cen·​tu·​ri·​on sen-ˈchu̇r-ē-ən How to pronounce centurion (audio)
: an officer commanding a Roman century

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In ancient Rome, a century was approximately equal to a company in the U.S. Army, and a centurion was roughly equivalent to a captain. Centurions play a role in the New Testament; Jesus performs a miracle for a centurion in Capernaum, centurions are present at the crucifixion, and in later years St. Paul is arrested by centurions. According to a writer of the time, centurions were chosen for their size and strength, their abilities at swordplay and at throwing missiles, and the quality of their discipline, which was partly shown by how well their soldiers kept their own armor polished.

Examples of centurion in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As the centurions fell to their knees, the angels approached the tomb, rolled away the stone in front, and stood aside as the few onlookers present got their first glimpse of Randall, dressed in a white robe and gold sash, beginning to stir inside. Jonathan M. Pitts, Baltimore Sun, 6 Apr. 2023 As the scenario began, two men in Roman centurion attire stood silently in front of the burial site, butts of their spears planted solemnly in the ground. Jonathan M. Pitts, Baltimore Sun, 6 Apr. 2023 Another centurion pulled up his tunic and made obscene gestures at the crew. Julia Buckley, CNN, 30 Nov. 2022 Rossella Tercatin, Caesarea is mentioned several times in the New Testament, including a section in which the apostle Peter baptizes the Roman centurion Cornelius in the city. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Dec. 2021 The centurion-in-waiting gestured at the abundance of keepsakes and thriving plants around her. Los Angeles Times, 27 Nov. 2021 Their recent redesign incorporates some interesting elements from a Roman centurion. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 19 Apr. 2021 Some tombs at Hegra are the final resting places for high-ranking officers and their families, who, according to the writing on their tombs, took the adopted Roman military titles of prefect and centurion to the afterworld with them. Lauren Keith, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Nov. 2020 Upon entering, visitors are will notice a wall of mosaic tiles glazed in the style of the New York City subway—and produced locally in the Bronx—that have been arranged to depict American Express’s famous centurion mascot. Eric Rosen, Condé Nast Traveler, 5 Oct. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'centurion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin centurion-, centurio, from centuria

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of centurion was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near centurion

Cite this Entry

“Centurion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/centurion. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

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