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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
  • "It is the ensign of the Knights of Calatrava," answered Felton.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • I, with nineteen men and my ensign, took a different route in quest of them.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare Alexander Scott Withers
  • A schooner riding to an anchor in the bay was flying her ensign for help.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • Before that hurricane of passion the ensign recoiled, despite himself.

    The Tavern Knight Rafael Sabatini
  • ensign Bradley burst out, pulling at the sleeve of his superior.

    Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer Cyrus Townsend Brady
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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