cap·​tain | \ ˈkap-tən How to pronounce captain (audio) also ˈkap-ᵊm \

Definition of captain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a military leader : the commander of a unit or a body of troops
(2) : a subordinate officer commanding under a sovereign or general
(3) : a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking above a first lieutenant and below a major
b(1) : a naval officer who is master or commander of a ship
(2) : a commissioned officer in the navy ranking above a commander and below a commodore and in the coast guard ranking above a commander and below a rear admiral
c : a senior pilot who commands the crew of an airplane
d : an officer in a police department or fire department in charge of a unit (such as a precinct or company) and usually ranking above a lieutenant and below a chief
2 : one who leads or supervises: such as
a : a leader of a sports team or side
c : a person in charge of hotel bellhops

called also bell captain

3 : a person of importance or influence in a field captains of industry


captained; captaining; captains

Definition of captain (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to be captain of : lead captained the football team

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Other Words from captain


captaincy \ ˈkap-​tən-​sē How to pronounce captain (audio) \ noun
captainship \ ˈkap-​tən-​ˌship How to pronounce captain (audio) \ noun

Examples of captain in a Sentence

Noun The captain has turned off the “fasten seat belt” sign. the captain is responsible for everything that happens to his ship in the course of a voyage Verb The ship was captained by John Smith. She captained last year's team.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After the Wild sent the game to overtime, Wild coach Dean Evason sent out his four-on-three power play — his captain (Jared Spurgeon) and his three best forwards. Star Tribune, "Kirill Kaprizov offers hope for Minnesota's ever-disappointed sports fans," 15 Jan. 2021 That was expected, and Henry responded with the type of game his coach has sought from his junior captain all season — and then some. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "How Michigan State basketball was able to end 3-game losing streak vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers," 3 Jan. 2021 Lower trim levels have a second-row bench seat and seven-passenger capacity, but higher trims are limited to six riders with their second-row captain's chairs. Joey Capparella, Car and Driver, "2021 Kia Sorento Satisfies High Expectations," 18 Dec. 2020 Pitino has remained confident in his co-captain since Kalscheur makes up for his shooting slump with defense and foul shooting (19-for-19) so far this season. Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune, "Liam Robbins' shot blocking potential could be key for Gophers vs. Boston College," 8 Dec. 2020 The players rewarded their captain’s confidence in them by stepping up their game with a championship performance. Emmett Hall,, "Midtown Athletic Club women’s tennis captures USTA title," 8 Dec. 2020 But coaches and fellow players greeted her exuberantly, even naming her captain. Susan Miller, USA TODAY, "As Transgender Awareness Week rolls out, young trans people have a powerful message: We are thriving," 13 Nov. 2020 The inmate crew cleared the area before the drop except for four firefighters and their captain who were upslope from the target tree, according to the report. Sarah Ravani,, "A Bay Area injured inmate firefighter is fighting deportation by ICE," 12 Nov. 2020 As states went red or blue, and the 2020 presidential results crystalized, Kornacki remained our captain and stalwart steward, all while clad in a pair of khakis. Irina Grechko,, "On The Normcore Appeal Of Khakis, Polos & Cable-Knit Sweaters," 11 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Briefly: Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal, who played Thursday against the Red Wings, was on the NHL’s list Friday of 17 players who are unavailable to their team because of COVID-19 protocols. Chronicle News Services,, "Avalanche used two four-goal periods to blast Blues 8-0," 15 Jan. 2021 Morales, who retired in August after controversially being demoted to captain by the Fire and Police Commission, has filed for a judicial review of that process in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Investigation finds 7 civilian Milwaukee police employees were removed from job for no reason," 16 Oct. 2020 Flynn went to co-captain the women’s team at Boston University, where the Terriers won a pair of Hockey East championships in her time from 2013-17. Brandon Chase,, "In era of social distancing, Natalie Flynn pulling things together at alma mater Arlington Catholic," 30 Dec. 2020 Petit-Frere, linebacker and captain Tuf Borland and safety Josh Proctor were among players visible in practice photos posted to the team’s Twitter page. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football becoming whole again for Big Ten championship game after coronavirus cases," 14 Dec. 2020 Three officers were promoted from the rank of lieutenant to captain. Carol Robinson |, al, "Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith promotes 11 to higher ranks," 9 Dec. 2020 Mike Hoffman had a goal and assist and captain Aleksander Barkov also scored for Florida, which is one loss from going one-and-done in the playoffs for a fifth consecutive time. John Wawrow,, "Unable to sustain fast start, Panthers now face elimination with Game 2 loss to Islanders," 4 Aug. 2020 In the Women’s Super League, national team captain Alex Morgan bagged her first goal for Tottenham in a 3-1 win over Brighton. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, "Soccer newsletter: Galaxy will see what could have been in MLS final," 8 Dec. 2020 Overall, Yeager flew 64 combat missions during the war, earning a promotion to captain. Derek Wallbank,, "Chuck Yeager, U.S. Pilot Who Broke the Sound Barrier, Dies at 97," 8 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'captain.' 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 captain


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


1598, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for captain


Middle English capitane, from Anglo-French capitain, from Late Latin capitaneus, adjective & noun, chief, from Latin capit-, caput head — more at head

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Time Traveler for captain

Time Traveler

The first known use of captain was in the 14th century

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Statistics for captain

Last Updated

23 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for captain


How to pronounce captain (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of captain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who is in charge of a ship or an airplane
: an officer of high rank in some branches of the military
chiefly US : an officer of high rank in a police or fire department



English Language Learners Definition of captain (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be in charge of (a ship or airplane)
: to lead (a team)


cap·​tain | \ ˈkap-tən How to pronounce captain (audio) \

Kids Definition of captain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the commanding officer of a ship
2 : a leader of a group : someone in command the captain of a football team
3 : an officer of high rank in a police or fire department
4 : a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard ranking above a commander
5 : a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking below a major


captained; captaining

Kids Definition of captain (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be captain of She captains the team.

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