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See also: Captain


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From Middle English capitain, capteyn, from Old French capitaine, from Late Latin capitāneus, from Latin caput (head) (English cap). Doublet of chieftain, also from Old French.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkæp.tɪn/
  • (US, General Australian) IPA(key): /ˈkæp.tən/
  • (naval, informal) IPA(key): /ˈkæp.ən/, [ˈkæpn̩], [ˈkæpm̩]
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: (US, General Australian) -æptən


captain (plural captains)

  1. A chief or leader.
  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.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      "A fine man, that Dunwody, yonder," commented the young captain, as they parted, and as he turned to his prisoner. "We'll see him on in Washington some day. He is strengthening his forces now against Mr. Benton out there. []."
  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 a United States Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force colonel.
  6. One of the athletes on a sports team who is designated to make decisions, and is allowed to speak for his team with a referee or official.
    • 2000, Gregory Allen Howard, Remember the Titans:
      Captain's supposed to be the leader, right?
    • 2012 May 5, Phil McNulty, “Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool”, in 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."
    • 1990, Marshall C. Eakin, A British Enterprise in Brazil:
      The assistant mine captains then reported to the mine captain in charge of all underground operations and subordinate only to the superintendent himself.
  8. The head boy of a school.
  9. A maître d', a headwaiter.
    • 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."
  10. (Southern US) An honorific title given to a prominent person. See colonel.


Derived terms[edit]



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


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]