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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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 Last month, Beijing sailed its new aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Strait, which divides the island from mainland China, along with several naval frigates. James Griffiths, CNN, "Taiwan's President thanks electorate after winning reelection," 11 Jan. 2020 The frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, the pride of Ukraine’s navy, takes the first potshots. The Economist, "America and its allies are helping Ukraine to get its sea legs back," 9 Aug. 2019 In a Dunkirk-like moment, the Falcon returns with a fleet of private military frigates and starfighters. Angry Staff Officer, Wired, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Is a Lesson in Military Opposites," 24 Dec. 2019 The bill includes money for the first frigate but none for the LCS. al, "Defense, spending bills contain some good news for Austal," 18 Dec. 2019 Can’t the Book Review find a few more frigates out there? New York Times, "Letters to the Editor," 4 Oct. 2019 Australia agreed to send an airplane and a frigate. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Trump’s disdain for alliances backfires," 22 Sep. 2019 In 1794, the year it was established, the United States Navy was equipped with just six frigates. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military," 11 Dec. 2019 Last June, at an annual gathering of military bigwigs in Singapore, France’s defence minister joshed her British counterpart by pointing out that the previous year both had vied to send more frigates to the Shangri-La Dialogue than the other. The Economist, "Aircraft-carriers are big, expensive, vulnerable—and popular," 14 Nov. 2019

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

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Frigate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for frigate


How to pronounce frigate (audio)

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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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).


not to be intimidated or subdued

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