corvette, small warship, classed between a frigate and a sloop-of-war. Corvettes usually were flush-decked and carried fewer than 28 guns. They were widely employed in escorting convoys and attacking merchant ships during the great naval wars of the late 18th and early 19th cent., but corvettes passed from use with the transition from sail to steam. At the beginning of World War II the term was reintroduced to designate a small vessel of about 1,000 tons displacement, armed with depth charges and a single 4-in. (10.2-cm) gun. In the early years of the war, large numbers of these vessels were employed by the British and Canadian navies as convoy escorts in the North Atlantic; later they were supplanted by the larger, faster, and better-armed frigates.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.