[en-sahyn; Military en-suhn]


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.

Origin of ensign

1325–75; Middle English ensigne < Old French enseigne < Latin insignia; see insignia
Related formsen·sign·ship, en·sign·cy, noun

Synonyms for ensign

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ensign

Contemporary Examples of ensign

Historical Examples of ensign

  • "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, etcSee 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 Formsensignship or ensigncy, noun

Word Origin for ensign

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

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