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

Examples of boatswain in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In a November 2020 post in honor of Veterans Day, the company saluted Violette, who enlisted in the Navy at 19 and became a boatswain’s mate aboard the USS Ranger aircraft carrier supporting troops in Vietnam. Jeong Park, Los Angeles Times, 28 Oct. 2023 The boatswain and a mate trained a fire hose on the plate, and the mud came down in curtains. Robert Kunzig, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 It’s named after the bosun or boatswain which is a senior position on a ship’s crew. The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 July 2023 Frangiosa joined the Navy at 19, becoming an aviation boatswain’s mate and spent his four-year Navy career on the aircraft carrier Roosevelt. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Mar. 2023 Periodically, a boatswain blew a chilling whistle, and crewmen stumbled from ale shops, parting from old or new sweethearts, hurrying to their departing ships in order to avoid their officers’ lashes. David Grann, The New Yorker, 28 Feb. 2023 Today, McDaniel serves as an aviation boatswain’s mate, launching aircraft from the deck of the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman. David Waldstein, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2023 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

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

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 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


variants or bosun also bos'n
: a sailor in the navy or merchant marine responsible for supervising work related to maintenance of the hull

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