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

Rapinoe, of course, is the co-captain and star of the U.S. Women's National Soccer team, which just won the World Cup, again. NBC News, "Meet the Press - July 14, 2019," 14 July 2019 That didn’t satisfy everyone in the Reagan administration — some worried about a captain making a costly mistake — but that was the final order. Alex Ward, Vox, "The US has a risky new plan to protect oil tankers from Iranian attacks," 12 July 2019 The word: McQuaid was co-captain of the Spartans in his senior year. Jake Gourwitz, Detroit Free Press, "Meet the 20 Michiganders playing in NBA summer league," 11 July 2019 Megan Rapinoe addresses the crowd at victory parade U.S. Women's National Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe gave a rousing speech at City Hall in front of thousands of cheering fans. Brian Pascus, CBS News, "U.S. Women's National Team honored with World Cup victory parade in New York City," 10 July 2019 For something with a little more oomph, book a pontoon, runabout, jet ski, fishing boat, tower ski boat or a group boat (which includes a captain). Sarah Kuta, The Know, "18 places you can rent a boat in landlocked Colorado," 8 July 2019 Can Rapinoe, the American co-captain, come back for a fourth World Cup? Elliott Almond, The Mercury News, "Megan Rapinoe: ‘I’m not anywhere near to be done’," 7 July 2019 The former was a reference to forward Tobin Heath and co-captain Megan Rapinoe, who scored the Americans’ first goal of the title match and won the tournament’s Golden Ball for best player and the Golden Boot for top scorer. Patrick M. O'connell,, "Chicago fans cheer for World Cup champs and equal pay for women," 7 July 2019 Lew Theokas, a captain with the Peeples Valley Fire Department, said. Alison Steinbach, azcentral, "Six years later, Yarnell and Prescott remember 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots," 30 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The 24-year-old, who captains Swiss club Young Boys Bern and plays for the Switzerland women’s national team, disappeared Saturday afternoon on Lake Como in Lombardy. Fox News, "Swiss soccer player Florijana Ismaili, 24, missing after 'swimming accident' in Italy's Lake Como, club says," 1 July 2019 The Dallas Stars add former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, who receives a three-year, $21 million deal. • Brandon Tanev signs a six-year agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Scooby Axson,, "NHL Rumors: Rangers Win Artemi Panarin Sweepstakes," 1 July 2019 After Franco’s death, Simaro captained T.P.O.K. Jazz for four years. Nicolas Niarchos, The New Yorker, "The Death of Simaro Lutumba Closes a Chapter of Congolese Music," 26 June 2019 Leto, who scored a school-record 157 goals last season, captained the Bulldogs to a 14-6 record and leaves the program in the very capable hands of her younger sister, junior Mia Leto, and sophomore Sydney deVroedt. Steve Evans,, "Broward girls water polo player of the year: Emma Leto, South Broward senior," 19 June 2019 Fatemah is the Afghan girl who captains that renowned, unexpected robotics team (all-girl). Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "Riveting Tales: An Oslo Journal, Part III," 10 June 2019 Captain Wendy Williams will be taking the helm of the Scarlet Lady in Spring of 2020, becoming the first Canadian woman to captain a ship for a major cruise line. Matt Mcnulty,, "Virgin Voyages Announces New Itineraries for Adults-Only Cruise After Trump Bans Travel to Cuba," 12 June 2019 Their father, Laurent, competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics for the French national volleyball team and their mother, Carolina, captained the Netherlands volleyball team. Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY, "International flavor again has Gonzaga thriving near top of college basketball landscape," 8 Feb. 2018 The Supreme Court is digging into a dispute over a sunken pirate ship captained three centuries ago by the legendary pirate Blackbeard. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Blackbeard's famed pirate ship, grounded three centuries ago, will set sail toward the Supreme Court," 3 June 2019

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

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


characterized by aphorism

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