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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

PGA of America president Suzy Whaley will be captain of the U.S. team in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup in October in Austin, Texas, a team competition among PGA members from around the world. Doug Ferguson, The Seattle Times, "PGA Tour contemplating cut to top 65 and ties," 19 Feb. 2019 Roger's Traveling with Stephen Bonnet Otherwise known as the guy who stole Claire's ring, who's now the captain of Roger's ship. Mehera Bonner, Harper's BAZAAR, "Outlander Just Aired the Best Episode of the Season So Far," 17 Dec. 2018 During the show’s first season, Georgiou was the captain of the USS Shenzhou before she was killed at the hands of the Klingons early on in the season. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Star Trek Discovery’s Michelle Yeoh might get her own spinoff show for CBS All Access," 10 Nov. 2018 As Trek fans know, Christoper Pike was the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk assumes the helm for its famous five-year mission. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "Everything We Know So Far About 'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 2," 5 Sep. 2018 Harry's friend and polo star Nacho Figueras was the captain of the Sentebale St. Regis team, and scored the final goal to win the polo cup in the end. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Prince Harry Almost Hit Photographers With a Polo Ball During Sentebale Match," 27 July 2018 The unit loses some key pieces, including longtime linebacker Auggie Sanchez, who was the captain of the defense. Matt Murschel,, "USF moves on without Quinton Flowers, Bulls are No. 72 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 16 June 2018 Amaya Gustave of Franklin High School is the co-captain of the varsity cheer team and a member of the National Honor Society and the Black Student Union. Lizzy Acker,, "2018 Rose Festival Queen is Kiara Johnson of Parkrose High," 9 June 2018 Rising senior Sam Ehrsam is captain of the soccer team, but also runs track and cross-country and plays basketball. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The enduring benefits of a no-cut athletic policy," 24 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Emma Farnham The Merrimack Valley Conference co-MVP, Farnham co-captained the Golden Warriors to a Division 1 state championship., "2017-18 Field Hockey All-Scholastics," 7 May 2018 Dvorak grabbed the rebound off his own blocked shot and slid it under Hellebuyck just six seconds after Jets captain Blake Wheeler went off for holding. USA TODAY, "Byfuglien's goal and assist lead Jets past Coyotes 4-3," 6 Feb. 2018 Claus-Peter Reisch, who faces trial in Malta for allegedly captaining a ship that wasn't properly registered, said Monday in Munich that he's done nothing wrong. Fox News, "The Latest: Captain says Italy, Malta aim to hide sea deaths," 16 July 2018 Trapp captained the team in just his third international appearance and first start. USA TODAY, "Opara, Polster set make US debuts against Bosnia," 28 Jan. 2018 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

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

Statistics for captain

Last Updated

25 Apr 2019

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
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.

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).


something valued as if it were money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
True or False

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

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!