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From Old French capitaine, from Late Latin capitāneus, from caput (head) (English cap).



captain (plural captains)

  1. A chief or leader.
    • 1526, The Bible, tr. William Tyndale, Matthew 2:
      For out of the shal come a captaine, whych shall govern my people israhel.
    • 1929, Rudyard Kipling, "The English Way":
      Stand up-stand up, Northumberland!
      I bid you answer true,
      If England's King has under his hand
      A Captain as good as you?
  2. The person lawfully in command of a ship or other vessel.
    The captain is the last man to leave a sinking ship.
  3. An army officer with a rank between the most senior grade of lieutenant and major.
  4. A naval officer with a rank between commander and commodore.
  5. A commissioned officer in the United States Navy, Coast Guard, NOAA Corps, or PHS Corps of a grade superior to a commander and junior to a rear admiral (lower half). A captain is equal in grade or rank to an Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force colonel.
  6. ​One of the athletes on a sports team who designated to make decisions, and is allowed to speak for his team with a referee or official.
    • Remember the Titans
      Captain's supposed to be the leader, right?
    • 2012 May 5, Phil McNulty, “Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool”, BBC Sport:
      As Di Matteo celebrated and captain John Terry raised the trophy for the fourth time, the Italian increased his claims to become the permanent successor to Andre Villas-Boas by landing a trophy.
  7. The leader of a group of workers.
    John Henry said to the captain, "A man ain't nothing but a man."
  8. A maître d'.
    • 1977, Don Felder, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey, lyricists, "Hotel California",
      So I called up the Captain, "Please bring me my wine."
      He said: "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969."
  9. (Southern US) An honorific title given to a prominent person. See colonel.


Derived terms[edit]


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captain (third-person singular simple present captains, present participle captaining, simple past and past participle captained)

  1. (intransitive) To act as captain
  2. (transitive) To exercise command of a ship, aircraft or sports team.


Related terms[edit]