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Common Military Ranks</font>
Naval forcesLand / Air forcesCommonwealth air forces
This table shows the hierarchy of widely recognized military rank titles. Not all variants ranks in between are included. If "broadly" equivalent ranks do not appear alongside each other, they are indicated by matching numerical notation.

Colonel (IPA: [ˈkɝnəl] or [ˈkɜːnəl]) is a military rank of a commissioned officer, with the corresponding ranks existing in nearly every country in the world. The rank of Colonel is one of the oldest in existence, dating as far back as the time of the Roman Empire.

In the modern age, a Colonel is usually a military title rated as the highest field rank below the general grades.


[edit] Origins

Ancient uses of the word colonel date back to Roman regiments, where a colonel was the officer in charge of a column of soldiers. The term then reappeared in the Middle Ages, as a nobleman in command of a large number of soldiers, forming early units similar to battalions and regiments. The head colonel of the battlefield would usually become the Colonel General, and command all other colonels and their troops.

The modern usage of the word colonel began in the late sixteenth century, when companies were first formed into larger regiments or columns (colonne in Italian) under the leadership of a colonnello. (In modern English, the word is pronounced similarly to kernel as a result of having entered the language from Middle French in two competing forms, coronel and colonel. The more etymological colonel was favored in literary works and eventually became the standard spelling despite losing the pronunciation war to the dissimilated coronel.)

After the shift from primarily mercenary to national armies, but prior to the professionalization of the armed services of European nations subsequent to the French revolution, a Colonel became a nobleman who purchased the right to head a regiment from the previous holder of that right. He would in turn receive money from another nobleman to serve as his lieutenant, literally lieutenant colonel. The funding to provide for the troops came from the monarch or his government; the Colonel had to be responsible for it. If he were not, or were otherwise court-martialed, he was dismissed ("cashiered"), and the monarch would receive money from another nobleman to command the regiment. Otherwise, the only pension for the Colonel was selling the right to another nobleman when he was ready to retire.

In England, supporters of the practice said that the country had been ill-served by the professional army created by Cromwell (ultimately Charles I was executed) and that the country could only be "safe" from the army if it was officered by men "with a stake in the country", that is, men who could afford to purchase a commission.

By the time of the late 19th century, Colonel was a professional military rank and typically held by an officer in command of a regiment. As European military influence expanded throughout the world, the rank of Colonel became adopted by nearly every nation in existence under a variety of names.

With the rise of Communism, some of the large Communist militaries saw fit to expand the Colonel rank into several grades, resulting in the unique Senior Colonel rank which was found and is still used in such nations as China and North Korea.

[edit] Auctioneering

People who successfully complete a course of study at an accredited auction school such as Missouri Auction School or World Wide College of Auctioneering among others are given the title of Colonel. Auctioneers who are auction school graduates have traditionally been referred to as Colonel because at the end of the Civil War, the Colonel of the winning army was called upon to auction off the "spoils of warfare". Many articles pertaining to auctioneers place the abbreviation Col. ahead of their name.

[edit] Colonel ranks by country

The following articles deal with the rank of Colonel as it is used in various national militaries.

[edit] Eastern European equivalents

Since the 16th century, the rank of reginmental commander was adopted by several Central and Eastern European armies, most notably the forces of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Cossacks and then Muscovy. The exact name of the rank maintains a variety of spellings, all descendant from the Old Slavonic word plk or polk meaning standing army (see The Tale of Igor's Campaign), and include the following:

[edit] Colonel equivalent ranks

[edit] Other Colonel ranks

[edit] In fiction

[edit] See also

[edit] References

da:Oberst de:Oberst et:Kolonel es:Coronel eo:Kolonelo fr:Colonel id:Kolonel it:Colonnello nl:Kolonel ja:大佐 no:Oberst pl:Pułkownik (stopień wojskowy) sl:Polkovnik fi:Eversti sv:Överste vi:Ðại tá uk:полковник zh:上校


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