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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For over a decade, Casspi was an NBA player as well as captain of Israel’s national basketball team. Carrie Rubinstein, Forbes, 2 May 2022 The father of Jim Steele was George Steele II, the first captain of the USS Seadragon and its commander during the historic 1960 voyage through the Northwest Passage. Washington Post, 30 Apr. 2022 Then Ryan Day kneeled with his team and senior captain Kamryn Babb led them in prayer and 60,007 honored that. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, 16 Apr. 2022 Senior captain Marlisa Pacheco and the other girls gathered around, stunned and fearful, as their coach was rushed to the hospital. Eric Sondheimer Columnist, Los Angeles Times, 14 Mar. 2022 East Hartford senior captain Cooper Lavigne, wrestling for fifth place at 152 pounds, didn’t know the score. Lori Riley,, 25 Feb. 2022 Steele Canyon senior captain Danny Medina got sent off after pushing a Lancers opponent after having his legs taken out on a challenge but the Cougars had their three-goal cushion by then. Ramon Scott, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Feb. 2022 Eight thrilling overtime minutes later, a loose puck bounced off the boards right to Marriotts Ridge senior assistant captain Blake Rosenthal. Alex Murphy,, 21 Feb. 2022 On his fourth, the senior captain finally found the net from deep as the Spartans scored the first eight of the second half. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, 16 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The former Hurricanes captain and Santaluces High alumnus was signed by the Minnesota Vikings after the NFL draft on Saturday. Adam Lichtenstein, Sun Sentinel, 1 May 2022 Lindholm’s obsession for improvement even flustered his mentor, former Islanders captain and Rögle legend Kenny Jönsson. Matt Porter,, 30 Apr. 2022 The game is also expected to see the return of former Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland to Gila River Arena. José M. Romero, The Arizona Republic, 6 Apr. 2022 Adams won more than 31% of first choice preferences of in person early and Election Day voters, but last week's tally had the former police captain ahead 51.1% to Garcia's 48.9% in the final ranked voting round. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, 6 July 2021 Belgium finished third at the 2018 World Cup and its lineup features Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) and Romelo Lukaku (Chelsea), but captain Eden Hazard (Real Madrid) has been hampered by injuries. ... Jesse Yomtov, USA TODAY, 1 Apr. 2022 Among those are defenders Emma Butterick and Jada Watson, who will captain the team and lead the younger players by example. Steve Smith,, 1 Apr. 2022 McLaughlin, a center by nature but a right wing Thursday, was the Eagles’ captain his junior and senior seasons., 31 Mar. 2022 The Portland Thorns captain and international soccer great has been honored for breaking the women’s international goal-scoring record, receiving The Best FIFA Special Award during the annual FIFA awards show on Monday. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, 19 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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

Learn More About captain

Time Traveler for captain

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near captain



captain's chair

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for captain

Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for captain


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on captain

Nglish: Translation of captain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of captain for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about captain


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!