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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Membership prohibits those students from becoming captains of sports teams or holding leadership positions in campus organizations, according to the sanctions. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Harvard Faces Lawsuits Over Sanctions on Single-Sex Clubs," 3 Dec. 2018 The captain of the seven-member crew placed a call on the distress channel, and the German cruise ship Mein Schiff 6 responded, taking two injured fishermen on board, prosecutors said. Fox News, "Fishing crew member charged with murder in attack at sea," 25 Sep. 2018 While Gorsuch was a debate enthusiast, Kavanaugh was a jock — captain of the basketball team and a defensive back in football. Michael Kranish And Ann E. Marimow,, "From Clinton to Trump: How Brett Kavanaugh navigated through some of Washington’s biggest scandals," 10 July 2018 After success in the 100-hour Persian Gulf War, the greatest U.S. military victory since World War II, Mr. Bush seemed the captain of an American juggernaut. Gerald F. Seib, WSJ, "George H.W. Bush, America’s 41st President and Father of 43rd, Dies," 1 Dec. 2018 In that situation, says Daffey, ships would usually have to have crew members stationed around the vessel with walkie-talkies, informing the captain of upcoming hazards. James Vincent, The Verge, "Rolls-Royce is partnering with Intel to make self-driving ships a reality," 15 Oct. 2018 This one is created by Julian Fellowes, the mastermind behind Downton Abbey, and follows the New York City captains of industry in the 1880s. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Here Are the Most Exciting New Shows This Fall," 17 July 2018 Lucas retired as a captain in January 2002 and went to work for Major League Baseball as supervisor of security and executive protection for then-Commissioner Bud Selig. Don Behm, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Candidates for Milwaukee County sheriff promise changes after David Clarke," 12 July 2018 The captain of that boat, Ron Watson, has been discharged from a hospital in Nassau, the capital of Bahama, after receiving treatment there, CNN reported. Josh Magness, miamiherald, "She 'danced her whole childhood.' Then she lost both of her legs in a boat explosion," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The tournament's second-youngest team arrived in Russia with lofty ambitions 20 years after Deschamps captained Les Bleus to the 1998 World Cup title at the Stade de France. Justin Davis,, "Deschamps: France 'must do better' despite win over Australia," 16 June 2018 Boats are captained and guided by total pros who know these waters like no one else. Jennifer M. Wood, Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Best Day Trips from Miami," 4 Mar. 2018 Russia's goalkeeper captain Igor Akinfeev, 38-year-old defender Sergei Ignashevich, and wing-back Yuri Zhirkov renew rivalry against Sergio Ramos, now captaining Spain, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, who scored the third goal that day. Graham Dunbar,, "Under-fire Spain face a Russia side," 29 June 2018 Dietrich had been a team captain their senior year., "The Matt Patricia Fallout: How Could the Lions Not Know?," 10 May 2018 Johnson captained the 2018 American team that competed in the World Butchers' Challenge in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the Republic of Ireland ultimately won the grand prize. Benjy Egel, sacbee, "Sacramento beats out Paris and Sao Paulo to host 2020 World Butchers’ Challenge," 11 July 2018 Gabi additionally captained Atletico in Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016, putting in a heroic performance in the former and coming within seconds of being able to lift the club's first ever European Cup title., "Gabi Travels to Qatar to Seal Atletico Exit Ahead of Farewell Press Conference in Madrid," 3 July 2018 According to Duffus, by 1717 Blackbeard captained a pirate fleet led by his six-cannon sloop and a crew of 70. John Bordsen, USA TODAY, "N.C.'s haul from ‘native son’ Blackbeard's 300th anniversary: Tourist gold," 22 June 2018 According to various accounts, Mr. Kadyrov captained the other team and either scored a hat trick or assisted on numerous goals in a 5-2 victory against a defense that was generous to the point of deferential. New York Times, "Mo Salah, Now Starring in Chechnya," 11 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

19 Dec 2018

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

: 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.

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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).


a knickknack or trinket

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