cap·tain | \ˈkap-tən 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

b : headwaiter

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from captain


captaincy \ˈkap-tən-sē \ noun
captainship \-ˌship \ 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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The military, in disarray, is easily infiltrated by the huckster Tobias Beckett and his gang, who pass themselves off as a captain and infantry. Amy Erica Smith, Vox, "Solo reveals the weakness of the Star Wars Galactic Empire," 20 June 2018 After the on-ice and locker room celebrations, Capitals players, led by captain and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, strolled right through MGM in Vegas with the Stanley Cup. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "Alex Ovechkin strolled through MGM with Stanley Cup after resort promoted #nocaps," 8 June 2018 City Female Athlete of the Year Jenna Purichia, Cardinal Ritter Purichia lettered in volleyball two years, basketball four years and softball four years at Ritter and was a team captain in all three sports. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "2018 City and County Athletes of the Year," 30 May 2018 Whoever won the job was going to take over for a three-time captain and one of Meyer's finest leaders. Bill Landis,, "Welcome to the Dwayne Haskins show: What it means for Ohio State," 8 May 2018 Adam Sandler once again voice the role of Dracula, who decides to take a cruise with his pals, only to fall in love with the captain of the ship (Kathryn Hahn). Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, "Box Office: 'Hotel Transylvania 3' Beats 'Skyscraper' in Thursday Previews," 13 July 2018 In 1956, Peter was the co-captain of their football team 1956 State champs, all county and all State., "Deaths in South Florida: 7/11," 11 July 2018 Sarah Tubert, an assistant coach for the team and the current captain of the U.S. National Women’s Deaf Volleyball team, was heartened by the passion the girls showed in the first few days of practice to improve. Atreya Verma, azcentral, "Volleyball Festival returns to Phoenix, brings international flair," 29 June 2018 Location: Otkrtitie Arena, Moscow TV: Fox and Telemundo Peru vs. Denmark (Group C) Paolo Guerrero, captain of the Peru side, was cleared to play after his drug been was suspended. CBS News, "World Cup Saturday: France vs. Australia, Argentina vs. Iceland, Peru vs. Denmark, Croatia vs. Nigeria," 16 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Image John Tavares, an Islander his entire nine-year career and the team captain the past five seasons, has decided to go home. Allan Kreda, New York Times, "In a Blow to the Islanders, John Tavares Joins the Maple Leafs," 1 July 2018 The girl’s father, James Dizzley, confirmed that there were plans for the team captains to meet with him and his daughter, but said the meeting was canceled. Melanie Burney,, "Beyond boys' lacrosse, on Haddonfield sports teams, racial slurs 'just happened all the time,' parents say," 18 May 2018 The veteran midfielder will now join Al Sadd, the same club who are captained by former Barça star Xavi, and Gabi revealed that the two spoke at length before a deal was finalised., "Atletico Madrid Midfielder Gabi Reveals He Was Sold on Qatar Switch by Barça Legend," 4 July 2018 Antarctica was the final unexplored world in 1928 when Billy Gawronski decided to leave high school and his family’s upholstery business to sneak aboard the Samson, captained by Admiral Byrd. Readers’ Books, San Francisco Chronicle, "Recommendations from Readers’ Books," 26 Apr. 2018 This year, the Powerhouse Park site will be co-captained by Del Mar resident Amelia Hong. Linda Mcintosh,, "Marine runs Ironman to fight children's cancer," 19 Apr. 2018 The plane, captained by Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first female Navy fighter pilots, made an emergency landing around 11:27 a.m. Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport. Shibani Mahtani, WSJ, "Woman Who Died in Southwest Accident Is Remembered as Thoughtful Leader," 18 Apr. 2018 Ray Wilkins, an elegant midfielder who captained England’s national soccer team and played for illustrious teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea and AC Milan in a 24-year career, died Wednesday. Steve Douglas,, "Former England captain Wilkins dies at 61," 4 Apr. 2018 Team captain James picked Victor Oladipo for his squad, which will play a team captained by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "Victor Oladipo is on Team James for the NBA All-Star game," 25 Jan. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about captain

Phrases Related to captain

captain of industry

Statistics for captain

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for captain

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

: 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 \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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