Language Learners

  • : a high-ranking officer in the navy

ADMIRAL Defined for Kids


noun ad·mi·ral \ˈad-mə-rəl, -mrəl\

Definition of admiral for Students

  1. :  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.”

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up admiral? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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