AskDefine | Define ensign

Dictionary Definition



1 a person who holds a commissioned rank in the United States Navy or the United States Coast Guard; below lieutenant junior grade
2 an emblem flown as a symbol of nationality [syn: national flag]
3 colors flown by a ship to show its nationality

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The lowest grade of commissioned officer in the United States Navy, junior to a lieutenant junior grade.
  2. A flag or banner carried by military units. See standard, color, colour.
  3. The principal flag or banner flown by a ship to indicate nationality.
  4. A junior commissioned officer in the 18th and 19th Centuries whose duty was to carry the unit's ensign.
  5. A prominent flag or banner.
    Ten thousand thousand ensigns high advanced. -Milton, Paradise Lost.


military officer

Extensive Definition

An ensign is a distinguishing flag of a ship or a military unit; or a distinguishing token, emblem, or badge, such as a symbol of office. The word has also given rise to the military rank of "ensign", a rank of junior officer once responsible for bearing the ensign of his unit.
The word is derived from the French enseigne from the Latin plural insignia and is more particularly used for a military or naval standard or banner. An armorial ensign applies specifically to heraldic symbols of an army.

Maritime ensigns

In nautical use, an ensign in the form of a flag is usually flown at the stern of a ship or boat to indicate its nationality. Ensigns may also be flown from the gaff of a ship, and may be shifted to a yardarm when the ship is underway, where it is known as a steaming ensign. Vexillologists distinguish three varieties of a national flag when used as an ensign:
ensign in Modern Greek (1453-): Σημαία πλοίου
ensign in Spanish: Pabellón nacional
ensign in Japanese: 軍艦旗
ensign in Dutch: Vaandel
ensign in Polish: Bandera
ensign in Swedish: Örlogsflagga

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Dannebrog, Jolly Roger, Old Glory, Star-Spangled Banner, Stars and Stripes, Union Flag, Union Jack, admiral, and blue, armory, badge, badge of office, badges, banderole, banner, banneret, baton, black flag, blazonry, blue ensign, brassard, bunting, burgee, button, cap and gown, captain, chain, chain of office, chief petty officer, class ring, coachwhip, cockade, collar, color, colors, commander, commodore, cross, decoration, dress, eagle, emblems, ensigns, fasces, figurehead, flag, fleet admiral, fleur-de-lis, gonfalon, gonfanon, guidon, hammer and sickle, heraldry, house flag, insignia, jack, lapel pin, lieutenant, lieutenant commander, lieutenant junior grade, livery, long pennant, mace, mantle, markings, medal, merchant flag, mortarboard, national flag, naval officer, navarch, old school tie, oriflamme, pennant, pennon, pennoncel, petty officer, pin, rear admiral, red, red ensign, regalia, ring, rose, royal standard, school ring, shamrock, sigillography, signal flag, skipper, skull and crossbones, sphragistics, staff, standard, streamer, swallowtail, swastika, tartan, thistle, tie, tricolor, uniform, verge, vexillum, vice admiral, wand, warrant officer, white
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