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[kap-shuh n] /ˈkæp ʃən/
a title or explanation for a picture or illustration, especially in a magazine.
a heading or title, as of a chapter, article, or page.
Movies, Television. the title of a scene, the text of a speech, etc., superimposed on the film and projected onto the screen.
Law. the heading of a legal document stating the time, place, etc., of execution or performance.
verb (used with object)
to supply a caption or captions for; entitle:
to caption a photograph.
1350-1400; Middle English capcio(u)n seizure < Latin captiōn- (stem of captiō), equivalent to capt(us) taken (see captive) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
captionless, adjective
miscaption, verb (used with object)
subcaption, noun
supercaption, noun
uncaptioned, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for captions
  • One of the things on project board list is to go back and look at captions on a variety of stock photos.
  • Happily, the text accompanies the drawings as captions, so you don't have to flip back and forth.
  • Readers, now's your chance to impress us with your witty captions.
  • Flex your funny bone and enter your creative captions in the comments area below.
  • Please include the measurements of the quilts in your captions.
  • Your interpretations of these images are far more than photo captions.
  • Quotes of faculty and staff from the buildings heyday cover the walls, both in photo captions and as large graphic elements.
  • My guess is that it isn't captioned because it's interpreted, and the deaf don't need captions for the signing.
  • Photo captions are included by default, but may be disabled.
  • Music video and song captions are shown on television screen to remind the singers during singing.
British Dictionary definitions for captions


a title, brief explanation, or comment accompanying an illustration; legend
a heading, title, or headline of a chapter, article, etc
graphic material, usually containing lettering, used in television presentation
another name for subtitle (sense 2)
the formal heading of a legal document stating when, where, and on what authority it was taken or made
to provide with a caption or captions
Word Origin
C14 (meaning: seizure, an arrest; later, heading of a legal document): from Latin captiō a seizing, from capere to take
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 captions



late 14c., "taking, seizure," from Old French capcion "arrest, capture, imprisonment," or directly from Latin captionem (nominative capito) "a catching, seizing, holding, taking," noun of action from past participle stem of capere "to take" (see capable).

From 17c. used especially in law, and there via its appearance at the head of legal document involving seizure ("Certificate of caption", etc.), the word's sense was extended to "the beginning of any document;" thus "heading of a chapter or section of an article" (1789), and, especially in U.S., "description or title below an illustration" (1919).


by 1901, from caption (n.). Related: Captioned; captioning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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