Definition of privateer in English:

privateer

noun

historical
  • 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.

    • ‘Bored with this profession, or aware that it was a declining industry, Paine left home and shipped aboard a privateer in 1756.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1A commander or crew member of a privateer, often regarded as a pirate.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • Engage in the activities of a privateer.

Origin

Mid 17th century: from private, on the pattern of volunteer.

Pronunciation:

privateer

/ˌprīvəˈtir/