Definition of privateer in English:


Syllabification: pri·va·teer
Pronunciation: /ˌprīvəˈtir


chiefly historical
1An armed ship owned and officered by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of enemy merchant shipping.
More example sentences
  • The US navy also took 50 merchant ships, while privateers took a further 450.
  • The basis for the story is that in February 1704, William Dampier, a noted British buccaneer and navigator, arrived at Juan Fernandez with two ships, both licensed privateers.
  • Great names are associated with the privateers and the ships that sailed the waters off the south coast of Ireland including the name of the great John Paul Jones.
1.1 (also privateersman) A commander or crew member of a privateer, often regarded as a pirate.
More example sentences
  • The difference between pirates and privateers was that the pirates were simply sea robbers who captured or looted ships at sea for plunder, without authority.
  • However, American neutral shipping suffered grievous losses at the hands of the Royal Navy and French privateers.
  • Nearly all the slaves were brought to Bermuda from the West Indies or as slaves on ships captured by Bermuda privateers.


[no object] Back to top  
Engage in the activities of a privateer.


mid 17th century: from private, on the pattern of volunteer.



More example sentences
  • Much is made of a claim that the growth of St Peter Port was based on privateering rather than trade, but such an interpretation is not especially new.
  • Piracy against the ships of a hostile nation was perfectly legal - privateering, as it was called, was a lucrative industry.
  • In part, English success in penetrating Mediterranean markets was due to the prevalence of war and privateering.

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