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