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[jen-er-uh l] /ˈdʒɛn ər əl/
of or relating to all persons or things belonging to a group or category:
a general meeting of the employees.
of, relating to, or true of such persons or things in the main, with possible exceptions; common to most; prevalent; usual:
the general mood of the people.
not limited to one class, field, product, service, etc.; miscellaneous:
the general public; general science.
considering or dealing with overall characteristics, universal aspects, or important elements, especially without considering all details or specific aspects:
general instructions; a general description; a general resemblance one to another.
not specific or definite:
I could give them only a general idea of what was going on.
(of anesthesia or an anesthetic) causing loss of consciousness and abolishing sensitivity to pain throughout the body.
having extended command or superior or chief rank:
the secretary general of the United Nations; the attorney general.
  1. U.S. Army and Air Force. an officer ranking above a lieutenant general and below a general of the army or general of the air force.
  2. U.S. Army. an officer of any of the five highest ranks: a brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, general, or general of the army.
  3. U.S. Marine Corps. an officer holding the highest rank in the corps.
  4. (in numerous armies) an officer in the highest, second, or third highest rank, as one ranking immediately below a field marshal in the British army.
Ecclesiastical. the chief official of a religious order.
something that is general; generality.
Archaic. the general public.
in general,
  1. with respect to the whole class referred to; as a whole:
    He likes people in general.
  2. as a rule; usually:
    In general, the bus is here by 9 a.m.
1250-1300; Middle English < Latin generālis, equivalent to gener- (stem of genus) genus + -ālis -al1
Related forms
generalness, noun
pseudogeneral, adjective
undergeneral, noun
1, 2. customary, prevailing, regular, ordinary; catholic. General, common, popular, universal agree in the idea of being nonexclusive and widespread. General means belonging to, or prevailing throughout, a whole class or body collectively, irrespective of individuals: a general belief. Common means shared by all, and belonging to one as much as another: a common interest; common fund; but use of this sense is frequently avoided because of ambiguity of sense. Popular means belonging to, adapted for, or favored by the people or the public generally, rather than by a particular (especially a superior) class: the popular conception; a popular candidate. Universal means found everywhere, and with no exceptions: a universal longing. 5. ill-defined, inexact, imprecise, approximate.
1. special, limited. 5. definite, exact, precise.

Tom Thumb

a diminutive hero of folk tales.
an extremely small person; dwarf.
General, nickname of Charles Sherwood Stratton. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for general
  • Some remains are in the form of rock art-a general term for the pecking, incising, or painting of designs onto rock surfaces.
  • Markets may be permanent structures or general areas where people gather to sell goods.
  • In general, asteroids are heated by the decay of radioactive atoms scattered throughout their insides.
  • As a general rule, all applicants are expected to have published a minimum of three articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
  • In general, mineral particles are small, having formed within confined areas such as lava flows or between grains of sediments.
  • general information on beetles from the people who study them.
  • They have the capability to send out general broadcasts of sonic energy and actually see with sound.
  • The archive is used by staff and visiting scholars, but increasingly it receives e-mail requests from the general public.
  • Obviously access to safe drinking water is a huge problem, and lack of access to opportunities, and general poverty.
  • The artists were selected from a general call for submissions.
British Dictionary definitions for general


/ˈdʒɛnərəl; ˈdʒɛnrəl/
common; widespread: a general feeling of horror at the crime
of, including, applying to, or participated in by all or most of the members of a group, category, or community
relating to various branches of an activity, profession, etc; not specialized: general office work
including various or miscellaneous items: general knowledge, a general store
not specific as to detail; overall: a general description of the merchandise
not definite; vague: give me a general idea of when you will finish
applicable or true in most cases; usual
(prenominal or immediately postpositive) having superior or extended authority or rank: general manager, consul general
Also pass. designating a degree awarded at some universities, studied at a lower academic standard than an honours degree See honours (sense 2)
(med) relating to or involving the entire body or many of its parts; systemic
(logic) (of a statement) not specifying an individual subject but quantifying over a domain
an officer of a rank senior to lieutenant general, esp one who commands a large military formation
any person acting as a leader and applying strategy or tactics
a general condition or principle: opposed to particular
a title for the head of a religious order, congregation, etc
(med) short for general anaesthetic
(archaic) the people; public
in general, generally; mostly or usually
Derived Forms
generalness, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Latin generālis of a particular kind, from genus kind

Tom Thumb

General, stage name of Charles Stratton. 1838–83, US midget, exhibited in P. T. Barnum's circus
a dwarf; midget
Word Origin
after Tom Thumb, the tiny hero of several English folk tales
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for general

c.1200, "comprehensive, inclusive, full," from Latin generalis "relating to all, of a whole class" (contrasted with specialis), from genus (genitive generis) "stock, kind" (see genus). General store attested by 1810, American English; a general hospital (1737) is one not restricted to one class of persons or type of disease.


late 14c., "whole class of things or persons," from general (adj.). Meaning "commander of an army" is 1570s, shortening of captain general, from Middle French capitaine général. The English adjective was affixed to civic officer designations by late 14c. to indicate superior rank and extended jurisdiction.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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general in Culture

Tom Thumb definition

A thumb-sized hero of children's stories from the sixteenth century on.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for general


Related Terms

armchair general, buck general

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with general
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for general

title and rank of a senior army officer, usually one who commands units larger than a regiment or its equivalent or units consisting of more than one arm of the service. Frequently, however, a general is a staff officer who does not command troops but who plans their operations in the field. General, lieutenant general, and major general are the first, second, and third grades of general officers in many armies. The United States Army, Air Force, and Marines have a fourth general officer grade, brigadier general (brigadier in the British Army). The highest U.S. Army rank, five-star general of the army, was created in 1944 and was conferred upon Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, and George C. Marshall in that year and upon Omar N. Bradley in 1950. The four-star rank of general of the army of the United States was established for Ulysses S. Grant in 1866 and was bestowed later upon William T. Sherman and Philip Sheridan; the unique four-star rank of general of the armies of the United States, created in 1799 for George Washington but never held by him, was conferred upon John J. Pershing in 1919.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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