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 China's military and economic ambitions are growing in Europe and the Arctic, where the rising communist power may be trying to gain control over important shipping lanes or seaports, according to a top U.S. admiral and Western analysts. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "China aims to control ports and shipping lanes in Europe and the Arctic," 1 July 2020 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is seeking to establish a new permanent base to increase security in the Gulf of Oman and the entry to the Indian Ocean, according to its top admiral. Yasna Haghdoost,, "Iran’s Navy Seeks New Base for Waters Leading to Indian Ocean," 23 June 2020 The official said the Navy also extended the blame for the ship’s pandemic crisis, delaying the promotion of the one-star admiral who was also onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt — concluding that both men made serious errors in judgment. Lolita C. Baldor And Robert Burns, USA TODAY, "AP: Navy reverses course, upholds firing of carrier captain who urged action on virus," 20 June 2020 The admiral, coronavirus litigation and high-altitude horseplay. Listen to Ike Morgan, above. Bob Sims |, al, "The admiral, coronavirus litigation and high-altitude horseplay," 17 June 2020 Nate Christensen, spokesman for Gilday, said is will take time for the admiral to finish his review and make any decisions. Time, "Navy Carrier Sidelined by Virus Is Back Operating in the Pacific," 5 June 2020 The Navy's top admiral also determined that Crozier should not be recommended for further command, effectively ending his career. NBC News, "Navy won't reinstate captain fired for raising coronavirus concerns," 24 Apr. 2020 In October and November, the Navy sanctioned Butler and other crew members in a first round of discipline known as an admiral’s mast. T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, "The Navy installed touch-screen steering systems to save money.," 20 Dec. 2019 King Vajiralongkorn, who attended an Australian military academy, served in the army and holds the ranks of field marshal, admiral and air marshal, is obsessed with military titles, training and hierarchy. The Economist, "Relations between Thailand’s army and king are becoming one-sided," 5 Sep. 2019

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

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Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Admiral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for admiral


How to pronounce admiral (audio)

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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