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 Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired police captain whose borough has been a focal point for demonstrations and some damage, also had doubts. Author: Jennifer Peltz And Karen Matthews, Anchorage Daily News, "Fresh trouble as New York imposes curfew amid Floyd protests," 2 June 2020 Many of the cats have six toes, unique descendants of a feline named Snow White given to Hemingway by a ship’s captain, according to the home’s website. Curt Anderson And Lynne Sladky, USA TODAY, "Florida Keys reopen to visitors after devastating coronavirus shutdown; Miami-area beaches closed," 1 June 2020 In a remarkable all-around performance, Canadian captain John Davison leads his team to a 104-run victory. John Scheibe, Los Angeles Times, "This day in sports: John McEnroe suffers marathon upset loss in French Open," 30 May 2020 Bartholomew was a unanimous choice for team captain that was endorsed by the school Athletic Director and strength coach. Melanie Laughman,, "Enquirer readers choose the 2020 Spring Sports Senior Superlative recipients," 30 May 2020 Assemblyman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove (Sacramento County) and a former sheriff’s captain, said a decade of realignment and other efforts to reduce California’s overcrowded prisons have already cleared out the lowest-level offenders. Alexei Koseff,, "Gavin Newsom wants to close prisons as coronavirus shreds California’s budget," 28 May 2020 Mastrian was named team captain in all three sports. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "Marion County and City Male and Female Athletes of the Year," 27 May 2020 Trip planner This trip was arranged by Pelorus, a leading experiential-travel specialist founded by former British army captains Geordie Mackay-Lewis and Jimmy Carroll. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Remote Solomon Islands Are a Diver's Paradise in the South Pacific," 22 May 2020 Sardiello, a former Roosevelt captain, was abruptly sent back to the ship in early April to take command after Capt. Time, "U.S. Aircraft Carrier Returning to Sea 2 Months After It Was Sidelined by Coronavirus," 19 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Furyk captained the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team in Paris, and Johnson was one of his vice captains. Jim Owczarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Steve Stricker tabs Davis Love III and Zach Johnson as Ryder Cup vice captains," 11 May 2020 For nine of its ten seasons, the marvellous Niecy Nash captained a team of designers in the soulful work of decluttering the homes and decongesting the souls of their sad charges. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "The Best Television Shows to Stream Now," 6 May 2020 Ducks captain Paul Kariya celebrates after scoring a goal in 2003. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Kings vs. Ducks virtual showdown will feature fan favorites from the past," 16 Apr. 2020 Freshman midfielder Kaitlin Swann and captains Ellis Fox and Ella Giese played well for The Covenant. Randy Jennings, Dallas News, "TAPPS soccer championship game recaps: Grapevine Faith wins third title in four years with 2-0 win over SA Christian," 21 Feb. 2020 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

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

5 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Captain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 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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