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[boh-suh n; spelling pronunciation boht-sweyn] /ˈboʊ sən; spelling pronunciation ˈboʊtˌsweɪn/
a warrant officer on a warship, or a petty officer on a merchant vessel, in charge of rigging, anchors, cables, etc.
Also, bo's'n, bosun.
Origin of boatswain
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English bote-swayn. See boat, swain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for boatswain
Historical Examples
  • It were nigh fourteen years ago that I was boatswain aboard the Alert frigate, as taut a craft as ever sailed.

    Sturdy and Strong G. A. Henty
  • "He's hurt in the arm, sir, and he's gone below," said the boatswain.

  • This morning, after a somewhat protracted consultation with Walter and the boatswain, Curtis resolved to abandon the ship.

  • There was a regular hard horse of a boatswain's-mate with us, of the name of McNally.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • The captain was indebted to his boatswain, who was now in fact acting as his mate, for the suggestion of the plan next adopted.

    Jack Tier or The Florida Reef James Fenimore Cooper
  • I dare not do it, boatswain; it's more than my life is worth.

  • I held the lamp close to the sounding-pipe, and the boatswain carefully dried the rod on his coat preparatory to dropping it.

  • You will join me in my cabin with the doctor, Wall, and the boatswain.

  • I ventured to ask the boatswain on what he grounded his hopes of fortune.

    Twice Lost W.H.G. Kingston
  • The boatswain caught a turtle, from which we had some capital soup.

British Dictionary definitions for boatswain


a petty officer on a merchant ship or a warrant officer on a warship who is responsible for the maintenance of the ship and its equipment
Word Origin
Old English bātswegen; see boat, swain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for boatswain

mid-15c., from late Old English batswegen, from bat "boat" (see boat (n.)) + Old Norse sveinn "boy" (see swain). Phonetic spelling bo'sun is attested from 1840.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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