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

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

Examples of captain in a Sentence


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


The ship was captained by John Smith. She captained last year's team.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In Serie A, the Inter captain scored a stoppage-time winner in the city derby against AC Milan on Sunday. Daniella Matar, The Seattle Times, "Ronaldo keeps his focus, Juventus struggling to do the same," 22 Oct. 2018 Meanwhile, aboard the Saga, captain Jake Anderson is taking a risk and dropping anchor for the night. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "'Deadliest Catch' Season 14, Episode 18 recap: Crews race against terrible weather to meet deadlines," 15 Aug. 2018 There’s one other small hitch: Ericka is no mere cruise captain, but the great-granddaughter of Dracula’s arch-nemesis, famed vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. Barbara Vandenburgh, azcentral, "Monsters go on vacation in 'Hotel Transylvania 3'," 12 July 2018 On the ground, the military is starting to retrain pilots, ship captains, and ground troops in fail-safe forms of navigation that don’t rely on GPS—like celestial navigation. Garrett M. Graff, WIRED, "The New Arms Race Threatening to Explode in Space," 26 June 2018 The World XI captain would score his attempt from the penalty spot during the shootout, though. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Usain Bolt got robbed of a goal during his 'professional' soccer debut," 10 June 2018 The Fitzgerald’s captain, executive officer, and command master chief were all relieved of duty after the collision, as was the commander of Destroyer Squadron 15 and Task Force 70. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Secret Probe Into USS Fitzgerald Disaster Revealed a Ship in Appalling Shape," 14 Jan. 2019 While there, several department members including a division chief and EMS captains, practiced multiple intubations on the body, the Bellingham Herald reported, citing information received from the city’s communications director. Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox News, "Washington state fire department used dead body for training without family's consent: report," 25 Sep. 2018 An unsuspecting Drac is immediately smitten by the ship’s captain, Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), the great-granddaughter of Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan). Kimber Walsh,, "Review: 'Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation' hits the open seas with its creature comforts intact," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said following Sunday’s practice. Joe Reedy, The Seattle Times, "Ducks fire coach Randy Carlyle amid 7-game losing streak," 11 Feb. 2019 Although Australia captain Mile Jedinak levelled from the spot four minutes later following a handball by Samuel Umtiti, France snatched a lucky win when Manchester United star Paul Pogba's deflected shot looped over Ryan in the 81st minute. Justin Davis,, "Deschamps: France 'must do better' despite win over Australia," 16 June 2018 Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was excused at 11:12 of the final period after getting a 10-minute misconduct, not long after he had taken a double-minor that set up San Jose's sixth goal. Helene Elliott,, "Ducks get obliterated in Game 3 loss in San Jose," 17 Apr. 2018 Don Cheadle stars as an impulsive trader who captains a misfit firm with his more levelheaded lieutenant, played by Regina Hall. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "‘Black Monday’ Plays the Wall Street Crash for Laughs," 16 Jan. 2019 All eyes will be on England forward Harry Kane, who leads the Golden Boot race with five goals and will captain the Three Lions. Avi Creditor,, "LIVE: Colombia, England Clash to Close World Cup Round of 16," 3 July 2018 Michel Platini captained the French side in front of the home fans at Parc Des Princes but a late goal courtesy of Juan Carlos Oblitas spoiled the party for the French as they were beaten 1-0., "World Cup Preview: France vs Peru - Recent Form, Previous Encounter, Team News, Predictions & More," 20 June 2018 Europe nearly pulled off an incredible victory against one of the strongest U.S. teams of them all, captained by Nicklaus himself, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Pan Pylas, Fox News, "British love affair with Ryder Cup to persist beyond Brexit," 27 Sep. 2018 The Moroccan international, who is currently captaining his country at the 2018 World Cup, cemented himself in the first team picture ahead of the likes of Andrea Barzagli and Daniele Rugani., "Arsenal Continuing Their Pursuit of Juventus' Medhi Benatia as They Look to Bolster Their Defence," 24 June 2018

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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Statistics for captain

Last Updated

28 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for captain

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

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More Definitions for captain



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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Comments on captain

What made you want to look up captain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

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