an armed ship that is privately owned and manned, commissioned by a government to fight or harass enemy ships.

verb (used without object)

to cruise as a privateer.

Origin of privateer

1640–50; private + -eer, modeled on volunteer Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for privateer

Contemporary Examples of privateer

Historical Examples of privateer

  • His own nephew was said to be among them; but him he would not serve, as he had been captured in a privateer.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • We laughed at him, and advised him to be quiet and put us aboard the privateer.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Was n't he a smuggler, or a privateer's-man, or something of the kind?

    Roland Cashel

    Charles James Lever

  • Are you he who commanded the "Dwarf" privateer in the Isle of France?'

  • There was no sign of privateer or pirate, as far as the eye could reach.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

British Dictionary definitions for privateer



an armed, privately owned vessel commissioned for war service by a government
Also called: privateersman a commander or member of the crew of a privateer


a competitor, esp in motor racing, who is privately financed rather than sponsored by a manufacturer
(intr) to serve as a privateer
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 privateer

1660s, "private man of war," from private (adj.), probably on model of volunteer, buccaneer.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper