• synonyms


[ boh-suh n; spelling pronunciation boht-sweyn ]
/ ˈboʊ sən; spelling pronunciation ˈboʊtˌsweɪn /


a warrant officer on a warship, or a petty officer on a merchant vessel, in charge of rigging, anchors, cables, etc.

Nearby words

boatman, boatmanship, boatslip, boatsman, boatsmanship, boatswain, boatswain bird, boatswain's chair, boatswain's pipe, boatwright, boatyard
Also bo's'n, bosun.

Origin of boatswain

First recorded in 1400–50, boatswain is from the late Middle English word bote-swayn. See boat, swain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for boatswain

British Dictionary definitions for boatswain


bosun or bo's'n

/ (ˈbəʊsən) /


a petty officer on a merchant ship or a warrant officer on a warship who is responsible for the maintenance of the ship and its equipment

Word Origin for boatswain

Old English bātswegen; see boat, swain
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

Word Origin and History for boatswain



mid-15c., from late Old English batswegen, from bat "boat" (see boat (n.)) + Old Norse sveinn "boy" (see swain). Phonetic spelling bo'sun is attested from 1840.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper