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 for privateering
The war was remarkable for the prominence of privateering on both sides.
Whaling, privateering, and the merchant trade were all pursued vigorously.
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