an officer in the U.S. Army, Air force, or Marine Corps ranking between lieutenant colonel and brigadier general: corresponding to a captain in the U.S. Navy.
a commissioned officer of similar rank in the armed forces of some other nations.
an honorary title bestowed by some Southern states, as to those who have brought honor to the state, prominent businesspersons, visiting celebrities, or the like: When the vice president visited the state he was made a Kentucky colonel.
Older Use. (in the South) a title of respect prefixed to the name of distinguished elderly men.

1540–50; < Middle French < Italian colon(n)ello = colonn(a) column + -ello < Latin -ellus diminutive suffix; so named because such an officer orig. headed the first column or company of a regiment

colonelcy, noun

Colonel [kur-nl] with its medial l pronounced as [r] illustrates one source for the apparent vagaries of English spelling: divergence between a word's orthographic development and its established pronunciation. In this case, English borrowed from French two variant forms of the same word, one pronounced with medial and final [l] and a second reflecting dissimilation of the first [l] to [r]. After a period of competition, the dissimilated form triumphed in pronunciation, while the spelling colonel became the orthographic standard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To colonel
World English Dictionary
colonel (ˈkɜːnəl)
an officer of land or air forces junior to a brigadier but senior to a lieutenant colonel
[C16: via Old French, from Old Italian colonnello column of soldiers, from colonnacolumn]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

1548, coronell, from M.Fr. coronel, modified by dissimilation from It. colonnella "commander of a column of soldiers at the head of a regiment," from compagna colonella "little column company," from L. columna "pillar" (see hill). Eng. spelling modified 1583 to conform with
It., but the earlier pronunciation was retained.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Encyclopedia Britannica


the highest field-grade officer, ranking just below the general officer grades in most armies or below brigadier in the British services. A colonel was traditionally the commanding officer of a regiment or brigade. In air forces that use the same titles of rank as the army, such as the U.S. Air Force, a colonel's command is usually a group; the comparable grade in the Royal Air Force is group captain. When not exercising command of a regiment, group, or equivalent formation, a colonel is generally placed in a senior staff or administrative post

Learn more about colonel with a free trial on

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Cite This Source
Example sentences
Somehow orders from the colonel who approved our mission have been misinterpreted.
Colonel dade, who was on horseback, was the first to be killed.
The spirits were always purchased by the colonel and a committee of majors.
The colonel's snipers and artillery are fiercely defending the town, as
  casualties mount on both sides.
Image for colonel
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature