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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The senior captain won four gold medals at the Minnesota River Conference meet. Star Tribune, 31 May 2021 Teddy O’Rourke, Concord-Carlisle — The Patriots senior captain scored three goals in a 13-6 loss to Acton-Boxborough on Tuesday, then stepped up with four goals, including the overtime winner, to top A-B in a 7-6 thriller Thursday., 31 May 2021 In the bottom of the sixth, Willow Canyon senior captain Raelynn Rogers bunted to load the bases with no outs and Canyon View's Lauren Ervin threw a walk to force a runner home. Dana Scott, The Arizona Republic, 17 May 2021 The Lakers got a fine all-around game from senior captain Ben Smith, who finished with four goals and two assists, along with an 11-save performance from goalie Cardin Stoller. Glenn Graham,, 9 May 2021 That club includes Lyman 2016 grad Sean Clarke (16-2¾), who cleared 18-feet as a collegian for Penn; and 2017 Winter Park alum Greg Skage (16-0), who has gone 17-9¾ as Air Force’s senior team captain. Buddy Collings,, 4 May 2021 Senior captain Nathan Oleari has been playing well for Deerfield, which reached a sectional final in 2019. Nick Frazier,, 3 May 2021 Chris Brown, safety: A senior team captain who played in 44 career games at UT, Brown isn’t a jaw-dropping athlete in the same vein as Sterns. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, 28 Apr. 2021 The Eagles’ defense sealed the victory after senior captain Sam Presser kept the team in the contest with two goals. Greg Riddle, Dallas News, 10 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb PGA Tour players Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Harold Varner III, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler will captain four-player teams in the competition on holes 14-16. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, 3 June 2021 John Cheatham was among the first Black men when he was hired in 1888, and rose to captain. Randy Furst, Star Tribune, 19 Mar. 2021 Szarko credited senior and captain Kayleigh Ward for taking the lead in motivating the Lions to seize the opportunity of getting turf time and keeping alive Liberty’s winning streak. Pat Stoetzer,, 19 May 2021 Two of the candidates to succeed him in this year’s election, former police captain Eric Adams and successful businessman Ray McGuire, understand the danger to the city if crime again gets out of control. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 9 May 2021 Hayes is a former four-star recruit who became a team captain his senior season. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 May 2021 Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson called for an emergency on Wednesday between the captains of all 20 Premier League clubs. Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2021 The 1958 noir costarred Charlton Heston as young detective Miguel Vargas and Welles as corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan, who are both investigating a bombing at the U.S.-Mexico border. Christian Holub,, 15 Apr. 2021 But the former Blues captain and Team USA standout will be remembered fondly in Camp Spoked-B., 8 May 2021

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

Time Traveler for captain

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for captain

Last Updated

4 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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

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.


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

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!