4 entries found for admiral.
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Main Entry: ad·mi·ral
Pronunciation: ad-m-rl, -mrl
Etymology: Middle English admiral "naval commander," from early French amiral "commander" and Latin admirallus "naval commander," from Arabic amr-al- "commander of the" (as in amr al-`al "supreme commander") 1: a naval commissioned officer with a rank above that of captain; especially: an officer with a rank just above that of vice admiral 2: any of several brightly colored butterflies Word History It is a curiosity of history that admiral, a word meaning "naval commander," ultimately has its source in Arabic, the language of a desert people who acquired their seafaring skills largely from the Mediterranean peoples they dominated after the great expansion of Islam in the 7th century A.D. As the name for a Muslim chieftain, the Arabic word amr appears as a loanword in the 9th century in Medieval Latin documents, in spellings such as amiratus, admirandus, and admirallus. These words display a variety of suffixes and an extra d, through confusion with the Latin verb admirari, "to admire." The ending -allus is probably from the Arabic definite article al, which actually belongs to the following word in phrases such as amr al-`al, "supreme commander." The specific application of admirallus to a commander of a fleet originated in 12th century Sicily. The usage was acquired by the Genoese and then spread to the rest of western Europe, including France and England.