1. One who commands, leads, or guides others, especially:
a. The officer in command of a ship, aircraft, or spacecraft.
b. A precinct commander in a police or fire department, usually ranking above a lieutenant and below a chief.
c. The designated leader of a team or crew in sports.
a. A commissioned rank in the US Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps that is above first lieutenant and below major.
b. One who holds this rank or a similar rank in another military organization.
c. A commissioned rank in the US Navy or Coast Guard that is above commander and below rear admiral.
d. One who holds this rank or a similar rank in another military organization.
3. A figure in the forefront; a leader: a captain of industry.
4. One who supervises or directs the work of others, especially:
a. A district official for a political party.
b. A restaurant employee who is in charge of the waiters and usually attends to table seating.
c. A bell captain.
tr.v. cap·tained, cap·tain·ing, cap·tains
To act as captain of; command or direct: captained the football team.
[Middle English capitain, from Old French, from Late Latin capitāneus, chief, from Latin caput, capit-, head; see kaput- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
captain·cy, captain·ship′ n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.