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[en-sahyn; Military en-suh n] /ˈɛn saɪn; Military ˈɛn sən/
a flag or banner, as a military or naval standard used to indicate nationality.
a badge of office or authority, as heraldic arms.
a sign, token, or emblem:
the dove, an ensign of peace.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. the lowest commissioned officer, ranking next below a lieutenant, junior grade, and equal to a second lieutenant in the Army.
Archaic. standard-bearer (def 1).
Origin of ensign
1325-75; Middle English ensigne < Old French enseigne < Latin insignia; see insignia
Related forms
ensignship, ensigncy, noun
1. pennant, streamer. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ensign
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Darrin gave the order to lower a cutter, instructing ensign Phelps to go along and haul in that glowing object.

  • The ensign of France was again hoisted, but did not long remain flying.

    The Grateful Indian W.H.G. Kingston
  • The standard of the cross, that ensign of this holy crusade, was borne in the advance, followed by the other banners of the army.

  • Then he covered the hiatus with paint, and hoisted the ensign to the flagstaff.

    The Wreck of the Titan Morgan Robertson
  • He doesn't make nearly as much in the navy, even as an ensign—but I don't know about that.

    The Clammer and the Submarine William John Hopkins
British Dictionary definitions for ensign


(also) (ˈɛnsən). a flag flown by a ship, branch of the armed forces, etc, to indicate nationality, allegiance, etc See also Red Ensign, White Ensign
any flag, standard, or banner
a standard-bearer
a symbol, token, or emblem; sign
(in the US Navy) a commissioned officer of the lowest rank
(in the British infantry) a colours bearer
(formerly in the British infantry) a commissioned officer of the lowest rank
Derived Forms
ensignship, ensigncy, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French enseigne, from Latin insignia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ensign

late 14c., via Scottish, from Old French enseigne (12c.) "mark, symbol, signal; flag, standard, pennant," from Latin insignia (plural); see insignia. Sense of "banner, flag" is c.1400; that of soldier who carries one is first recorded 1510s. U.S. Navy sense of "commissioned officer of the lowest rank" is from 1862. French navy had rank of enseigne de vaisseau since at least early 18c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ensign in the Bible

(1.) Heb. 'oth, a military standard, especially of a single tribe (Num. 2:2). Each separate tribe had its own "sign" or "ensign." (2.) Heb. nes, a lofty signal, as a column or high pole (Num. 21:8, 9); a standard or signal or flag placed on high mountains to point out to the people a place of rendezvous on the irruption of an enemy (Isa. 5:26; 11:12; 18:3; 62:10; Jer. 4:6, 21; Ps. 60:4). This was an occasional signal, and not a military standard. Elevation and conspicuity are implied in the word. (3.) The Hebrew word _degel_ denotes the standard given to each of the four divisions of the host of the Israelites at the Exodus (Num. 1:52; 2:2; 10:14). In Cant. 2:4 it is rendered "banner." We have no definite information as to the nature of these military standards. (See BANNER.)

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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