[kok-suh n, -sweyn]


the steersman of a racing shell.
a person who is in charge of a ship's boat and its crew, under an officer, and who steers it.

Also cockswain.

Origin of coxswain

First recorded in 1425–75, coxswain is from the late Middle English word cokeswayne. See cockboat, swain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for coxswain

Contemporary Examples of coxswain

Historical Examples of coxswain

  • Coxswain, go on board and tell my steward to have dinner for six.

    Captain Brand of the "Centipede"

    H. A. (Henry Augustus) Wise

  • Cloete is dragged into the life-boat and the coxswain tumbles in.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

  • The coxswain stoops over Cloete and cries: Did you hear what the mate said, sir?

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

  • The coxswain of the life-boat can swear to it that the drawers were all empty.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

  • "He says as how he belonged to a yacht, sir," resumed the coxswain.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for coxswain



the helmsman of a lifeboat, racing shell, etcAlso called: cockswain

Word Origin for coxswain

C15: from cock a ship's 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 coxswain

early 14c., "officer in charge of a ship's boat and its crew," from cock "ship's boat" (from Old French coque "canoe") + swain "boy," from Old Norse sveinn "boy, servant" (see swain).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper