cen·​tu·​ri·​on | \ sen-ˈchu̇r-ē-ən How to pronounce centurion (audio) , -ˈtyu̇r-, -ˈtu̇r- \

Definition of centurion

: an officer commanding a Roman century

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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 The mise-en-scene was explicitly modern: Roman centurions as immigration officers; Herod sleepless and fearful in a velvet bathrobe; a narrator in blazer and tennis shoes. Washington Post, "This production of ‘L’Enfance du Christ’ gets tangled up in current events," 9 Dec. 2019 On Newcastle’s West Road, there are kebab houses and sari shops where there were once centurions and milehouses. The Economist, "Walking the wall: my Brexit hike in northern England," 4 Dec. 2019 And a surprising number of unlikely men and women have done that: Pontius Pilate’s wife and the centurion, according to legend; Saul of Tarsus; et al. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "The Gospel According to Kanye," 7 Nov. 2019 Nevertheless, the England centurion was able to get a tune out of his side during their pre-season preparations. SI.com, "Liverpool vs Chelsea Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 12 Aug. 2019 Confronted with parades of martial horsemen kitted out in battle armor, or murals of Hunnic steeds grinding centurions into a fine paste under their hooves, part of me instinctively recoils. Jacob Mikanowski, Harper's magazine, "The Call of the Drums," 21 July 2019 Bassianus was presented to the centurion Publius Valerius Comazon and his troops. National Geographic, "The short reign of Elagabalus, Rome's hard-partying emperor," 19 Mar. 2019 With the guidance of an instructor, venture into an arena to safely train and fight other new centurions—and feel the thrill of handling your own wooden sword and shield. National Geographic, "Italy Family Journey: Venice to Rome," 12 June 2019 There’s an earthy duet for Dores André and Luke Ingham, a corps garbed like centurions, a fellow (Wei Wang) in chalky white makeup, alternately toting a gold fishing rod and standing on his head and a general air of decadence. Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle, "Pita’s ‘Bjork Ballet’ a stunning work in S.F. Ballet’s final Unbound program," 27 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'centurion.' 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 centurion

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for centurion

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about centurion

Time Traveler for centurion

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for centurion

Cite this Entry

“Centurion.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/centurion. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on centurion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with centurion

Britannica English: Translation of centurion for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about centurion

Comments on centurion

What made you want to look up centurion? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!