Sailor Speak of the Week – Captain



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


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


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.


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

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