corruption of Amir-al. Milton, speaking of Satan, says:
His spear (to equal which the tallest pine Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast Of some tall amiral, were but a wand) He walked with.
—Paradise Lost, i. 292.
The word was introduced by the Turks or Genoese in the twelfth century, and is the Arabic Amir with the article al (lord or commander); as Amir-al-ma (commander of the water), Amir-al-Omra (commander of the forces), Amir-al-Muminim (commander of the faithful).
English admirals used to be of three classes, according to the colour of their flag—
The distinction was abolished in 1864; now all admirals carry the white flag.
Admirals are called Flag Officers.