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

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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

Britain’s navy already has two frigates operating in the Asia Pacfic region. Max Colchester, WSJ, "U.K. Looks to Reassure Allies of Military Muscle With Show of Naval Strength," 11 Feb. 2019 An American frigate hit a mine placed by Iran east of Bahrain, blowing a hole in its hull and injuring 10 sailors. Helene Cooper, New York Times, "Will Trump’s Plans to Counter Iran Bring a Return of the ‘Tanker War’?," 28 June 2019 The incident between the frigate HMCS Regina and two Chinese Su-30 fighters took place while the ship was in international waters off Shanghai, according to Matthew Fisher, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Brad Lendon, CNN, "Chinese fighters buzz Canadian warship, witness says," 28 June 2019 Canadian Global Affairs Institute fellow Matthew Fisher wrote that the Su-30 fighters flew within 980 feet of the bow of the frigate HMCS Regina., "China fighters buzz Canada warship in East China Sea," 27 June 2019 The frigate Admiral Gorshkov has sailed through the Panama Canal to enter the Caribbean Sea. Richard Tribou,, "With no U.S. cruise ships, Cuba welcomes Russian warship," 26 June 2019 The American fleet no longer has the number of large frigates that worked the Persian Gulf in the 1980s, often serving as ad hoc minesweepers thanks to their girth and reinforced hulls, Brennan said. Tracy Wilkinson,, "A ‘tanker war’ with Iran would be more complicated than the 1980s version," 18 June 2019 Wong said Singapore is investing in autonomous systems and can operate frigates with 100 crew members — 50 fewer than they were originally designed for. David Pierson,, "Military spending is soaring in the Asia-Pacific region. Here’s why," 7 June 2019 These, along with frigates at sea, are the capabilities that will guarantee NATO alliance access to the Atlantic. Jerry Hendrix, National Review, "There Is No NATO without the North Atlantic," 29 Jan. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of frigate

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for frigate

Middle French, from Old Italian fregata

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about frigate

Statistics for frigate

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for frigate

The first known use of frigate was in 1583

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on frigate

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


to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!