Definition of corsair in English:



  • 1A pirate.

    • ‘The old look out towers had to be manned against corsairs but they also earned their keep as observation points for the lucrative and highly organized hunts for the great shoals of tuna fish.’
    • ‘European maritime powers paid the tribute demanded by the rulers of the privateering states of North Africa (Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco) to prevent attacks on their shipping by corsairs.’
    • ‘Reputations spread through any community, and the pirates and corsairs knew who they wanted to work with, as well as who they did NOT want to work with…’
    • ‘From beneath his cloak, their follower drew a rusting corsair sabre and menaced the horse with it.’
    • ‘Cutthroats, corsairs, and hot-shot pilots we got coming out of our ears.’
    pirate, buccaneer, marauder, raider, plunderer, freebooter, privateer
    picaroon, filibuster, sea dog, sea rover, rover, reaver, scummer
    marooner, sea thief, sea robber, sea wolf, sea rat, water rat
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A pirate ship.
      • ‘‘I'd rather be in my corsair, but thanks for the offer,’ Gualtero said.’
      • ‘If there were any corsairs docked, they were well disguised…’
      • ‘The Goshawk was probably enough to discourage most pirate corsairs from attacking, but a cruiser was another matter.’
      • ‘Could he be a pirate captain, eager to hang my severed head from the bow of his corsair?’
      • ‘‘Or at least a hundred pirate corsairs,’ Garcia added.’
    2. 1.2A privateer, especially one operating along the southern coast of the Mediterranean in the 16th–18th centuries.
      • ‘French corsairs settled on the western part of the island in the 17th century and Spain recognized the French claims to the area in 1697 in the Treaty of Ryswick.’
      • ‘During the Napoleonic wars Reunion, like Mauritius, served the French corsairs as a rallying place from which attacks on Indian merchantmen could be directed.’
      • ‘The war at sea was fought mainly by privateers on all sides, and the 2,800 enemy ships taken by French corsairs represent perhaps the greatest consistent success of the war.’
      • ‘Behind the high walls, hidden by a long screen of ilexes, you are suddenly back in the eighteenth century, surrounded by the obelisks and mausolea of sea captains and corsairs, exiled aristocrats and shipwrecked plantation owners.’
      • ‘The corsairs refused to curtail their activities after each war's conclusion, and the states realized that they had created an uncontrollable force.’


Mid 16th century: from French corsaire, from medieval Latin cursarius, from cursus a raid, plunder special use of Latin cursus course from currere to run.