A "Colonel" is also a non-military honorary title awarded by some U.S. Southern states.
Auctioneers in the U.S. who have completed Auctioneer School also use the title of "Colonel" to reflect their status.
Insignia of a United States Air Force Colonel
Insignia of a United States Air Force Colonel

Colonel is a military rank, usually the highest below general grades, and just above Lieutenant Colonel. The word is pronounced similarly to "kernel", perhaps from the Spanish form coronel.

Prior to the professionalization of the armed services of European nations subsequent to the French revolution, a colonel was 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 the US military, a colonel in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps is equivalent to a captain in the Navy; the insignia for all four positions is a silver eagle (hence the slang term "bird colonel" or "full bird" to distinguish a full colonel from a lieutenant, or "light", colonel). This emblem was prescribed by George Washington. American colonels usually command infantry brigades and USMC regiments.

In the British forces, colonels are just below brigadiers. They are not usually field commanders, instead typically serving as staff officers in between field commands at battalion and brigade level. The insignia is two diamond shaped pips (properly called stars) and a crown. The crown has varied in the past with different monarchs.

In the Confederate army during the American Civil War a colonel wore an insignia of three stars (not to be confused with the three stars in a wreath worn by Confederate generals). The rank insignia of Colonel was worn by General Robert E Lee throughout his service, even after he became overall commander of the Confederate Armies in 1865.

Colonel of the regiment

In the British Army, colonel can also refer to the ceremonial head of a regiment; this is almost always a general officer, often retired, with a close link to the regiment in question. Sometimes the post is held by a member of the Royal Family. This position is often described as colonel of the regiment to distinguish it from the rank of colonel. See this official list (

Also see colonel-in-chief.

It is worth noting that in the US Armed forces, the eagle must always face forward, thus there is a distinct right and left insignia.

See also

Template:US officer ranks Template:UK officer ranksda:Oberst de:Oberst es:Coronel fr:Colonel it:Colonnello nl:Kolonel ja:大佐 no:Oberst sl:Polkovnik sv:verste pl:Pułkownik zh:上校


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools