1. a person who is at the head of or in authority over others; chief; leader.
  2. an officer ranking in most armies above a first lieutenant and below a major.
  3. an officer in the U.S. Navy ranking above a commander and below a rear admiral or a commodore.
  4. a military leader.
  5. an officer in the police department, ranking above a lieutenant and usually below an inspector.
  6. an officer of the fire department, usually in command of a company, ranking above a lieutenant and below a chief or assistant chief.
  7. the commander of a merchant vessel.Compare staff captain.
  8. the pilot of an airplane.
  9. a local official in a political party responsible for organizing votes on a ward or precinct level.
  10. Sports. the field leader of a team: The captain of the home team elected to receive on the kickoff.
  11. a person of great power and influence, especially based on economic wealth.
  12. headwaiter.
  13. bell captain.
  14. South Midland and Southern U.S. an unofficial title of respect for a man (sometimes used humorously or ironically).

verb (used with object)

  1. to lead or command as a captain.


  1. the person in charge of and responsible for a vessel
  2. an officer of the navy who holds a rank junior to a rear admiral but senior to a commander
  3. an officer of the army, certain air forces, and the marine corps who holds a rank junior to a major but senior to a lieutenant
  4. the officer in command of a civil aircraft, usually the senior pilot
  5. the leader of a team in games
  6. a person in command over a group, organization, etc; leadera captain of industry
  7. US a police officer in charge of a precinct
  8. US and Canadian (formerly) a head waiter
  9. Also called: bell captain US and Canadian a supervisor of bellboys in a hotel
  10. Australian informal a person who is buying drinks for people in a bar


  1. (tr) to be captain of

late 14c., capitayn, “a leader, chief, one who stands at the head of others,” from Old French capitaine “captain, leader,” from Late Latin capitaneus “chief,” noun use of adjective capitaneus “prominent, chief,” from Latin caput (genitive capitis) “head” (see capitulum).

Military sense of “officer who commands a company” (rank between major and lieutenant) is from 1560s; naval sense of “officer who commands a man-of-war” is from 1550s, extended to “master or commander of a vessel of any kind” by 1704. Sporting sense is first recorded 1823.


1590s, from captain (n.). Related: Captained; captaining.

53 queries 0.554