boat·​swain ˈbō-sᵊn How to pronounce boatswain (audio)
variants or bosun or less commonly bos'n or bo's'n or bo'sun
: a petty officer on a merchant ship having charge of hull maintenance and related work
: a naval warrant officer in charge of the hull and all related equipment

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Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web In May 2021, Hannah Crisostomo, an aviation boatswain’s mate handler on the George Washington, attempted suicide on the heels of her first anniversary with the Navy. Melissa Chan, NBC News, 19 May 2022 That spring, Crisostomo, an aviation boatswain’s mate handler on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, had been moved to night-shift repair duties. Melissa Chan, NBC News, 28 Apr. 2022 Reno Chen was designated purser and Benny Hsu was to be the boatswain in charge of maintenance. Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN, 23 Aug. 2021 One went so far as to swing a grapple at a boatswain's head. Elliot Ackerman, Wired, 26 Jan. 2021 In addition, the ship’s crew included a female third mate, boatswain, and two able-bodied crewmembers. San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Sep. 2020 Anthony Gillilan, the boatswain’s mate of the watch, was in charge of both sailors. T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, 20 Dec. 2019 Few personal details have been revealed about the two North Koreans, except that one was the boatswain and the other a deck hand. New York Times, 18 Dec. 2019 He was trained as a boatswain’s mate and served aboard an LST in Africa and the Mediterranean. Jacques Kelly,, 12 Dec. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'boatswain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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Word History


Middle English bootswein, from boot boat + swein boy, servant — more at swain

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of boatswain was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near boatswain

Cite this Entry

“Boatswain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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Kids Definition



boat·​swain ˈbō-sᵊn How to pronounce boatswain (audio)
: an officer on a ship whose job is to take care of the main body of the ship and all the ship's equipment

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