Student Dictionary

4 entries found for admiral.
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Main Entry: ad·mi·ral
Pronunciation: primarystressad-mschwa-rschwal, -mrschwal
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English admiral "naval commander," from early French amiral "commander" and Latin admirallus "naval commander," from Arabic amimacrr-al- "commander of the" (as in amimacrr al-`alimacr "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 amimacrr 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 amimacrr al-`alimacr, "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.

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