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 frigate, which was being towed back to a Philippine port, ran aground during a routine patrol, damaging some of its propellers. Christopher Bodeen, Fox News, "Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea," 10 Sep. 2018 The frigate, which was being towed back to a Philippine port, ran aground during a routine patrol Wednesday night, damaging some of its propellers. Jim Gomez, The Seattle Times, "Philippines extricates warship from South China Sea shoal," 3 Sep. 2018 Lubeck was up north near the Arctic Circle as recently as mid-June, and was nearby when another frigate, FGS Sachsen, was accidentally scorched by its own missile. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Why Does This German Frigate Have Drone “Kill Marks”?," 27 Aug. 2018 Detoyato said the frigate had minimal hull damage and its engine was running. Jim Gomez, Fox News, "Philippines informs China of grounded frigate amid sea feud," 31 Aug. 2018 That’s the preliminary assessment by the Accident Investigation Board Norway, which is looking into the incident that sank one-fifth of Norway’s frigate fleet. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "How Confusion and Defects Led to a Norwegian Warship's Embarrassing Accident," 3 Dec. 2018 Despite the risks, there’s an obvious reason for Western sea blindness: While most people have seen soldiers or perhaps some army jeeps, few have encountered frigates. Elisabeth Braw, WSJ, "The Risks of Failing to See the Sea," 21 Oct. 2018 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

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

15 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for frigate

The first known use of frigate was in 1583

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More Definitions for frigate



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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