ensign Meaning, Definition & Usage

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


En"sign noun
L. enseigne, L. insignia, pl. of insigne a distinctive mark, badge, flag; in + signum mark, sign. See Sign, and cf. Insignia, 3d Ancient.
  1. 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.
    Hang up your ensigns, let your drums be still. Shak.
  2. A signal displayed like a standard, to give notice.
    He will lift an ensign to the nations from far. Is. v. 26.
  3. Sign; badge of office, rank, or power; symbol.
    The ensigns of our power about we bear. Waller.
  4. (a) Formerly, a commissioned officer of the army who carried the ensign or flag of a company or regiment. (b) A commissioned officer of the lowest grade in the navy, corresponding to the grade of second lieutenant in the army. Ham. Nav. Encyc. ✍ In the British army the rank of ensign was abolished in 1871. In the United States army the rank is not recognized; the regimental flags being carried by a sergeant called the color sergeant.
En"sign transitive verb
  1. To designate as by an ensign. Obs.
    Henry but joined the roses that ensigned Particular families. B. Jonson.
  2. To distinguish by a mark or ornament; esp. (Her.), by a crown; thus, any charge which has a crown immediately above or upon it, is said to be ensigned.

Webster 1913