Definition of privateer in English:

privateer

Syllabification: pri·va·teer
Pronunciation: /ˌprīvəˈtir
 
/

noun

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.

verb

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

Derivatives

privateering

noun
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.

Origin

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

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