flo·​til·​la flō-ˈti-lə How to pronounce flotilla (audio)
: a fleet of ships or boats
especially : a navy organizational unit consisting of two or more squadrons of small warships
: an indefinite large number
a flotilla of changes

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Flotilla comes from the diminutive form of the Spanish noun flota, meaning "fleet." Flota derives via Old French from Old Norse floti and is related to Old English flota (meaning "ship" or "fleet"), an ancestor to English's float. Much like other words referring to groups of particular things (such as swarm), flotilla has taken on expanded usage to refer simply to a large number of something not necessarily having to do with nautical matters, often with humorous effect (e.g., "a flotilla of rather mature-looking male models" — Jed Perl, The New Republic).

Examples of flotilla in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For the first commando raid, Borghese had bought a flotilla of jet skis to transport 20 men to a Russian base on Cape Tarkhankut. Oleksandr Chubko, New York Times, 22 Oct. 2023 Saturday, May 20: The second annual flotilla cleanup focusing on Anchorage’s lakes and lagoons is open to anyone with a kayak, canoe, packraft or waders. Annie Berman, Anchorage Daily News, 3 May 2023 In August of 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard encountered a flotilla of Chinese warships 46 miles off the Aleutian Islands. Hope McKenney, Maggie Nelson, Anchorage Daily News, 15 Aug. 2023 President Biden said Tuesday a second aircraft carrier and its flotilla of supporting ships would head to the Mediterranean Sea as part of an escalation of the U.S. military effort to keep Hezbollah from joining the war—and Iran from escalating and exploiting it. By ken Thomas, WSJ, 12 Oct. 2023 Ostensibly created to service the Chinese naval flotillas that engage in antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, the facility also gives Beijing a permanent naval presence at the far end of critical seaways on which China depends for its energy imports. David M. Finkelstein, Foreign Affairs, 4 Oct. 2023 The Red Cross said there were still 4,200 migrants at the center out of the 6,800 who reached the tiny tourist and fishing island in a flotilla of some 120 boats that set out from Tunisia. Valeria Ferraro, BostonGlobe.com, 14 Sep. 2023 There are no bald billionaires in super yachts or reality TV stars in flotillas of private jets. Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times, 12 Oct. 2023 Whole flounder is fried to a crisp, deboned and delivered to the table with a flotilla of fresh herbs, woven rice noodles and lettuce to accompany the snowy fish. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Spanish, diminutive of flota fleet, from Old French flote, from Old Norse floti; akin to Old English flota ship, fleet — more at float

First Known Use

1711, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of flotilla was in 1711


Dictionary Entries Near flotilla

Cite this Entry

“Flotilla.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flotilla. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


flo·​til·​la flō-ˈtil-ə How to pronounce flotilla (audio)
: fleet entry 1 sense 1
especially : a fleet of small ships

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