Privateer Definition and Meaning

Before entering fully into the meaning of the term corsair, it is necessary to discover its etymological origin. In this case, we can establish that it is a word that derives from the French “corsaire” and this in turn comes from the Latin “cursus”, which is synonymous with “career”.

According to, the concept of corsair derives from corso. Corsican is the name given to the campaign that merchant ships, with a license from the authorities of their country, carried out in ancient times to pursue enemies or pirates.

The letter of marque authorized sailors to act according to the laws of war. The corsairs, in this way, could sabotage and attack the ships of the enemy nations, stealing their merchandise.

Privateer can also be used as a synonym for pirate. However, both differ in the legality of their actions.

The corsairs looted ships with the permission of the government of their country, which endorsed these actions in certain circumstances to weaken their enemies. The pirates, on the other hand, incurred looting at any time and without authorization. In this way, although both corsairs and pirates engaged in robbery, the former did so within the legal framework of their homeland.

Many corsairs managed to enter history because of the importance of their actions for their countries. The English corsair Francis Drake (1543-1596) was declared a knight and is honored in his land by him, although the Spanish – victims of his campaigns – consider him a pirate. Something similar occurs with the Welsh corsair Henry Morgan (1635-1688).

Amaro Pargo (1678-1747), Juan Bautista Azopardo (1772-1848), Hipólito Bouchard (1780-1837) and Louis-Michel Aury (1788-1821) are other corsairs known worldwide.

Corsairs have greatly inspired the art world in general. A good example of this are novels such as “The Black Corsair”, which was published in 1898 by the Italian writer Emilio Salgari.

The plot of this story takes place in the 17th century, taking the Caribbean Sea as its setting. At that moment, Emilio de Roccanera, known as a black corsair, is willing to do everything possible to take revenge for the death of his brothers at the hands of the governor of Maracaibo.

In his plan he will run into a woman who will captivate him and who can forcefully make it difficult for him to commit what he had planned.

In the same way, in the cinematographic field, we also have to highlight the existence of films that also use the word in question in their titles. This would be the case, for example, of “El corsario”. Antonio Mollica is the director of this Italian film that premiered in 1970.

It revolves around the figure of a pirate who, after being deported by the French, manages to free himself and seize a ship. After that, he will proceed to liberate an island from Portuguese rule.


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