One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1An armed ship owned and officered by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of enemy merchant shipping.
- ‘Great names are associated with the privateers and the ships that sailed the waters off the south coast of Ireland including the name of the great John Paul Jones.’
- ‘Bored with this profession, or aware that it was a declining industry, Paine left home and shipped aboard a privateer in 1756.’
- ‘The US navy also took 50 merchant ships, while privateers took a further 450.’
- ‘The basis for the story is that in February 1704, William Dampier, a noted British buccaneer and navigator, arrived at Juan Fernandez with two ships, both licensed privateers.’
- ‘There is also reference to the Wasp, formerly the Guepe, a French privateer captured in 1801 and later under the command of Lt. Joseph Packwood in 1805.’
- 1.1also privateersman A commander or crew member of a privateer, often regarded as a pirate.
pirate, marauder, raider, sea rover, freebooter, plunderer, cut-throat, viking, bandit, robber, desperadoView synonyms
- ‘However, American neutral shipping suffered grievous losses at the hands of the Royal Navy and French privateers.’
- ‘According to the records of Lloyds, between 1775 and 1781 American privateers captured 2,600 British merchantmen.’
- ‘Nearly all the slaves were brought to Bermuda from the West Indies or as slaves on ships captured by Bermuda privateers.’
- ‘He spent two years in the post, toiling to save Louis XVI, sheltering aristocrats from the Paris mob, and working hard to protect American merchant vessels against French privateers.’
- ‘The difference between pirates and privateers was that the pirates were simply sea robbers who captured or looted ships at sea for plunder, without authority.’
Engage in the activities of a privateer.
Mid 17th century: from private, on the pattern of volunteer.
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