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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Last year, Giles took the top job as captain of the 65-member patrol that guards Rehoboth’s two-mile shoreline and works to keep safe the thousands who visit it every day from May through September. Joe Heim, Washington Post, 31 July 2022 Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who was supposed to lead Europe’s team at the 2023 Ryder Cup, was removed as captain after announcing his move to the series. New York Times, 28 July 2022 And as dance captain, Fraser is responsible for leading, teaching and troubleshooting. Veronica Wells, Essence, 25 July 2022 The crew, with Brandon Arthurs registered as tournament captain, weighed in a pair of 29-pounders shortly after 3 p.m. to assume the early lead at 59.27 pounds. Clayton Freeman, USA TODAY, 23 July 2022 Ryder Cup Europe removed Stenson as captain for the 2023 matches when rumors started to come out about Stenson possibly joining LIV Golf. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, 21 July 2022 Hewitt competed in his 20th and final Australian Open in 2016, but remains a part of the game and Australian tennis as captain of the Davis Cup team. Tyler Foy,, 16 July 2022 In 2012, he was asked back as captain, and has been skippering Shenandoah ever since. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 15 July 2022 Casper retired as a captain at the Milwaukee Police Department in September 2021 but continued his law enforcement career as a lieutenant with the Brookfield Police Department until his death. Beck Andrew Salgado, Journal Sentinel, 1 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Patriots dropped the news Wednesday afternoon with a video featuring center David Andrews, linebacker Matthew Judon, special teams captain Matthew Slater, and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Globe Staff,, 22 June 2022 The sailor has risen through the ranks to captain during the Napoleonic wars, becoming a man of means in the process. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 July 2022 That honor goes to captain Carlos Vela, the former league MVP who had refused to commit to an extension when his contract runs out at the end of the month. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 28 June 2022 Another star of the show was a large white anemone perched behind the wheel of Endurance, looking ready to captain the ship. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Mar. 2022 The celebrity match is being put together by global icons Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, who will captain each team. Francisco Rosa, Sun Sentinel, 13 June 2022 Just three players from the last Stanley Cup team — captain Anze Kopitar, goaltender Jonathan Quick and forward Dustin Brown — have played in this series. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2022 Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele scored a natural hat trick, captain Blake Wheeler assisted on all three of those goals, and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck had 33 saves as the host Jets beat the Wild 6-3 on Wednesday night. San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Feb. 2022 As commissioner Gary Bettman congratulated the Wings and was about to hand the Cup to captain Steve Yzerman, Mike Ilitch stood at the bench and pounded his fists on the boards. Gene Myers, Detroit Free Press, 9 June 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for captain

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near captain



captain's chair

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Statistics for captain

Last Updated

3 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for captain


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on captain

Nglish: Translation of captain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of captain for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about captain


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