1. Originally, a vessel of the Mediterranean propelled by sails and by oars. The French, about 1650, transferred the name to larger vessels, and by 1750 it had been appropriated for a class of war vessels intermediate between corvettes and ships of the line. Frigates, from about 1750 to 1850, had one full battery deck and, often, a spar deck with a lighter battery. They carried sometimes as many as fifty guns. After the application of steam to navigation steam frigates of largely increased size and power were built, and formed the main part of the navies of the world till about 1870, when the introduction of ironclads superseded them. [Formerly spelled frigat and friggot.]
2. Any small vessel on the water. [Obs.]
Frigate bird Zool., a web-footed rapacious bird, of the genus Fregata; -- called also man-of-war bird, and frigate pelican. Two species are known; that of the Southern United States and West Indies is F. aquila. They are remarkable for their long wings and powerful flight. Their food consists of fish which they obtain by robbing gulls, terns, and other birds, of their prey. They are related to the pelicans.
Frigate mackerel Zool., an oceanic fish (Auxis Rochei) of little or no value as food, often very abundant off the coast of the United States.
Frigate pelican. Zool. Same as Frigate bird.