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

Trivia: Was captain of the Soviet Junior National team that was disqualified after brawling with Team Canada at the 1987 World Junior Championship. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "How Detroit Red Wings hit the mother lode at NHL draft 30 years ago," 17 June 2019 Most significantly, sources inside and outside the armed forces told ABC that the team’s captain had strenuously objected to the mission, calling it too dangerous for his lightly armed unit, which was given scant intelligence and no armed backup. National Geographic, "Why did a U.S. mission in Niger turn deadly?," 17 June 2019 Good teammate, captain and was liked by everyone in the community. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Notre Dame Prep's Jimmy Kerr provides extended Father's Day gift in College World Series," 17 June 2019 The Ducks do have younger players such as forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell and goalie John Gibson, among others, to build around and Eakins will be the authoritative voice for them, along with captain Ryan Getzlaf. Curtis Zupke,, "Ducks expected to hire Dallas Eakins as their next coach," 16 June 2019 In the end, captain Carli Lloyd scored a pair of goals and narrowly missed a third to help seal the victory. Thom Craver, CBS News, "Women's World Cup: U.S. Women dominate Chile 3-0, Thailand scores a goal in defeat," 16 June 2019 Just four days after the Bruins lost to the Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, captain Zdeno Chara saluted Bruins’ fans on his Instagram account. Brandon Chase,, "Zdeno Chara responds to Bruins fans on Instagram: ‘I can still hear the overwhelming cheers’," 16 June 2019 Most Lake Michigan anglers prefer to fish early morning; the afternoon time slot, when the sun is high, bait and predator fish are often deeper and fishing is usually tougher in the lake's clear water, puts charter captains like Fox to the test. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: Lake Michigan charter outing provides fresh fish and perspectives," 15 June 2019 Portland Thorns captain Christine Sinclair is expected to play a huge role for Canada in the World Cup. Jamie Goldberg,, "Canada vs. New Zealand in 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup: Live updates, TV channel, how to watch live online," 15 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Captain Wendy Williams will be taking the helm of the Scarlet Lady in Spring of 2020, becoming the first Canadian woman to captain a ship for a major cruise line. Matt Mcnulty,, "Virgin Voyages Announces New Itineraries for Adults-Only Cruise After Trump Bans Travel to Cuba," 12 June 2019 Their father, Laurent, competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics for the French national volleyball team and their mother, Carolina, captained the Netherlands volleyball team. Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY, "International flavor again has Gonzaga thriving near top of college basketball landscape," 8 Feb. 2018 The Supreme Court is digging into a dispute over a sunken pirate ship captained three centuries ago by the legendary pirate Blackbeard. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Blackbeard's famed pirate ship, grounded three centuries ago, will set sail toward the Supreme Court," 3 June 2019 Crucial to the late surge were seniors Sam Gray and Aiden Glennon, the team’s top two hurlers, who put up big numbers at the plate as well and also helped captain the team. Andrew Higginbottom,, "Gray, Glennon led Rockland hardball turnaround," 8 June 2018 Photo: nigel roddis/epa-efe/rex/Shutterstock Though not a superstar, Mr. Kompany captained Manchester City to a runaway English Premier League title by mixing constant, practical communication with relentless effort. Sam Walker, WSJ, "Close the Hall of Fame, Cancel the MVP Award: There’s a Better Way," 27 Dec. 2018 Of course, Deschamps captained his country to both of those titles, and would become only the third man in history to then manage them to World Cup glory as well, after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer., "Why Didier Deschamps Is Still a Problem Regardless of Leading France to the World Cup Final," 12 July 2018 Emma Farnham The Merrimack Valley Conference co-MVP, Farnham co-captained the Golden Warriors to a Division 1 state championship., "2017-18 Field Hockey All-Scholastics," 7 May 2018 Dvorak grabbed the rebound off his own blocked shot and slid it under Hellebuyck just six seconds after Jets captain Blake Wheeler went off for holding. USA TODAY, "Byfuglien's goal and assist lead Jets past Coyotes 4-3," 6 Feb. 2018

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

20 Jun 2019

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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).


showing courage and determination

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