ad·​mi·​ral | \ ˈad-m(ə-)rəl How to pronounce admiral (audio) \

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

Don King, the staff attorney for the Navy admiral overseeing the court-martial, told Petty Officer Corey Scott’s attorney that Scott was subject to prosecution for perjury. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Navy: Witness in SEAL war crimes trial may face perjury charge," 27 June 2019 Sestak, a retired Navy admiral who represented Pennsylvania’s 7th District from 2007 to 2011, becomes the 25th candidate among the primary field of Democrats. Andrew O'reilly | Fox News, Fox News, "Former Rep. Joe Sestak becomes 25th Democrat to enter White House race," 23 June 2019 As CBS News reported in early June, the admiral of the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier in the region, said one of his ship's primary missions is to safeguard the free flow of commerce through the Strait and the surrounding waterways. Christina Ruffini And Tucker Reals, CBS News, "U.S. intel shows Iran tried to pick up crews from tankers attacked in Gulf of Oman," 14 June 2019 In this interview for Quartz members, reporter Jenni Avins and Stavridis discuss the admiral’s love of literature, the importance of learning through writing, and his penchant for teaching himself new languages. Justin Gonçalves, Quartz, "Admiral James Stavridis on learning leadership through fiction," 10 June 2019 The admiral with oversight of Guantánamo prison says the war-on-terror Detention Zone with 41 captives could absorb about 24 new detainees without having to increase the current staff of 1,700 troops and civilians. Carol Rosenberg, miamiherald, "Downsized Guantánamo prison could take maybe 24 more captives, admiral says | Miami Herald," 6 Mar. 2018 McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the U.S. Naval Academy. Laurie Kellman, Fox News, "McCain services set for Phoenix, Washington and Annapolis," 27 Aug. 2018 The admiral said some actually fell asleep while on the stretchers. Robyn Dixon,, "Tears flow as Thai boys and parents see each other for first time since cave rescue," 11 July 2018 American policymakers do not need an admiral to tell them that storms may lie ahead. The Economist, "China has put missiles on islands in the South China Sea," 10 May 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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Statistics for admiral

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for admiral

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

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More Definitions for admiral



English Language Learners Definition of admiral

: a high-ranking officer in the navy


ad·​mi·​ral | \ ˈad-mə-rəl How to pronounce admiral (audio) , -mrəl\

Kids Definition of admiral

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

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