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 If an aircraft, submarine, and surface frigate were all able to identify and track a top-of-the-line submarine, there should be some recording of the sub's acoustic or radar signature. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 18 Feb. 2022 That sighting came just 40 minutes after a Russian frigate had entered the waters for more than an hour, the ministry said. Bradford Betz, Fox News, 5 July 2022 Many crew members leaped overboard in 10-foot waves and frigid waters about 1 a.m. Wednesday before being rescued by a research boat, a Navy frigate and a Coast Guard helicopter. San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 May 2022 Last week, the navy scuttled its only frigate in Mykolaiv to avoid it being captured by the Russian navy, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said. Benoit Faucon And Joe Parkinson, WSJ, 8 Mar. 2022 Two other ships, another destroyer and a frigate, were also later named the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 June 2022 Unlike the Navy’s Constellation-class frigate contest, where the contract was obviously headed towards a politically-valuable swing state, the outcome of the race for the Coast Guard’s second tranche of Offshore Patrol Cutters is anybody’s guess. Craig Hooper, Forbes, 16 June 2022 Fincantieri Marinette Marine will design and build the 7,300-ton frigate that’s expected to be a key part of the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare and one of 10 frigates built in Marinette. Rick Barrett, Journal Sentinel, 18 June 2022 Without the protection of a frigate, the Raptors were sitting ducks. David Axe, Forbes, 6 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of frigate was in 1583

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Dictionary Entries Near frigate



frigate bird

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Frigate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for frigate


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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