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 Other sailors subject to the admiral’s review received letters of instruction or caution. Andrew Dyer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Nov. 2022 Prodigy and revealed the news that Ronny Cox will reprise his Next Generation role of Edward Jellico, who has been promoted from captain to admiral in the years since audiences last saw him. Aaron Couch, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Oct. 2022 The 18th-century English painter William Hogarth named his pug Trump—perhaps an anglicization of a Dutch admiral called Tromp, according to Stephanie Howard-Smith, a pet historian at King’s College London. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 24 Oct. 2022 Fire and Blood, George R.R. Martin's compendium of Targaryen history that inspired HBO's House of the Dragon, makes little mention of Craghas Drahar, the Myrish prince-admiral known by his foes as the Crabfeeder. Nick Romano,, 5 Sep. 2022 More than 200 men decided to return to work, and the admiral recommended they be charged with summary courts-martial for refusing to obey orders. Matthew F. Delmont, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Aug. 2022 The 15th-century Ming expeditions undertaken by the Muslim admiral Zheng He to ports in Asia, Africa and the Middle East established links with the sultanates of Melaka, Brunei, Pasai and others located around the Spice Islands. Maxwell Carter, WSJ, 6 July 2022 His feelings echo those of Harris’ admiral, who tells Maverick his time is ending. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 24 May 2022 Later, DeSantis called out HHS official Rachel Levine, who oversaw Pennsylvania's coronavirus lockdown orders before being commissioned an admiral in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service under President Biden. Fox News, 23 July 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 6 Dec. 2022.

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
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