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The term "general" is used in two ways: as the generic title for all grades of general officer and as a specific rank. It originates in the 16th century, as a shortening of captain general, which rank was taken from Middle French capitaine général. The adjective general had been affixed to officer designations since the late medieval period to indicate relative superiority or an extended jurisdiction.
- 1 General officer ranks
- 2 Specific rank of general
- 3 General ranks by country
- 4 Air force and naval equivalents
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
General officer ranks
The various grades of general officer are at the top of the military rank structure. Lower-ranking officers in land-centric military forces are typically known as field officers or field-grade officers, and below them are company-grade officers.
There are two common systems of general ranks used worldwide. In addition there is a third common international system, the Arab system of ranks, which is used throughout the Middle East and North Africa but is not used elsewhere in the world.
Variations of one form, the old European system, were once used throughout Europe. It is used in the United Kingdom (although it did not originate there), from which it eventually spread to the Commonwealth and the United States of America. The general officer ranks are named by prefixing "general", as an adjective, with field officer ranks, although in some countries the highest general officers are titled field marshal, marshal, or captain general.
The other is derived from the French Revolution, where generals' ranks are named according to the unit they (theoretically) command.
Old European system
|Field marshal or general field marshal|
|General or captain general|
|Sergeant major general or major general|
|Brigadier or brigadier general|
The system used either a brigadier general or a colonel general rank.
The rank of field marshal was used by some countries as the highest rank, while in other countries it was used as a divisional or brigade rank. Many countries (notably pre-revolutionary France and eventually much of Latin America) actually used two brigade command ranks, which is why some countries now use two stars as their brigade general insignia. Mexico and Argentina still use two brigade command ranks.
In some nations (particularly in the Commonwealth since the 1920s), the equivalent to brigadier general is brigadier, which is not always considered by these armies to be a general officer rank, although it is always treated as equivalent to the rank of brigadier general for comparative purposes.
As a lieutenant outranks a sergeant major; confusion often arises because a lieutenant is outranked by a major. Originally the serjeant major was, exclusively, the commander of the infantry, junior only to the captain general and lieutenant general. The distinction of sejeant major general only applied after serjeant majors were introduced as a rank of field officer. Serjeant was eventually dropped from both rank titles, creating the modern rank titles. Serjeant major (later spelled sergeant major) as a senior rank of non-commissioned officer was a later creation.
French (Revolutionary) system
The armies of Arab countries use traditional Arabic titles. These were formalized in their current system to replace the Turkish system that was formerly in use in the Arab world and the Turco-Egyptian ranks in Egypt.
|مشير||mushīr||Counsellor|| compare Counsellor of State, State Counsellor etc.|
compare etymology "mushir" with "shura"
|farīq awwal||First general|| equivalent to Commonwealth|
|فريق||farīq||General||equivalent to lieutenant general or corps general|
|لواء||liwāʾ||Flag officer||(or "banner")|
|عميد||ʿamīd||[no exact translation]|| compare etymology with "ʿamood" ("column");|
roughly translates as "colonel" but
equivalent to brigadier/brigade general
Other nomenclatures for general officers include the titles and ranks:
- Adjutant general
- Inspector general
- General of the Army (which is distinct from the title army general)
- General of the Air Force (USAF only)
- General of the Armies of the United States (of America), a title created for General John J. Pershing, and subsequently granted posthumously to George Washington
- Generaladmiral ("general admiral") (German Navy)
- Air general and aviation general (Chilean Air Force; roughly equivalent to air chief marshal and air vice-marshal)
- Wing general and group general (Mexican Air Force; roughly equivalent to air commodore and acting air commodore)
- General-potpukovnik ("lieutenant colonel general", a Serb/Slovenian/Macedonian rank immediately inferior to colonel general, and roughly equivalent to Commonwealth/US major general)
- Director general (a common administrative term sometimes used as an appointment in military services)
- Director general of national defence (most senior rank in the Mexican Armed Forces)
- Controller general (general officer rank in the French National Police)
- Prefect general (the most senior rank of the Argentine Naval Prefecture)
- Master-General of the Ordnance – very senior British military position.
In addition to militarily educated generals, there are also generals in medicine and engineering. The rank of the most senior chaplain, (chaplain general), is also usually considered to be a general officer rank.
Specific rank of general
In the old European system, a general, without prefix or suffix (and sometimes referred to informally as a "full general"), is usually the most senior type of general, above lieutenant general and directly below field marshal. Usually it is the most senior peacetime rank, with more senior ranks (for example, field marshal, marshal of the air force, fleet admiral) being used only in wartime or as honorary titles.
In some armies, however, the rank of captain general, general of the army, army general or colonel general occupied or occupies this position. Depending on circumstances and the army in question, these ranks may be considered to be equivalent to a "full" general or to a field marshal.
The rank of general came about as a "captain-general", the captain of an army in general (i.e., the whole army). The rank of captain-general began appearing around the time of the organisation of professional armies in the 17th century. In most countries "captain-general" contracted to just "general".
General ranks by country
The following articles deal with the rank of general, or its equivalent, as it is or was employed in the militaries of those countries:
- General (Australia)
- General (Canada)
- Shang Jiang (China) – People's Republic of China (PRC) and Republic of China (ROC/Taiwan)
- Kindral (Estonia)
- Général (France)
- General (Germany)
- Στρατηγός (Strategos) (Greece)
- Aluf (Israel)
- Generale (Italy)
- Daejang (North Korea)
- Daejang (South Korea)
- General (Mexico)
- Heneral (Philippines)
- Generał (Poland)
- Army general (Russia)
- Army general (Soviet Union)
- General (Sri Lanka)
- General (Sweden)
- General (Switzerland)
- General (United Kingdom)
- General (United States)
Army generals' insignia
- Rank insignia of general of the Royal Danish Army.svg
(Royal Danish Army)
- GAF General.jpg
(Georgian Armed Forces)
- General of the Indian Army.svg
(Army of the Republic of Macedonia)
- 22 - General.svg
- RAF A F9GenArmy after2013.png
General de Ejército
- CH Gen.gif
Air force generals' insignia
- RDAF Gen.svg
(Royal Danish Air Force)
- GAF airforce general.jpg
(Georgian Air Force)
(Italian Air Force)
- Rank insignia of generał of the Air Force of Poland.svg
(Polish Air Force)
- General t.jpg
(Portuguese Air Force)
- RAF AF F9GenArmy 2010.png
(Russian Air Force)
Generals' insignia of disbanded armies
- Generaloberst (Heer) 3.jpg
- General (Luftwaffe) 4.jpg
Some countries (such as the United States) use the general officer ranks for both the army and the air force, as well as their marine corps; other nations only use the general officer ranks for the army, while in the air force they use air officers as the equivalent of general officers. They use the air force rank of air chief marshal as the equivalent of the specific army rank of general. This latter group includes the British Royal Air Force and many current and former Commonwealth air forces—e.g. Royal Australian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Nigerian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, etc.
In most navies, flag officers are the equivalent of general officers, and the naval rank of admiral is equivalent to the specific army rank of general. A noteworthy historical exception was the Cromwellian naval rank "general at sea". In recent years in the American service there is a tendency to use flag officer and flag rank to refer to generals and admirals of the services collectively.
- In the United States, general officers authorized to display a flag showing their rank are also called "flag officers". Refer: "Flag officer – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster ...".. In other nations the term "flag officer" usually applies to admirals.
|40x40px||Look up general officer in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Generals of World War II
- Schema-root.org: US Generals News feeds for US Generals in the news
- Marines.mil: General Officer Biographies Biographies of US Marine Corps General Officers
- Bios & Information on Generals of Western History Information on 10 Generals who influenced Western History