buc·​ca·​neer ˌbə-kə-ˈnir How to pronounce buccaneer (audio)
: any of the freebooters preying on Spanish ships and settlements especially in 17th century West Indies
broadly : pirate
: an unscrupulous adventurer especially in politics or business
buccaneer intransitive verb
buccaneerish adjective

Examples of buccaneer in a Sentence

buccaneers preyed upon treasure-laden ships in the Caribbean for nearly three hundred years
Recent Examples on the Web Tampa Bay will wear white jerseys with red numbers, pewter pants and its pewter and red buccaneer helmet. Detroit Free Press, 20 Jan. 2024 Pitching himself as the enterprising buccaneer as the fledgling airline took on the longstanding national carrier British Airways, Branson was ever-present in the company’s advertising and marketing. Roger Trapp, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 English-speaking buccaneers and logwood cutters had established a presence in the British Settlement in the Bay of Honduras, as Belize was then known. Simon Romero Alejandro Cegarra, New York Times, 15 Feb. 2024 Specifically, an interview with historian Rebecca Simon on the real-life buccaneer bylaws that shaped every aspect of a pirate's life. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 30 Dec. 2023 The buccaneers’ hearts are set on much more than just securing husbands and titles. Caroline Brew, Variety, 2 Oct. 2023 But your beach-blanket buccaneers are abusing this convention and effectively privatizing what should be public. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 16 Aug. 2023 The throwbacks are inspired by the orange and white uniforms the team wore from their inaugural season in 1976 up until 1996, which also became famous for the widely recognizable logo of Bucco Bruce, a mustachioed buccaneer who bites down on a blade. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, 1 Mar. 2022 The large cast, costumed and made up as a fitly scalawags and sinister buccaneers, gives tremendous energy to every scene. Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 July 2023

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

Word History


French boucanier woodsman, pirate (in the 17th century West Indies), from boucaner to smoke meat, from boucan wooden frame for smoking meat, from Tupi mokaʔẽ́, mbokaʔẽ́, from mo-, mbo- causative marker + kaʔẽ to be roasted, dried

First Known Use

1686, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of buccaneer was in 1686

Dictionary Entries Near buccaneer

Cite this Entry

“Buccaneer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/buccaneer. Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


buc·​ca·​neer ˌbək-ə-ˈni(ə)r How to pronounce buccaneer (audio)

from French boucanier "hunter who smokes meat over a grill"

Word Origin
In the 17th century Frenchmen living off the land in the West Indies were known as boucaniers because they preserved meat by smoking it over a wooden grill. The grill was called a boucan, after the Brazilian Indigenous name for it. When some of these men took to the sea as pirates, the word boucanier continued to be applied to them, and was borrowed into English as buccaneer.

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