Definitions

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

  • n. A pirate, especially along the Barbary Coast.
  • n. A swift pirate ship, often operating with official sanction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A French privateer, especially from the port of St-Malo
  • n. A privateer or pirate in general
  • n. The ship of privateers or pirates, especially of French nationality
  • n. A nocturnal assassin bug of the genus Rasahus, found in the southern USA.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A pirate; one who cruises about without authorization from any government, to seize booty on sea or land.
  • n. A piratical vessel.
  • n. A Californian market fish (Sebastichthys rosaceus).

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who cruises or scours the ocean with an armed vessel, without a commission from any sovereign or state, seizing and plundering merchant vessels, or making booty on land; a pirate; a freebooter.
  • n. A piratical vessel; sometimes, a privateer.
  • n. A scorpænoid fish, Sebastichthys rosaceus, with smooth cranial ridges, moderate-sized scales, and pale blotches surrounded by purplish shades on the sides.
  • n. Any pirate-bug of the family Reduriidæ.

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

  • n. a swift pirate ship (often operating with official sanction)
  • n. a pirate along the Barbary Coast

Etymologies

French corsaire, from Old Provençal corsari, from Old Italian corsaro, from Medieval Latin cursārius, from cursus, plunder, from Latin, run, course; see course.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French corsaire. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • That other "corsair" -- as the Spaniards called him -- that other charming and heroic shape in England's chequered chronicle of chivalry and crime -- famous in arts and arms, politics, science, literature, endowed with so many of the gifts by which men confer lustre on their age and country, whose name was already a part of

    History of the United Netherlands, 1595-96

  • On the 18th of June the Surveillante captures an English corsair, which is a joy, but they learn from her the fall of Charleston and the surrender of Lincoln, which gives food for thought.

    Rochambeau and the French in America. I. From Unpublished Documents. II

  • Still, even if you hadn't, it might have come to the same thing in the long run, for the corsair is a large one, and might have taken us even if you had made her out as she rounded the point. '

    When London Burned : a Story of Restoration Times and the Great Fire

  • But what of the people of the town of Baltimore in Ireland, all carried off by "corsair" raiders in a single night?

    THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS

  • That other "corsair" -- as the Spaniards called him -- that other charming and heroic shape in England's chequered chronicle of chivalry and crime -- famous in arts and arms, politics, science, literature, endowed with so many of the gifts by which men confer lustre on their age and country, whose name was already a part of England's eternal glory, whose tragic destiny was to be her undying shame—Raleigh, the soldier, sailor, scholar, statesman, poet, historian, geographical discoverer, planter of empires yet unborn—was also present, helping to organize the somewhat chaotic elements of which the chief Anglo-Dutch enterprise for this year against—the Spanish world-dominion was compounded.

    PG Edition of Netherlands series — Complete

  • Such was the case; and when the captain did turn out at breakfast time he had heard the first mate’s version of the affair, and as the felucca had now quite disappeared below the horizon, altogether pooh-poohed Tom's account of having recognised Mohammed's "corsair," even although Charley backed him up by his statement of what he had heard say in conversation with the stranger.

    Picked up at Sea The Gold Miners of Minturne Creek

  • She was an outlaw; men called her a "corsair," and spoke of Semmes the captain as though he had been some ruffianly Blackbeard sailing the black flag with skull and cross bones for his grisly ensign.

    Recollections of a naval life : including the cruises of the Confederate States steamers, "Sumter" and "Alabama",

  • On this, Duchambon sent Morpain, captain of a privateer, or "corsair," to oppose the landing.

    A Half-Century of Conflict - Volume II

  • To tell the truth, the corsair was in a quandary; so, when the smoke of the man-of-war steamer had melted into the air, he summoned Captain Harding and the rest on deck again, and having their gags removed, interrogated them once more.

    Picked up at Sea The Gold Miners of Minturne Creek

  • It may seem strange that the corsair, who had spared the lives of the captain and the remainder of the crew of the Muscadine, and appeared really on such jovial terms with his prisoners up to the moment of his going below with Captain Harding to look at the ship's papers, should all at once change his demeanour and come out in his true colours; but, the matter is easy enough of explanation.

    Picked up at Sea The Gold Miners of Minturne Creek

Comments

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  • Oh, funny! I've only ever known this as a kind of puddle jumper.

    April 3, 2012

  • "Though by the repeated bloody chastisements they have received at the hands of European cruisers, the audacity of these corsairs has of late been somewhat repressed; yet, even at the present day, we occasionally hear of English and American vessels, which, in those waters, have been remorselessly boarded and pillaged."
    Moby-Dick, ch. 87

    June 15, 2009