Colonel: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Common military ranks
Navies Armies Air forces
Admiral of
the Fleet
Marshal /
Field Marshal
Marshal of
the Air Force
Admiral General Air Marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air Commodore
Captain Colonel Group Captain
Commander Lt. Colonel Wing Commander
Lt. Commander Major / Commandant Squadron Leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight Lieutenant
Sub-Lieutenant Lieutenant Flying Officer
Ensign 2nd Lieutenant Pilot Officer
Midshipman Officer Cadet Officer Cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant Officer Sergeant Major Warrant Officer
Petty Officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading Seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

Colonel (pronounced /ˈkɜrnəl/) (Col or COL) is a military rank of a commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every country in the world. It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures. A colonel is typically in charge of a regiment in the army.

Today, a colonel is usually a military title rated as the highest, or the second-highest field rank below the general, or "flag" grades. In some small military forces, it can be the highest rank held.


History and origins

The term colonel derives from Latin columnella 'small column'. However, it was never actually a Roman rank. The system of ranks in the Roman military was quite different. As a rank the term arose in the late sixteenth century Italy where it referred to the officer in charge of a column (Italian colonna, plural colonne) or field force. The term is first attested as colonnello, but it is perhaps a truncation of something like capitano colonnello 'captain of the column, the captain designated to command the column'. In this context colonna seems to refer to a force marching in column, rather than to a battle formation — a battle or battalion of pike.

As the office of colonel became an established practice, the colonel became the senior captain in a group of companies which were all sworn to observe his personal authority — to be ruled or regimented by him. This regiment, or governance, was to some extent embodied in a contract and set of written rules, also referred to as the colonel's regiment or standing regulation(s). By extension, the group of companies subject to a colonel's regiment (in the foregoing sense) came to be referred to as his regiment (in the modern sense) as well.

With the shift from primarily mercenary to primarily national armies in the course of the seventeenth century, a colonel (normally a member of the aristocracy) became a holder (German Inhaber) or proprietor of a military contract with a sovereign. The colonel purchased the regimental contract — the right to hold the regiment — from the previous holder of that right or directly from the sovereign when a new regiment was formed or an incumbent was killed.

In French usage of this period the senior colonel in the army or in a field force — the senior military contractor — was the colonel general and, in the absence of the sovereign or his designate, the colonel general might serve as the commander of a force. The position, however, was primarily contractual and it became progressively more of a functionless sinecure. (The head of a single regiment or demi brigade would be called a mestre de camp or, after the Revolution, a chef de brigade.)

By the late 19th century, colonel was a professional military rank though still held typically by an officer in command of a regiment or equivalent unit. Along with other ranks it has become progressively more a matter of ranked duties, qualifications and experience and of corresponding titles and pay scale than of functional office in a particular organization.

As European military influence has expanded throughout the world, the rank of colonel became adopted by nearly every nation in existence under a variety of names.

With the rise of communism, some of the large Communist militaries saw fit to expand the Colonel rank into several grades, resulting in the unique senior colonel rank which was found and is still used in such nations as China and North Korea.

In modern English, the word colonel is pronounced similarly to kernel (of grain) as a result of entering the language from Middle French in two competing forms, dissimilated coronel and colonel. The more conservative spelling colonel was favored in written use and eventually became the standard spelling even as it lost out in pronunciation to coronel.


In many modern armies the 'regiment' has more importance as a ceremonial unit or a focus of common loyalty amongst its members, rather than as an actual battle formation. Troops tend to be deployed in 'Battalions' (commanded by a lieutenant colonel) as a more convenient size of military unit, and as such colonels have tended to have a higher profile in specialist and command roles rather than as actual commanders of regiments. However, in Commonwealth armies the position of the colonel as the figurehead of a Regiment is maintained in the honorary role of colonel-in-chief, usually held by members of the Royal Family,[1] the nobility, or retired senior military officers. The Colonel-in-Chief wears a Colonel's uniform and encourages the members of the regiment, but takes no active part in the actual command structure or in any operational duties.[2]

Colonel and equivalent ranks by country

Colonel in individual military forces

The following articles deal with the rank of colonel as it is used in various national militaries.

Central and Eastern European equivalent ranks

Since the 16th century, the rank of regimental commander was adopted by several Central and Eastern European armies, most notably the forces of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Cossacks and then Muscovy. In countries with slavic languages, the exact name of the rank maintains a variety of spellings, all descendant from the Old Slavonic word plk or polk meaning unit of standing army (see The Tale of Igor's Campaign), and include the following:

The Hungarian equivalent ezredes literally means "leader of a thousand" (i.e. of a regiment) .

Western European equivalent ranks

Other national equivalent ranks

  •  Thailand Nai Phan (TH: นายพัน) Chief of 1,000
    • Phan Ek (TH: พันเอก) First of 1,000: Colonel
    • Phan Tho (TH: พันโท) Second of 1,000: Lieutenant Colonel
  •  Turkey Albay
  •  Vietnam Đại tá
  •  Egypt عقيد Aqid (Egypt and Most Arab League Member Countries)


Colonel as highest ranking officer

Some military forces have a colonel as their highest ranking officer, with no 'general' ranks, and no superior authority (except, perhaps, the head of state as a titular commander-in-chief) other than the respective national government. Examples include the following (arranged alphabetically by country name):

Rank insignia for a COLONEL in several nations which have no higher military rank.
Colonel CCP
Colonel CSP
 Vatican City

Other uses of Colonel ranks

US state of Kentucky Colonels

The governor of Kentucky may honor persons by making them a Kentucky colonel.


As a mascot

The "Colonel" is the mascot of various organisations.

See also




  1. ^ See this list of colonel-in-chief appointments held by HRH The Prince of Wales.
  2. ^ A webpage by a Scottish regiment concerning their Colonel-in-Chief.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COLONEL (derived either from Lat. columna, Fr. colonne, column, or Lat. corona, a crown), the superior officer of a regiment of infantry or cavalry; also an officer of corresponding rank in the general army list. The colonelcy of a regiment formerly implied a proprietary right in it. Whether the colonel commanded it directly in the field or not, he always superintended its finance and interior economy, and the emoluments of the office, in the 18th century, were often the only form of pay drawn by general officers. The general officers of the 17th and 18th centuries were invariably colonels of regiments, and in this case the active command was exercised by the lieutenantcolonels. At the present day, British general officers are often, though not always, given the colonelcy of a regiment, which has become almost purely an honorary office. The sovereign, foreign sovereigns, royal princes and others, hold honorary colonelcies, as colonels-in-chief or honorary colonels of many regiments. In other armies, the regiment being a fighting unit, the colonel is its active commander; in Great Britain the lieutenant-colonel commands in the field the battalion of infantry and the regiment of cavalry. Colonels are actively employed in the army at large in staff appointments, brigade commands, &c. extra-regimentally. Colonel-general, a rank formerly used in many armies, still survives in the German service, a colonelgeneral (General-Oberst) ranking between a general of infantry, cavalry or artillery, and a general field marshal (General-Feldmarschall). Colonels-general are usually given the honorary rank of general field marshal.

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Simple English

A colonel is a rank of officer in the military. It is usually the highest or second highest rank after general. A colonel is usually in charge of a regiment.

The word comes from the Latin word columnella which means column, but it was first used in Italy as the name for the officer in charge of a column. It came into English from French. It is usually said like the word kernel.

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