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

Harry will be captaining one team, Nacho Figueras the opposition.
Can Harry Shed the Playboy Prince Tag? Tom Sykes March 1, 2012

Historical Examples

Yet, madam, they are all capable of captaining the army; they are all experienced and brave chiefs.
The Branding Needle, or The Monastery of Charolles Eugne Sue

In the gymnasium he found Delight, captaining a basket-ball team.
Dangerous Days Mary Roberts Rinehart

captaining and piloting a river boat are clearly good for the health.
American Adventures Julian Street

Next, after that, he had signalized his Senior year by captaining the Varsity to its first victory over Stanford in five years.
The Little Lady of the Big House Jack London

the person in charge of and responsible for a vessel
an officer of the navy who holds a rank junior to a rear admiral but senior to a commander
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
the officer in command of a civil aircraft, usually the senior pilot
the leader of a team in games
a person in command over a group, organization, etc; leader: a captain of industry
(US) a police officer in charge of a precinct
(US & Canadian) (formerly) a head waiter
(US & Canadian) Also called bell captain. a supervisor of bellboys in a hotel
(Austral, informal) a person who is buying drinks for people in a bar
(transitive) 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.

(1.) Heb. sar (1 Sam. 22:2; 2 Sam. 23:19). Rendered “chief,” Gen. 40:2; 41:9; rendered also “prince,” Dan. 1:7; “ruler,” Judg. 9:30; “governor,’ 1 Kings 22:26. This same Hebrew word denotes a military captain (Ex. 18:21; 2 Kings 1:9; Deut. 1:15; 1 Sam. 18:13, etc.), the “captain of the body-guard” (Gen. 37:36; 39:1; 41:10; Jer. 40:1), or, as the word may be rendered, “chief of the executioners” (marg.). The officers of the king’s body-guard frequently acted as executioners. Nebuzar-adan (Jer. 39:13) and Arioch (Dan. 2:14) held this office in Babylon. The “captain of the guard” mentioned in Acts 28:16 was the Praetorian prefect, the commander of the Praetorian troops. (2.) Another word (Heb. katsin) so translated denotes sometimes a military (Josh. 10:24; Judg. 11:6, 11; Isa. 22:3 “rulers;” Dan. 11:18) and sometimes a civil command, a judge, magistrate, Arab. _kady_, (Isa. 1:10; 3:6; Micah 3:1, 9). (3.) It is also the rendering of a Hebrew word (shalish) meaning “a third man,” or “one of three.” The LXX. render in plural by _tristatai_; i.e., “soldiers fighting from chariots,” so called because each war-chariot contained three men, one of whom acted as charioteer while the other two fought (Ex. 14:7; 15:4; 1 Kings 9:22; comp. 2 Kings 9:25). This word is used also to denote the king’s body-guard (2 Kings 10:25; 1 Chr. 12:18; 2 Chr. 11:11) or aides-de-camp. (4.) The “captain of the temple” mentioned in Acts 4:1 and 5:24 was not a military officer, but superintendent of the guard of priests and Levites who kept watch in the temple by night. (Comp. “the ruler of the house of God,” 1 Chr. 9:11; 2 Chr. 31:13; Neh. 11:11.) (5.) The Captain of our salvation is a name given to our Lord (Heb. 2:10), because he is the author and source of our salvation, the head of his people, whom he is conducting to glory. The “captain of the Lord’s host” (Josh. 5:14, 15) is the name given to that mysterious person who manifested himself to Abraham (Gen. 12:7), and to Moses in the bush (Ex. 3:2, 6, etc.) the Angel of the covenant. (See ANGEL.)


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