Sailor Speak of the Week – Captain

Definition

Noun

  • The commanding officer of any vessel.
  • An officer’s rank in the Navy and Coast Guard.

Origin

17th century (perhaps as early as the 11th century) by way of Old French chevetagne, chieftain. Also from Latin caput, head/leading officer.

Comments

Pretty self-explanatory and similarly pronounced in other languages. A vessel’s commanding officer is always addressed as “Captain” regardless of their actual rank. Even aboard smaller vessels commanded by more junior officers, the commanding officer is still addressed as “Captain”. Not to be confused with a captain in the Army, Air Force, Marines, or law enforcement organizations.

References

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum.

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