pri·​va·​teer | \ ˌprī-və-ˈtir How to pronounce privateer (audio) \

Definition of privateer

: an armed private ship licensed to attack enemy shipping also : a sailor on such a ship

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from privateer

privateer intransitive verb

Examples of privateer in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Josh Herrin, riding for the privateer Scheibe Racing BWM team, won a battle with Kyle Wyman for third. Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The motorcycle master of Road America finishes off a near-perfect weekend with no one on hand to watch," 31 May 2020 The French had been unhappy with the Jay Treaty that George Washington had signed and ratified with the British, and their ships and privateers were preying upon American ships. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "George Washington Made History by Deciding to Leave the Presidency. But That Didn't Mean He Left Politics," 13 Feb. 2020 Already French privateers have declared open season on American shipping. CBS News, "Book excerpt: "Washington's End," on the final years of the father of our country," 21 Feb. 2020 That ship was en route to the Spanish colony of Veracruz when two English privateer ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer, intercepted it and seized some of the Angolans on board. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "The First Africans in Virginia Landed in 1619. It Was a Turning Point for Slavery in American History—But Not the Beginning," 20 Aug. 2019 The original, life-size Lucybelle II 250TR was entered in the legendary French endurance race by privateer Ed Hugus and wore no. 22. Mihir Maddireddy, Car and Driver, "For Just $13,970, You Can Own a Race-Weathered Ferrari 250TR," 19 Jan. 2020 The privateer Captain Kidd buried treasure on Gardiners Island. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Robert Goelet, New York Grandee and Naturalist, Dies at 96," 11 Oct. 2019 His father, Jan Jansen, a Dutch privateer, was captured by one of the Moorish states in 1618. Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, "Brooklyn’s Muslim Presence Goes Back Centuries. Here’s Proof From 1643.," 3 Dec. 2019 In the summer of 1619, two warships manned by English privateers raided a Portuguese vessel the pirates hoped was brimming with gold. Ishaan Tharoor, Twin Cities, "Ishaan Tharoor: The 1619 Project and the fear of history," 22 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'privateer.' 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 privateer

circa 1641, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about privateer

Time Traveler for privateer

Time Traveler

The first known use of privateer was circa 1641

See more words from the same year

Statistics for privateer

Cite this Entry

“Privateer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for privateer


How to pronounce privateer (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of privateer

: a ship used in the past to attack and rob other ships also : a sailor on a privateer


pri·​va·​teer | \ ˌprī-və-ˈtir How to pronounce privateer (audio) \

Kids Definition of privateer

1 : a privately owned armed ship permitted by its government to make war on ships of an enemy country
2 : a sailor on a privateer

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on privateer

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!