Definition of privateer in English:


Line breaks: pri¦vat|eer
Pronunciation: /ˌprʌɪvəˈtɪə


  • 1 historical An armed ship owned and crewed by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of merchant shipping: she was captured by a French 44-gun privateer
    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.
  • 1.1A commander or crew member of a privateer, often regarded as a pirate: Francis Drake disliked other privateers poaching prizes he regarded as his own
    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.
  • 2An advocate or exponent of private enterprise: it may be instructive to compare the supposedly wasteful public sector with the supposedly lean privateers
    More example sentences
    • The executive of the Scottish Parliament is handing another £100 million of public money over to privateers to ensure the privatisation of Glasgow's council housing goes ahead.
    • But before politicians get too excited, it may be instructive to compare the supposedly wasteful public sector with the supposedly lean privateers.
    • There is a danger that London Underground or the privateers who are due to take over will go to court to try and stop the strike ballot.
  • 3 Motor Racing A competitor who races as a private individual rather than as a member of a team: he finished top privateer in the world championships
    More example sentences
    • The starting lineup for every event includes both factory and privateer racing teams competing for overall wins as well as wins in one of four classes of competition.
    • Jeannette, 21, is no stranger to racing Panoz cars, having driven for Panoz Motor Sports in 2002 and for the privateer JML Team Panoz in 2003.
    • Though a privateer racing effort, Krohn-Barbour Racing will be officially affiliated with the Lamborghini factory.



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.


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

More definitions of privateer

Definition of privateer in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day astrogation
Pronunciation: ˌastrə(ʊ)ˈgeɪʃ(ə)n
(in science fiction) navigation in outer space