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rank and file

noun
1.
the members of a group or organization apart from its leaders or officers.
2.
rank1 (def 7a).
Origin
1590-1600
1590-1600
Related forms
rank-and-file, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for rank file

rank and file

noun
1.
the ordinary soldiers of an army, excluding the officers
2.
the great mass or majority of any group or organization, as opposed to the leadership
3.
(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 file

rank and file

n.

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 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 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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Difficulty index for rank and file

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for rank

8
9
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