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

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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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After a preliminary review last month, Adm. Mike Gilday, the Navy’s top officer, recommended that Crozier be reinstated as ship captain. Time, "U.S. Aircraft Carrier Returning to Sea 2 Months After It Was Sidelined by Coronavirus," 19 May 2020 Lowder was in his fourth year as a varsity starter, his second as a team captain. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Campo Verde boys volleyball star Jesse Lowder serves after lost season," 15 May 2020 Trump hasn’t commented on the Navy’s recommendation to restore Crozier as captain of the Roosevelt. Anthony Capaccio,, "Navy Secretary Orders Deeper Probe on Ousted Carrier Captain," 5 May 2020 As a former captain for El Salvador’s national team, Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren wanted to give back to those who have supported him and his teams back home. Houston Chronicle, "Darwin Ceren, other Dynamo players donate for COVID-19 relief," 4 May 2020 Willekes returned and played in all 13 games as a senior captain, leading the Spartans with 10.5 sacks, 16 tackles for a loss and 17 QB hurries. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Minnesota Vikings take Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes in Round 7 of 2020 NFL draft," 25 Apr. 2020 For about 23 years starting in the mid-1960s, Bill Jackman, who left the Marines as a captain, was a spokesman for the airline industry’s trade association, now called Airlines for America. Washington Post, "A Washington sports fan and lifelong singer dies after he was diagnosed with covid-19," 24 Apr. 2020 DiVincenzo and Curry will serve as team captains, providing on-camera commentary throughout the games. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "You can watch the Bucks and Mavericks square off Saturday – in 3-on-3, on NBA 2K20," 28 Mar. 2020 Turner was hired four years ago as captain over the support services bureau. David Ibata, ajc, "Canton names new assistant city manager," 12 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb After more than two years in the Army, Strack returned to Michigan for the 1945-46 season to captain the team. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "Build-A-Team: Putting together the best Shortridge basketball team," 19 Apr. 2020 Sterling has scored 35 Premier League goals in the last two seasons, and captained England back in June in the Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands., "Raheem Sterling Backs Up Football's Nicest Guy Credentials as He Hugs Liverpool Fans," 5 Aug. 2019 Hart winning the Calder would see Seattle-area junior team alums claim their second straight such prize, with former Thunderbirds captain Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders having taken it last year. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "Former Everett Silvertips goalie Carter Hart putting on one-man show to keep Philadelphia Flyers in playoff hunt," 11 Feb. 2019 Giannis Antetokounmpo, who captained his team, led his squad with 25 points. Tim Reynolds,, "Last shot wins: Team LeBron wins All-Star Game 157-155," 16 Feb. 2020 The 29-year-old Van Veenendaal captained the Netherlands to the final of the women's World Cup. NBC News, "Soccer star Megan Rapinoe wins her first FIFA player of the year award," 24 Sep. 2019 But the 1920 team, captained by Risley, went 5-2, including 3-1 in Big Ten play. Jon Blau, Indianapolis Star, "The story of 1918 IU football, amid the ‘flu’ epidemic," 27 Mar. 2020 The respective teams will be captained by the two players to have received the most All-Star votes: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who take charge for the second year running. Calum Trenaman, CNN, "Kobe Bryant's absence looms large over the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend," 14 Feb. 2020 Alex Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Carly Chaikin and Sebastian Maniscalco also played at Riviera on teams captained by Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter, "Chris Pratt, Josh Duhamel Compete in Star Golf Tournament Ahead of PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational," 11 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for captain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for captain

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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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.

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