man-of-war | Definition of man-of-war in English - infoAnew" /> man-of-war" /> man-of-war" /> man-of-war definition" />

🤩 Discover new information from across the web

man-of-war definition


This page has 8 definitions of man-of-war in English. Man-of-war is a noun. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .

See also: man of war



Thomas Bastion and I. Cole, The Royal Sovereign, a First Rate Man of War, Carrying 100 Guns and 750 Men (1715). According to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, U.K., this is a hand-coloured print depicting the H.M.S. Royal George, a man-of-war (sense 2) originally called the H.M.S. Royal Charles when built in 1673.
A magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens), also called a man-of-war (sense 3.1.1), on Isla Contoy, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
An Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) in Svalbard, known as a man-of-war in the United States (sense 3.1.2).
A man-of-war (sense 3.2), known more fully as a Portuguese man-of-war (Physalia physalis).

From Late Middle English man of wer, man of werre (fighting man, soldier).[1] It has been suggested that sense 2 (“powerful armed naval vessel”) derives from the fact that such vessels were manned by men-of-war (“soldiers”; sense 1).[2]



man-of-war (plural men-of-war)

  1. (military, archaic except humorous) A man whose occupation is fighting in wars; a soldier, a warrior.
    • 1535 October 14 (Gregorian calendar), Myles Coverdale, transl., Biblia: The Byble, [] (Coverdale Bible), [Cologne or Marburg: Eucharius Cervicornus and J. Soter?], →OCLC, Exodus xv:[3], folio xxx, recto, column 1:
      The LORDE is the right man of warre, LORDE is his name. The charettes of Pharaor his power, hath he caſt in to the ſee.
    • 1839 May – 1840 February, Ikey Solomons, Jun. [pseudonym; William Makepeace Thackeray], “Catherine: A Story. Chapter VI. The Adventures of the Ambassador, Mr. Macshane.”, in Catherine: A Story. Little Travels. The Fitz-Boodle Papers. etc. etc. (Works of William Makepeace Thackeray in Twenty-four Volumes; 22), London: Smith, Elder and Co., [], published 1869, →OCLC, page 79:
      In an hour more, the whole house was awakened by a violent noise of howling, curses, and pots clattering to and fro. [] [T]he landlord was undermost, and the Ensign's arms were working up and down his face and body like the flaps of a paddle-wheel: the man of war had clearly the best of it.
    • 1869, R[ichard] D[oddridge] Blackmore, chapter XVI, in Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor. [], volume III, London: Sampson Low, Son, & Marston, [], →OCLC, page 241:
      [T]he distinguished man of war, and worshipful scholar, Master Bloxham, was now promoted to take the tolls, and catch all the rebels around our part.
  2. (military, nautical, chiefly historical) A powerful armed naval vessel, primarily one armed with cannon and propelled by sails; a warship.
    Synonyms: warcraft; see also Thesaurus:warship
    • 1633 February 9 (Gregorian calendar), James Howell, “XI. To Sir Arthur Ingram, at York.”, in Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ. Familiar Letters Domestic and Forren. [], 3rd edition, volume I, London: [] Humphrey Mos[e]ley, [], published 1655, →OCLC, section VI, page 233:
      [W]e cannot be ſecure, vvhile ſuch huge Fleets of Men of VVar, both Spaniſh, French, Dutch, and Dunkirkeers, ſome of them laden vvith Ammunition, Men, Arms, and Armies, do daily ſail on our Seas, and confront the Kings Chambers; []
    • 1661 August 6 (date written; Gregorian calendar), Samuel Pepys, Mynors Bright, transcriber, “July 27th, 1661”, in Henry B[enjamin] Wheatley, editor, The Diary of Samuel Pepys [], volume II, London: George Bell & Sons []; Cambridge: Deighton Bell & Co., published 1893, →OCLC, page 71:
      In the lobby I spoke with Mr. George Montagu, and advised about a ship to carry my Lord Hinchingbroke and the rest of the young gentlemen to France, and they have resolved of going in a hired vessell from Rye, and not in a man of war.
    • 1748, [Tobias Smollett], chapter XXXIII, in The Adventures of Roderick Random. [], 2nd edition, volume I, London: [] J. Osborn [], →OCLC, page 292:
      [W]e ventured up to the mouth of the inner harbour, [] the entrance of the harbour blocked up by ſeveral old galleons and tvvo men of vvar that the enemy had ſunk in the channel.
    • 1838 (date written), L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XVIII, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume I, London: Henry Colburn, [], published 1842, →OCLC, page 229:
      [N]o wonder that, although junior partner, and as modest as he was high-spirited, he trod his counting-house floor with a step vigorous and springy as the young captain of a man-of-war, for he felt that he was an emancipated slave; nay, more, a British merchant.
    • 1840, [Frederick] Marryat, “More Cry than Wool—Bramble would Dig a Pit for Another and Tumbles in along with Him”, in Poor Jack. [], London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, [], →OCLC, page 240:
      Well, I've not served the king for seven years for nothing, [] and I hope, sir, not heard the bullets whistling about my head like hail in a hail storm, without knowing how to take care of my ship. I like every thing man-of-war fashion, and then one's always prepared.
    • 1887, Walter Besant, “How Jack Came to Deptford”, in The World Went Very Well Then [], volume I, London: Chatto & Windus, [], →OCLC, page 52:
      And there is kind of no ship or boat, built to swim in the sea, [] which does not lie at anchor in the Thames, somewhere between Greenwich Reach and London Bridge. [] [A]lso His Majesty's men-of-war—frigates, sloops-of-war, cutters, fire-ships, and every kind of vessel employed to beat off the enemies of the country, who would prey upon our commerce and destroy our merchantmen.
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[Episode 13: Nausicaa]”, in Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare and Company, [], →OCLC, part II [Odyssey], page 332:
      His little man-o'-war top and unmentionables were full of sand but Cissy was a past mistress in the art of smoothing over life's tiny troubles and and[sic] very quickly not one speck of sand was to be seen on his smart little suit.
      Referring to a child’s sailor suit.
    1. (obsolete, rare) In full man-of-war's-man: a sailor serving on board an armed naval vessel.
      • 1599, [Thomas] Nashe, Nashes Lenten Stuffe, [], London: [] [Thomas Judson and Valentine Simmes] for N[icholas] L[ing] and C[uthbert] B[urby] [], →OCLC, page 27:
        [H]ee is firſt broken to the Sea in the Herring mans Skiffe or Cockboate, vvhere hauing learned to brooke all vvaters, and drinke as he can out of a tarrie Canne, and eate poore Iohn out of ſvvuttie platters vvhen he may get it vvithout butter or muſtard, there is no ho vvith him but once hartned thus, hee vvill needes be a man of vvarre, or a Tobaco taker, and vveare a ſiluer VVhiſtle.
  3. Senses relating to animals.
    1. Short for man-of-war bird or (obsolete) man-of-war hawk: any of a number of seabirds, especially one which attacks other seabirds to take their food.
      • 1657, Richard Ligon, “[Birds]”, in A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbados. [], London: [] Humphrey Moseley, [], →OCLC, page 61:
        But there is a Bird they call, a Man of vvar, and he is much bigger than a Heron, and flies out to Sea upon diſcoveries, (for they never light upon the Sea) to ſee vvhat ſhips are comming to the Iland; and vvhen they return the Ilanders look out, and ſay, A ſhip is comming, and finde it true.
      1. (specifically, archaic) A frigatebird (family Fregatidae), especially the magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens).
      2. (specifically, US) The Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus).
    2. Short for Portuguese man-of-war (“Physalia physalis, a jellyfish-like marine cnidarian consisting of a floating colony of hydrozoans attached to a float”)
      Synonym: bluebottle

Alternative forms

Derived terms



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ “man of [wer(re]” under “wer(re, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ See, for example, Eliezer Edwards (1882), “Man-of-war”, in Words, Facts, and Phrases: A Dictionary of Curious, Quaint, & Out-of-the-way Matters, London: Chatto & Windus, [], →OCLC, page 351.

Further reading