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 Chinese villagers free a merchant marine captain from the communists to take them to Hong Kong in a stern-wheeler. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 15, 2019: ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and more," 13 Sep. 2019 Cerenord is a team captain who was granted his sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after tearing his Achilles tendon last season. Michael Casagrande |, al, "What happened on play Duke DL was ejected for punching Alabama player," 2 Sep. 2019 Normani, though, was a dance captain in lavender short shorts, hitting each count, not even blinking when an outfit reveal got slightly botched. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "Normani and the Work of the Pop Princess," 1 Sep. 2019 Turner took a turn as pilot and posted a video of himself wearing a captain’s hat. David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "Gold medal, not injury, is on mind of Myles Turner ahead of World Cup," 28 Aug. 2019 There was no Alex Morgan for Pride, with the USWNT co-captain making an appearance alongside Taylor Swift at the 2019 Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles the following night., "Portland Thorns Set New NWSL Attendance Record as League Continues to Thrive Post-Women's World Cup," 12 Aug. 2019 Brian Sheehy, captain of the Essex Base Ball Organization, will speak on the subject at The House of the Seven Gables in Salem on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., in the fifth lecture in the Seven Lectures at Seven Gables Series. Globe Staff,, "Fair weather ahead, we hope," 11 Aug. 2019 Webster, 31, captain of the Australian water polo team, was not injured in the accident. Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral, "Former ASU water polo star not injured in nightclub collapse that killed 2 in South Korea," 27 July 2019 In response, Horan sent a message of apology to Steph Houghton, captain of the English side. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kiszla: Why do old-fogy guys have problem with Colorado’s Lindsey Horan and the USWNT kicking butt at the World Cup?," 6 July 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

Statistics for captain

Last Updated

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for captain

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

See more words from the same century

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).


the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!