frig·​ate | \ˈfri-gət \

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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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

The fifth frigate contender is Huntington Ingalls Industries. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Five frigate finalists fingered for FFG(X) fight by Navy," 20 Feb. 2018 China's Liaoning aircraft carrier was accompanied by navy frigates and submarines during exercises in the South China Sea in April. Gordon Lubold, WSJ, "Mattis Seeks ‘Conversation’ With China Despite Tension," 25 June 2018 The shipyard is also competing to build a new class of frigates. David Sharp, The Seattle Times, "Workers emerging from painful reset at Bath Iron Works," 21 Jan. 2018 Destroyers have approximately 330 sailors per ship, aircraft carriers hold as many as 6,000, and the frigates hold approximately 205. Matt Sussis And Yingjie Gu, USA TODAY, "Navy’s planned shipbuilding spree overlooks looming sailor shortage," 29 June 2018 India has old amphibious ships, and several allies sail older frigates and destroyers, some with significant weapon upgrades. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The US Navy Could Grow to 355 Ships by 2032," 22 June 2018 In 2020 the Navy plans to award a contract for 20 frigates called the FFG(X) class. Lawrence Specker,, "Shelby likes Austal's chances for Navy frigate contract," 1 May 2018 BAE Systems, the world’s fourth-biggest defence company, won a contract to build nine Type 26 Hunter class frigates for the Australian navy. The Economist, "Business this week," 5 July 2018 The frigates will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia state. Rob Taylor, WSJ, "Australia’s $26 Billion Warship Deal Goes to Britain’s BAE," 28 June 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.

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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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Statistics for frigate

Last Updated

22 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for frigate

The first known use of frigate was in 1583

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English Language Learners Definition of frigate

: a small and fast military ship


frig·​ate | \ˈfri-gət \

Kids Definition of frigate

1 : a square-rigged warship

2 : a modern warship that is smaller than a destroyer

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