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rank and file

the members of a group or organization apart from its leaders or officers.
rank1 (def 7a).
Origin of rank and file
Related forms
rank-and-file, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for rank and file
  • The rank and file will be allowed all their clothing, but no other property.
  • But as his and the party's ratings kept sinking, the rank and file became restless.
  • Only fear prevents the rank and file from laying down their guns.
  • The ragged rank and file have replaced the previous state-security apparatus.
  • Yet her penchant for self-promotion estranged her from the company's rank and file-and she failed to get quick results.
  • Calls for a more pro-poor, pro-labour stance strike a strong chord with the party's rank and file.
  • The rank and file is fracturing, and splinter groups determined to oust the foreign radicals have emerged.
  • Nevertheless, in the rank and file of many unions, suspiciousness prevailed.
  • As the power of the machines declined, ideology replaced patronage as the prime motivator of the parties' rank and file.
  • And the rank and file of the movement are conscious of their debt to him.
British Dictionary definitions for rank and file

rank and file

the ordinary soldiers of an army, excluding the officers
the great mass or majority of any group or organization, as opposed to the leadership
(modifier) of, relating to, or characteristic of the rank and file: rank-and-file opinion, rank-and-file support
Derived Forms
rank and filer, noun
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 rank and file

1590s, in reference to the horizontal and vertical lines of soldiers marching in formation; thence generalized to "common soldiers" (1796) and "common people" (1860).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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rank and file in Culture

rank and file definition

The people who form the major portion of any group or organization, excluding the leaders: “The rumors of corruption at the top disturbed the party's rank and file.” This phrase comes from military usage, where enlisted men march in ranks (close abreast) and files (one behind another), whereas officers march outside these formations.

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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Idioms and Phrases with rank and file

rank and file

Followers, the general membership, as in This new senator really appeals to the rank and file in the labor unions. This expression comes from the military, where a rank denotes soldiers standing side by side in a row, and file refers to soldiers standing behind one another. The first recorded figurative use of this term was in 1860.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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