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

Evangelicals are a vital constituency for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a former fringe congressman and army captain who won power by promising to crack down on crime. Washington Post, "An Avengers comic book showed two men kissing. A Brazilian mayor ordered the copies seized.," 10 Sep. 2019 Referee Alex Chilowicz initially awarded the Timbers a penalty kick in the ninth minute after a shot from Portland captain Diego Valeri hit off the arm of Kansas City defender Luis Martins in the box. Jamie Goldberg, oregonlive, "Portland Timbers fight back to earn massive 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City," 7 Sep. 2019 Quarterback and captain Derek Carr did not address reporters Saturday. Matt Kawahara,, "Raiders players react to departure of receiver Antonio Brown," 7 Sep. 2019 Joseph Gillespie is a Boston police captain who commands the Hyde Park district. Brian Macquarrie,, "When the city was lawless: Recalling the Boston Police Strike of 1919," 7 Sep. 2019 Athletic director Bill Beekman, university president Samuel L. Stanley, university trustee Melanie Foster, hockey coach Danton Cole and senior hockey captain Sam Saliba also spoke at the event. Chase Michaelson, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State hockey: Tom Izzo backs coach Danton Cole as part of Munn renovation," 7 Sep. 2019 Steve Elling of Orlando, Fla. asks: Why don’t teams have captains? Los Angeles Times, "Dodgers Dugout: Opening up the reader mailbag," 6 Sep. 2019 As captains Baker, McCain, Kilgore and Aikens are responsible for relaying coach Brian Flores’ messages to the rest of the locker room. Omar Kelly,, "Three of the Miami Dolphins’ four captains for 2019 are defensive players," 6 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, Liverpool center back and Netherlands national team captain Virgil van Dijk will cover the Champions Edition. Brittany Vincent, CNN Underscored, "FIFA 20 is headed to the field on Sept. 27; you can preorder it right now," 4 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan was joined by his oldest son, Josh, who committed to Arizona State in June. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Arizona Coyotes' radio move to Fox Sports 910, iHeartMedia more than a dial change," 13 Aug. 2019 Defender Justin Hoyte, who captained FC Cincinnati in almost every match since Kendall Waston stepped away from the team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, agreed with Richey's sentiments. Pat Brennan,, "FC Cincinnati has a two-pronged approach in the upcoming transfer window," 6 July 2019 Special teams captain Matt Slater, now in his 10th season with the Patriots, said Belichick's leadership sets the tone when possible distractions creep up. USA TODAY, "Belichick 'absolutely' intends to return as Patriots coach," 8 Jan. 2018 Pierre Casiraghi, grandson of American actress Grace Kelly and Monaco's late Prince Rainier III, and race skipper Boris Herrmann will captain the vessel. Elizabeth Lawrence, USA TODAY, "Anchors away: Teen eco-activist Greta Thunberg sets sail for UN conference on zero-carbon boat," 14 Aug. 2019 The ship featured on Deadliest Catch is captained by Keith Colburn, and the no-frills seaman took to Twitter recently to share some sad personal news. Megan Stein, Country Living, "'Deadliest Catch' Captain Keith Colburn's Former Deck Boss and Mentor Has Died at 66," 13 Aug. 2019 In this case, the two six-man teams competing on behalf of Europe and the rest of the world, are captained by Björn Borg and his onetime rival John McEnroe. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "Best Places to Visit in September," 25 July 2019 Della Donne, who will captain one of the two all-star teams, finished with just 11 points. Mike Cook, Twin Cities, "Lynx lose 79-71 to Washington Mystics in front of 17,934," 24 July 2019 Ellis captained her Virginia high school team to a state title and won a U-19 national championship with her club team before going on to play at William and Mary. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, "Jill Ellis will step down as coach of U.S. women’s national team," 30 July 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.

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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

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


to spread over or through

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