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

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 Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser served as the Owls’ honorary captain for the game and watched from the sideline as Westminster earned its ninth straight victory. Megan Woodward,, "Football: Westminster gets past Marriotts Ridge to advance to 3A state quarterfinals," 15 Nov. 2019 Neither option is off the table, but the captain doesn’t have an exact fundraising goal. Colin Campbell,, "A rare Liberty ship has been part of Baltimore history since World War II. Now its home here is in jeopardy.," 12 Nov. 2019 David Abraham The Eintracht Frankfurt captain was sent off for knocking down Freiburg coach Christian Streich as their Bundesliga game in Berlin ended in chaos Sunday., "Heat’s longtime guard Dwyane Wade spends day with team in Los Angeles," 10 Nov. 2019 As the Swiss captain trudged off the pitch Unai Emery could only watch on and see the mess that was almost entirely of his own making., "Why the Granit Xhaka Captaincy Saga Proves Unai Emery Isn't the Man for Arsenal," 6 Nov. 2019 The whole premise of the film is that the police captain’s daughter has been taken hostage and is going to be killed. Rosy Cordero,, "Aaron Eckhart finds guidance from an unlikely source in clip from Line of Duty," 5 Nov. 2019 Joe Bachie has been the heart and soul of the Spartans’ defense the past three years, but the second-year captain’s college career appears to be coming to an end prematurely. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football: After second bye in three weeks, what to watch vs. Illinois," 3 Nov. 2019 But the captains who have long fished these waters know that if the gulf continues to warm, the lobsters that have flocked north from places such as Maine might one day keep moving, taking the good times with them. Brady Dennis, Anchorage Daily News, "The sea ice used to protect them. Now their island is crumbling into the sea.," 1 Nov. 2019 The captain was cited for violations and released, the lieutenant said. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Oceanside harbor police see increase in smuggling-related incidents," 20 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Taylor, whose father James played running back on Alabama’s 1973 national champions, was a wide receiver for the Crimson Tide, working his way up from walk-on status to special teams captain as a senior in 2003. Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "Jafar Armstrong, Tony Jones Jr. set to lead revamped Notre Dame running game," 28 Aug. 2019 Rhode Islanders built, outfitted, chartered, insured, worked on, or captained between 60-90% of U.S slave ships. Crystal Whaley, Essence, "Did You Know Providence Rhode Island Is Full of Black History & Culture?," 6 Aug. 2019 Adrian Suarez of the Okapi Wanderers was selected to represent USA South Panthers, while team captain Jordan Vassel of the Boca Raton Buccaneers was selected to represent Eagle Impact Rugby Academy as part of the USA U15 team. Emmett Hall,, "Florida Jaguares roar to back-to-back regional rugby titles," 1 Aug. 2019 Some innkeeper hopefuls included sweet personal touches like photos or recipes, but most lacked one crucial qualification: a valid U.S. Coast Guard license needed to captain the Lucretia E., the small boat that ferries guests to and from the island. Sarah Feldberg,, "Remember that viral lighthouse job? They got it," 12 Sep. 2019 The Ravens’ 59-10 win Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium offered a glimpse of the potential of their exotic, redesigned offense and of Jackson’s ability to captain it. Jonas Shaffer,, "Ravens film study: How do you stop Lamar Jackson’s passing attack? The Dolphins didn’t have any answers.," 11 Sep. 2019 Pierucci joined the Foster City Police Department in February 2009 and earned a promotion to captain three years later. Louis Hansen, The Mercury News, "Foster City police chief to retire," 17 Aug. 2019 Who would want to captain a sailboat in pumps and a dress? Abby Gardner, Allure, "People Got Very Excited to See Kate Middleton Wearing Shorts at the King’s Cup Regatta," 10 Aug. 2019 De Gea's importance to the club has been underlined this summer after captaining United on multiple occasions during pre-season., "David de Gea Officially Signs 4-Year New Man Utd Contract Until 2023," 16 Sep. 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

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

21 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for captain


How to pronounce captain (audio)

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).


strength of mind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!