ar·​ma·​da är-ˈmä-də How to pronounce armada (audio) -ˈmā- How to pronounce armada (audio)
 also  -ˈma-
: a fleet of warships
: a large force or group usually of moving things

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A Spanish word that originally meant simply "armed", armada is now used in Spanish-speaking nations as the name of their national navies. In English, the word usually has historical overtones. The Great Armada of 1588 was a 120-ship fleet sent by Philip II of Spain in an attempt to invade Elizabethan England; it was defeated when British forces lit eight ships afire and sent them sailing into the Armada's midst, then blocked the passage to the south so that the remaining ships were forced to sail northward around Britain in order to return home, causing dozens more ships to be wrecked in the stormy northern seas. Today we sometimes use the word humorously for fleets of fishing boats, rowboats, or canoes.

Examples of armada in a Sentence

an armada of fishing boats an armada of ships sailing up the coast
Recent Examples on the Web It has been reported to contain over 7,000 vehicles, with media leaks suggesting that maintaining such a vast armada is beyond even the Sultan’s near bottomless pockets, many of them now in poor repair. Ben Oliver, Robb Report, 24 Sep. 2023 Workers on China’s vast armada of squid ships, which make up the majority of the vessels in the fleet, typically spend two years almost entirely at sea, most of the time with no internet or phone signal. Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2023 The streets of Beijing still show progress; armadas of electric cars glide by like props in a sci-fi film, and the smoke that used to impose a perpetual twilight is gone. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 23 Oct. 2023 Courtesy of Apple Part of the problem is the slipperiness of attempting to tie a carbon credit—an abstract financial instrument—to any particular product in Apple’s armada of product offerings or the wider global economy. WIRED, 14 Sep. 2023 Almost from the start of the expedition, the armada faced stormy weather. Roger Knight, Foreign Affairs, 28 Feb. 2023 From having virtually no tanks and a peacetime economy, America had to build an armored armada that would eventually grow to 16 armored divisions—plus 70 independent tank battalions—by 1945. Popular Mechanics, 17 Aug. 2023 China has created an armada of coast guard vessels that rival in size and capability those of actual naval ships, and countries that fear Chinese aggression on the high seas are rushing to build and deploy robust and heavily armed patrol boats of their own. Win McCormack, The New Republic, 10 Aug. 2023 Over the coming weeks, the armada raked an area of seafloor equal to the size of Boston. Laura Trethewey, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'armada.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Spanish, "military force, fleet of warships," from armar "to arm, equip" (going back to Latin armāre) + -ada, suffix of action or result (going back to Vulgar Latin *-āta, noun derivative from feminine of Latin -ātus, past participle ending of Latin first-conjugation verbs) — more at arm entry 2

First Known Use

1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of armada was in 1550

Dictionary Entries Near armada

Cite this Entry

“Armada.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ar·​ma·​da är-ˈmäd-ə How to pronounce armada (audio) -ˈmād- How to pronounce armada (audio)
: a large fleet of warships
: a large force or group of usually moving things
an armada of fishing boats

from Spanish armada "fleet," derived from Latin arma "weapons"

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