an armed ship that is privately owned and manned, commissioned by a government to fight or harass enemy ships.
verb (used without object)
to cruise as a privateer.

1640–50; private + -eer, modeled on volunteer Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
privateer (ˌpraɪvəˈtɪə)
1.  an armed, privately owned vessel commissioned for war service by a government
2.  Also called: privateersman a commander or member of the crew of a privateer
3.  a competitor, esp in motor racing, who is privately financed rather than sponsored by a manufacturer
4.  (intr) to serve as a privateer

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1664, originally private man of war (1646), from private, probably modeled on volunteer, buccaneer.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
People are now going to be stuck giving another privateer money for aid that
  the people will experience as debilitating.
Her forts, such as they were, would not have availed against any foe more
  formidable than a light frigate or heavy privateer.
However, he was really a privateer who was executed without proper legal
Ask them to make a journal entry explaining the decision to fund or not fund a
  voyage of a privateer.
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