flo·​til·​la | \flō-ˈti-lə \

Definition of flotilla 

1 : a fleet of ships or boats especially : a navy organizational unit consisting of two or more squadrons of small warships

2 : an indefinite large number a flotilla of changes

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Did You Know?

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" ("ship"), an ancestor to our word 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

As the maid in Manet’s Olympia, Laure is presenting a large bouquet of flowers sent by a client of the naked courtesan who lies on a flotilla of white cushions. Dodie Kazanjian, Vogue, "Painter Elizabeth Colomba Is Giving Art’s Hidden Figures Their Close-Up," 10 Oct. 2018 In that book, Dr. Rose explored the experience of 10,000 blacks in Port Royal, S.C., who were freed early in the Civil War when a Union flotilla captured the city in 1861 and plantation owners fled. Sam Roberts, BostonGlobe.com, "Willie Lee Rose, historian of Reconstruction, dies at 91," 28 June 2018 The four-day event has a lot of components, including a flotilla of dive boats departing from Morne Rouge Bay for a lionfish hunt. Mark Rogers, USA TODAY, "Lionfish in the Caribbean: Destructive menace, delicious dinner," 3 July 2018 Japan, which lies near China, is eager to demonstrate that anti-ship missiles could make life difficult for Chinese flotillas that regularly pass through the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "China's Not Coming to America's Big Pacific War Games This Time," 28 June 2018 Unruly trees pay the barriers no mind, stretching defiantly into the water, their sagging branches capturing a flotilla of plastic bags and beer cans. Patrick M. O'connell, chicagotribune.com, "A 'wild mile' on the Chicago River? It might be closer than you think," 22 June 2018 Undeterred, both firms are trying to scale up, partly by pursuing a flotilla of potential rivals. The Economist, "Yacht-sharing startups vie to rule the waves," 21 June 2018 With each erosion of individual liberties, with every election gone awry, the commentariat disgorges a fresh flotilla of analyses of the world’s ailments and favored prescriptions for fixing them. Steven Rattner, New York Times, "Dambisa Moyo’s Proposals for Saving Democracy," 7 June 2018 And in mid-April, China conducted its largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea, which came after the aircraft carrier Liaoning led a flotilla of 48 naval vessels plus 76 fighter jets in two-days of combat drills. Bethlehem Feleke, CNN, "China tests bombers on South China Sea island," 20 May 2018

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

1711, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for flotilla

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

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Statistics for flotilla

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for flotilla

The first known use of flotilla was in 1711

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More Definitions for flotilla



English Language Learners Definition of flotilla

: a group of small ships


flo·​til·​la | \flō-ˈti-lə \

Kids Definition of flotilla

: a fleet of usually small ships

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a private place of worship

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