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

Meanwhile, Bayern announced before its game that both goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the captain, and defender David Alaba were ruled out with muscular problems. Ciaran Fahey, The Seattle Times, "Bayern held to draw, Dortmund seizes Bundesliga lead," 30 Mar. 2019 According to Shipnuck, the chilly relationship between the two legends began to defrost after Team USA's loss at the Ryder Cup in 2014, when Mickelson blasted U.S. captain Tom Watson and the PGA of America. Matt Bonesteel,, "Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson for $10 million. What's not to love?," 6 July 2018 All vessels must be powered by captain or crew with homemade oars. Rasputin Todd,, "Things to do this week in Cincinnati: July 2-8," 2 July 2018 Stars team captain and left wing Jamie Benn, goalie Ben Bishop, and defenseman Stephen Johns take batting practice before the game and are scheduled to throw out first pitches in the pre-game ceremonies. Peter Dawson, star-telegram, "Could top NHL free agent John Tavares pick Dallas? We could find out Saturday," 29 June 2018 The Caps’ captain has 14 goals in this year’s playoffs, matching Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele for the most in the league and also tying John Druce’s single-year franchise record set in 1990. Sam Carchidi,, "With Monday's Game 4, Capitals will try to put Vegas in deep hole and move closer to first Stanley Cup," 4 June 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Crucial to the late surge were seniors Sam Gray and Aiden Glennon, the team’s top two hurlers, who put up big numbers at the plate as well and also helped captain the team. Andrew Higginbottom,, "Gray, Glennon led Rockland hardball turnaround," 8 June 2018 Photo: nigel roddis/epa-efe/rex/Shutterstock Though not a superstar, Mr. Kompany captained Manchester City to a runaway English Premier League title by mixing constant, practical communication with relentless effort. Sam Walker, WSJ, "Close the Hall of Fame, Cancel the MVP Award: There’s a Better Way," 27 Dec. 2018 Of course, Deschamps captained his country to both of those titles, and would become only the third man in history to then manage them to World Cup glory as well, after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer., "Why Didier Deschamps Is Still a Problem Regardless of Leading France to the World Cup Final," 12 July 2018 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

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

6 Jun 2019

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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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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