frig·​ate | \ ˈfri-gət How to pronounce frigate (audio) \

Definition of frigate

1 : a light boat propelled originally by oars but later by sails
2 : a square-rigged war vessel intermediate between a corvette and a ship of the line
3 : a modern warship that is smaller than a destroyer

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In the 17th–19th centuries, a frigate was a three-masted, fully rigged sailing ship, often carrying 30–40 guns in all. Smaller and faster than ships of the line (the principal vessels of naval warfare), frigates served as scouts or as escorts protecting merchant convoys; they also cruised the seas as merchant raiders themselves. In World War II, Britain revived the term frigate using it to describe escort ships equipped with sonar and depth charges, and used these ships to guard convoys from submarines. In the postwar decades, the frigate also adopted an antiaircraft role, adding radar and surface-to-air missiles. Modern frigates can sail at a speed of 30 knots and carry a crew of 200.

Examples of frigate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Makran, escorted by a frigate, is carrying a cargo of at least seven missile boats, but reports say the warship has been recalled to the Persian Gulf after the Kharg’s sinking. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 7 June 2021 The two ships – an Iranian frigate and the Makran, an oil tanker that was converted to a floating forward staging base – made their way south along the Eastern coast of Africa and rounded the Cape of Good Hope on Friday. Peter Aitken, Fox News, 5 June 2021 Germany is also set to deploy a frigate to the region. Richard Colombo And Mari Yamaguchi, Star Tribune, 15 May 2021 Finally, here’s another incident involving the Russian Navy’s Krivak-class frigate Ladny and SS-N-14 missiles. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 30 Apr. 2021 The two jets might also receive more information about the target from a nearby Marines Corps F-35B fighter jet and a nearby Navy frigate. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 16 Apr. 2021 In contrast, Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, commander of the Medusa, displayed miserable leadership during that frigate’s shipwreck. Luc-christophe Guillerm, Scientific American, 16 Apr. 2021 Instead, the Navy is refusing to do anything more than hope for a replacement frigate, leaving the nation with 16 broken Freedom class ships that are unsuited for the U.S. Navy’s current mission priorities. Craig Hooper, Forbes, 4 Mar. 2021 Then the first frigate's gray hull ominously appeared. Elliot Ackerman, Wired, 26 Jan. 2021

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

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for frigate

Middle French, from Old Italian fregata

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Time Traveler for frigate

Time Traveler

The first known use of frigate was in 1583

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Statistics for frigate

Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Frigate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for frigate



English Language Learners Definition of frigate

: a small and fast military ship


frig·​ate | \ ˈfri-gət How to pronounce frigate (audio) \

Kids Definition of frigate

1 : a square-rigged warship
2 : a modern warship that is smaller than a destroyer


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