I have a question about the usage of the verb "carry" in this wikipedia article:

The aircraft can carry various other AAMs, a wide variety of air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs.

Two definitions of "carry" in this dictionary seem to work:

def 1: to move (something) while holding and supporting it
def 3: to have (something) with you or on your body

Definition 1 means to transport something from one place to another. Definition 3 means for a person to possess something so one can use it if need be.

Returning to the original context (F-16 jets). Definition 1 seems off. F-16s don't transport missiles and bombs from one place to another; the missile and bombs are meant to launched by the F-16 if need be. So, definitions 3 seems better. But definition 3 is meant to describe people, like:

Police carry guns.
The pizza delivery man does carry much cash.

and not to describe an aircraft:

The aircraft can carry missiles.

So, could the usage of "carry" in the wikipedia article wrong?

  • 1
    You answered your question yourself. Why do you think the article could be wrong?
    – user24743
    May 1, 2016 at 4:38
  • 1
    @Rathony The article had "aircraft carry ..missiles". But the dictionary definition seems to allow only people to carry something.
    – meatie
    May 1, 2016 at 4:52
  • 1
    The more you study English, the more you will realize that English words are not much restricted in their usage. For example, almost all English nouns could be used as a verb even though a dictionary doesn't have a definition for a verb. We carry baggage, a truck carries a cargo. Why can't an aircraft carry missiles? They can.
    – user24743
    May 1, 2016 at 5:13
  • 1
    @Rathony Suppose a personification version of definition 3 exists. Would it be confused with definition 1? A fighter jet could carry missiles in the sense of a truck carrying cargoes (definition 1). Or a fighter jet could carry missiles so it can use them if need be (definition 3).
    – meatie
    May 1, 2016 at 5:43
  • 3
    Dictionary definitions can't cover 100% of any word's usage. They can list only limited usage with a few examples because of space limit and they pursue brevity. Try to find example sentences on Google and try to get yourself familiarized with their examples. Don't rely too much on a dictionary definition. You can't master English just using a dictionary.
    – user24743
    May 1, 2016 at 5:52

3 Answers 3


the dictionary definition seems to allow only people to carry something.


Ships carry cargo. Horses carry riders. Trains carry freight. Camels carry supplies. Hot air balloons carry people. Fuel tanks carry fuel. The space shuttle carries satellites.

Worst of all, your dictionary link tells you that, if you just researched it a little bit more:

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Definition 1 means to transport something from one place to another.

Hogwash again. Definition 1 means what is says, to move something while holding or supporting it. It doesn't matter if what's being moved or carried ultimately gets launched, jettisoned, eaten, burned up, or inserted into orbit, it's still being carried until it gets launched, deployed, or consumed.


Your assumption that def 3 applies to humans only is incorrect. Not only humans have body. Aircraft is also considered to have a body.

The sentence just means that this aircraft carries/holds those missiles, bombs in its body. And yes, these aircraft does not just transport missiles from one place to another, it launches them. Notice I used the word launches. This can be understood by a simple example.

Let us say we got a water balloon. We carry it to our friend's place and then throw it at him/her. The same way, the aircraft has got missiles. It carries it to the target location and then launches it.


I don't know what was in the dictionary-writer's mind when he wrote this definition. He might have been thinking that the word "body" can refer to the "body" of a vehicle or an animal as well as the body of a human being. Or he may have just been thinking of a human being carrying things. If the latter, then the definition is poorly worded.

We routinely talk about animals and vehicles "carrying" things. The word does not of itself distinguish whether you are simply transporting the thing from one place to another, or carrying it so that you can use it at any moment. "This car carries four people." Well, it's transporting them, but we probably include the driver as one of the four, and any of them could be engaging in all sorts of activities along the way. "The ship carries four dinghies." We may use them at any time as lifeboats or tenders. It's common to talk about vehicles "carrying" weapons or equipment.

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