A sailor is someone who works on a boat or ship — either for fun, a job, or while serving in the navy. If you want to be a sailor, it's good to start by learning to swim.

If you work on a cargo ship or help to pilot a schooner in the summer, you can call yourself a sailor. You're also a sailor if you learn how to sail a small boat around a lake. Even though the boats that sailors work on don't necessarily have sails, that's where the word comes from — the verb sail. Before sailor was coined in the 15th century, people used mariner and seaman.

Definitions of sailor
  1. noun
    any member of a ship's crew
    synonyms: crewman
    see moresee less
    Alexander Selcraig
    Scottish sailor who was put ashore on a deserted island off the coast of Chile for five years (providing the basis for Daniel Defoe's novel about Robinson Crusoe) (1676-1721)
    Sir John Hawkins
    English privateer involved in the slave trade; later helped build the fleet that in 1588 defeated the Spanish Armada (1532-1595)
    Captain Kidd
    Scottish sea captain who was hired to protect British shipping in the Indian Ocean and then was accused of piracy and hanged (1645-1701)
    show 14 types...
    hide 14 types...
    a member of the crew of a ship
    an East Indian sailor
    Jack, Jack-tar, gob, mariner, old salt, sea dog, seafarer, seaman, tar
    a man who serves as a sailor
    water dog, water rat
    a person who enjoys being in or on the water
    yachtsman, yachtswoman
    a person who owns or sails a yacht
    able seaman, able-bodied seaman
    a seaman in the merchant marine; trained in special skills
    bo's'n, bo'sun, boatswain, bos'n, bosun
    a petty officer on a merchant ship who controls the work of other seamen
    deckhand, roustabout
    a member of a ship's crew who performs manual labor
    helmsman, steerer, steersman
    the person who steers a ship
    bargee, bargeman, lighterman
    someone who operates a barge
    officer, ship's officer
    a person authorized to serve in a position of authority on a vessel
    a person qualified to guide ships through difficult waters going into or out of a harbor
    sea lawyer
    an argumentative and contentious seaman
    a seaman who works on a ship that hunts whales
    type of:
    skilled worker, skilled workman, trained worker
    a worker who has acquired special skills
  2. noun
    a serviceman in the navy
    synonyms: bluejacket, navy man, sailor boy
    see moresee less
    show 4 types...
    hide 4 types...
    a member of a coastguard
    Navy SEAL, SEAL
    a member of a Naval Special Warfare unit who is trained for unconventional warfare
    someone receiving intensive training for a naval technical rating
    a member of the crew of a submarine
    type of:
    man, military man, military personnel, serviceman
    someone who serves in the armed forces; a member of a military force
  3. noun
    a stiff hat made of straw with a flat crown
    synonyms: Panama, Panama hat, boater, leghorn, skimmer, straw hat
    see moresee less
    type of:
    chapeau, hat, lid
    headdress that protects the head from bad weather; has shaped crown and usually a brim
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week