Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A national flag displayed on ships and aircraft, often with the special insignia of a branch or unit of the armed forces.
  • n. A standard or banner, as of a military unit.
  • n. Archaic A standard-bearer.
  • n. A commissioned rank in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard that is below lieutenant junior grade.
  • n. One who holds this rank.
  • n. A badge of office or power; an emblem: "I want the seals of power and place,/The ensigns of command,/Charged by the people's unbought grace,/To rule my native land” ( John Quincy Adams).
  • n. A sign; a token.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A badge of office, rank, or power
  • n. The lowest grade of commissioned officer in the United States Navy, junior to a lieutenant junior grade.
  • n. A flag or banner carried by military units. See standard, color, colour.
  • n. The principal flag or banner flown by a ship to indicate nationality.
  • n. A junior commissioned officer in the 18th and 19th Centuries whose duty was to carry the unit's ensign.
  • n. A prominent flag or banner.
  • v. To designate as by an ensign.
  • v. To distinguish by a mark or ornament
  • v. To distinguish by an ornament, especially by a crown.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A flag; a banner; a standard; esp., the national flag, or a banner indicating nationality, carried by a ship or a body of soldiers; -- as distinguished from flags indicating divisions of the army, rank of naval officers, or private signals, and the like.
  • n. A signal displayed like a standard, to give notice.
  • n. Sign; badge of office, rank, or power; symbol.
  • n.
  • n. Formerly, a commissioned officer of the army who carried the ensign or flag of a company or regiment.
  • n. A commissioned officer of the lowest grade in the navy, corresponding to the grade of second lieutenant in the army.
  • transitive v. To designate as by an ensign.
  • transitive v. To distinguish by a mark or ornament; esp. (Her.), by a crown.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To mark or distinguish by some sign; form the badge of.
  • In heraldry, to distinguish (a charge) by a mark or an ornament, as a crown, coronet, or miter, borne on or over it: as, the heart in the arms of Douglas is ensigned with a royal crown (see the cut)—that is, with a crown borne on the top of it. A staff is sometimes said to be ensigned with a flag.
  • To point out to; signify to.
  • n. The flag or banner distinguishing a company of soldiers, an army, or a vessel; colors; a standard.
  • n. Specifically In Great Britain, a flag composed of a field of white, blue, or red, with the union in the upper corner, next the staff.
  • n. A sign or signal.
  • n. A badge; a mark of distinction, rank, or office; a symbol; in the plural, insignia.
  • n. Name and rank used as a battle-cry or watchword.
  • n. In the British army, until 1871, one of the lowest grade of commissioned officers in a regiment of infantry, the senior of whom carried the ensign or colors of the regiment: now called second lieutenant. (See lieutenant.) The rank of ensign also existed in the American revolutionary army.
  • n. In the United States navy, one of the lowest grade of commissioned officers, ranking with second lieutenant in the army. The title was first introduced in 1862, taking the place of passed midshipman.
  • n. A company of troops led by an ensign.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a person who holds a commissioned rank in the United States Navy or the United States Coast Guard; below lieutenant junior grade
  • n. colors flown by a ship to show its nationality
  • n. an emblem flown as a symbol of nationality

Etymologies

Middle English ensigne, from Old French enseigne, from Latin īnsignia, insignia; see insignia.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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  • To what end
    These ensigns of your pomp and royalty?

    - John Dryden, 'All for Love'.

    September 20, 2009

  • "the lowest grade among the commissioned officers of a company of infantry; the youngest ensign in the regiment supports the colours. Ensign is also a banner or flag." (citation in Historical Military Terms list description)

    October 9, 2008