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See also: Ensign


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From Middle English ensigne, from Old French enseigne, from Latin īnsignia, nominative plural of īnsigne. Doublet of insignia.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɛn.sɪn/, IPA(key): /ˈɛn.sən/, /ˈɛns.n̩/ IPA(key): /ˈɛn.saɪn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛnsən


ensign (plural ensigns)

  1. A badge of office, rank, or power.
    • 1690, Edmund Waller, The Maid’s Tragedy, Alter’d by Mr Waller[1], page 8:
      The Ensigns of our Power about we bear; / And every Land pays Tribute to the Fair.
  2. The lowest grade of commissioned officer in the United States Navy, junior to a lieutenant junior grade.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 10, in The Celebrity:
      The skipper Mr. Cooke had hired at Far Harbor was a God-fearing man with a luke warm interest in his new billet and employer, and had only been prevailed upon to take charge of the yacht after the offer of an emolument equal to half a year's sea pay of an ensign in the navy.
  3. A flag or banner carried by military units; a standard or color/colour.
    Synonym: ancient
  4. (nautical) The principal flag or banner flown by a ship (usually at the stern) to indicate nationality.
    • 1960 [a. 120], Ian Scott-Kilvert, “Life of Alcibiades”, in The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives, translation of original by Plutarch:
      But Alcibiades swiftly ran up the Athenian ensign on his flagship and bore down on that part of the Peloponnesian fleet which held the advantage and was pursuing the Athenians.
  5. Any prominent flag or banner.
  6. (historical) A junior commissioned officer in the 18th and 19th centuries whose duty was to carry the unit's ensign.


(junior commissioned officer):

  • coronet (cavalry equivalent of the infantry ensign)
  • second lieutenant (OF-1), first NATO commissioned officer grade above OF-0 trainee officer

Derived terms[edit]



ensign (third-person singular simple present ensigns, present participle ensigning, simple past and past participle ensigned)

  1. (obsolete) To designate as by an ensign.
  2. To distinguish by a mark or ornament.
  3. (heraldry) To distinguish by an ornament, especially by a crown.
    Any charge which has a crown immediately above or upon it, is said to be ensigned.