Definition of general in English:



  • 1Affecting or concerning all or most people or things; widespread.

    ‘books of general interest’
    ‘the general opinion was that prices would fall’
    • ‘There is none of the sense of suffocation that was once a feature of general anaesthesia.’
    • ‘Usually about five to ten percent of the general population are affected.’
    • ‘Mobile phone masts in public places are of general concern.’
    • ‘He said it more reflected a general decline in applications throughout other European countries.’
    • ‘In general students are interested in the same things that concern the general public.’
    • ‘There were some concerns but there was general goodwill towards the idea of getting rid of raw sewage going into the river.’
    • ‘We can control them much more easily than controlling the polluting activities of our general masses.’
    • ‘The evidence suggests that such interventions have limited utility in the general population.’
    • ‘We believe there is widespread support amongst the general public for such a move.’
    • ‘A chance to see many films weeks, if not months, before their general release, it features works from most nations and every genre.’
    • ‘Whether this is a general feature of patch reef communities in these two regions is not known.’
    • ‘All three phases of clinical testing are essential before a vaccine can be considered for licensing and general use.’
    • ‘Housing and related charges are an element of the general cost of living.’
    • ‘This belief was an important element in the general optimism that greeted the new technology.’
    • ‘Use of hard drugs may not be widespread in the general public, but the problems associated with drugs affect many people.’
    • ‘The positive results achieved by the scheme are many and openly obvious and there is general concern at the loss of so many workers.’
    • ‘Re-reading what I wrote it seems to be that it all boils down to a general lack of concern for the comfort of second-class passengers.’
    • ‘The almost general feature is the lack of pigment in these organs, which seem to be transparent.’
    • ‘The stronger case, however, is for a general strengthening of the main road network away from the motorways and trunk roads.’
    • ‘Such cross-resistance appears to be a general feature of resistant rodent populations.’
    widespread, common, extensive, universal, wide, popular, public, mainstream, prevalent, prevailing, rife, established, well established, conventional, traditional, traditionalist, orthodox, accepted
    comprehensive, overall, across the board, blanket, umbrella, mass, total, complete, wholesale, sweeping, panoramic, broad, broad-ranging, extended, inclusive, all-inclusive, all-round, generic, outright, encyclopedic, indiscriminate, catholic
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    1. 1.1 Not specialized or limited in range of subject, application, activity, etc.
      ‘brush up on your general knowledge’
      • ‘Remember, logo design is an essential element to your general marketing strategy.’
      • ‘I also consider the two more general issues that arise from the case.’
      • ‘We provide a full range of general insurance products - both tariff and non-tariff.’
      • ‘English was the most popular subject, followed by general studies, maths, biology, history, and psychology.’
      • ‘There are advice-based features on finding jobs as well as more general features on work-related ethics, law and issues.’
      • ‘That is why this case is an appropriate vehicle to consider the general issue.’
      • ‘Sixty of the questions related to pharmacy subjects, and the rest were queries on general knowledge.’
      • ‘This development has to be considered in the more general context of photography and aesthetics.’
      • ‘The rarity of the disease has limited general knowledge of it and the symptoms it causes.’
      • ‘The directives combined general strategic considerations with detailed operational instructions.’
      • ‘A more general point is to consider the economic concept of comparative advantage.’
      • ‘Even daily activities such as general housework or playing with your kids can be a good opportunity to boost your fitness levels.’
      • ‘But she failed to pass the national examination because of her poor knowledge of general subjects.’
      • ‘I'll admit general ignorance on the subject and I don't have a horse in this race.’
      • ‘A Bolton tax specialist is putting his general knowledge to the test by appearing on a TV quiz show.’
      • ‘These deal with how EU policies should be implemented, and with a range of general provisions for treaties.’
      • ‘Since this is a book on company law, however, we did not consider such general self-help techniques in detail.’
      • ‘So the best that I can do is offer an answer in vague, general terms.’
      • ‘But I shall consider a more general version of this view, which can be applied to everyone.’
      • ‘While one section is devoted to literary terms, another attempts to provide general knowledge on a range of topics.’
      miscellaneous, mixed, assorted, variegated, diversified, composite, heterogeneous
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    2. 1.2 (of a rule, principle, etc.) true for all or most cases.
      • ‘How long yours will stay good depends on its formula, but the general rule is about two years.’
      • ‘As a general rule they do not sting and are harmless.’
      • ‘However, it is not possible to postulate a general rule that any contract beneficial to a minor is binding upon him.’
      • ‘The general rule is that the more difficult the question, the longer the silence before he answers.’
      • ‘This has made it difficult to formulate general rules regarding evolutionary trajectories.’
      • ‘As a general rule, that is probably true, but it is really only a rule of thumb.’
      • ‘They, in effect, said that comment on the failure to explain or contradict is the general rule but there were two exceptions to it.’
      • ‘Choir was the second good thing, because I loved singing and music as a general principal.’
      • ‘As a general rule, the Law Society of Upper Canada should deal with allegations of misconduct.’
      • ‘The following guidelines will provide a general rule for sprinkler selection.’
      • ‘As a general rule, a team is in a far healthier position if every player on the team has to fight to keep his position.’
      • ‘As a general principle, the true owner of the cheque is the last person to whom the instrument has been validly transferred.’
      • ‘This is because the general rule in criminal law is that a duty to help others is not owed by members of the public.’
      • ‘First, they say that laws are made for the general rule, not the exceptions.’
      • ‘The general rule is that we leave things exactly as we found them.’
      • ‘In contrast, general rules treat two individuals in like circumstances in the same fashion.’
      • ‘As a general rule in English law, there is no need to give notice if a sum of money is payable on a particular day.’
      • ‘I would think that the general rule, if evenly enforced, would be sufficient.’
      • ‘As a general rule of thumb with this government, whenever a contract is let, someone close to the government benefits in some way.’
      • ‘The construction of all axes followed the same general principle.’
    3. 1.3 Normal or usual.
      ‘it is not general practice to confirm or deny such reports’
      • ‘This is considered to be a general effect and to have variable consequences.’
      • ‘The general routine now is that we will have a drink when we arrive and then start to prepare the trays for dinner, setting them with cutlery.’
      • ‘Yet such isolated cases only confirm the general argument in favour of de-accessing.’
      • ‘Language change may be a general feature of wartime, yet the way in which words are altered differs from war to war.’
      • ‘The general customer accepts an accomplished RW by forming a commission for the purpose.’
      usual, customary, habitual, traditional, normal, conventional, typical, standard, regular
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  • 2Considering or including only the main features or elements of something; not exact or detailed.

    ‘the arrangements were outlined in very general terms’
    ‘a general introduction to the subject’
    • ‘The most striking general feature to be found is the extent to which what we would now call science is a subculture within philosophy.’
    • ‘It will contain all the same general features as last year.’
    • ‘While the criticisms differed in detail depending on the type of proceedings which were being considered, the general thrust was the same.’
    • ‘By reference to those considerations it is possible to identify general features of a discriminatory law.’
    • ‘However, we shall consider a few general questions, and then we shall set up the scientific goal which vivisection has in view.’
    • ‘Chapter 2 deals with Federal regulation of medications in broad and general terms.’
    • ‘We need to consider our general reactions and thinking about politics to be able to make better sense of specific news stories.’
    • ‘If the relationship is going to be long term, we need to be going in the same general direction as the other person.’
    • ‘Rather than answer it, we should look at some of the general features of this revolution.’
    • ‘You like to spend time philosophizing and thinking in broad general terms.’
    • ‘I don't believe that the road map can spell out all the details, but it can indicate a general direction.’
    • ‘Afterwards, however, he walked with me towards the main foyer which was in the general direction of his next class.’
    • ‘For a general introduction to this large monument see the main entry under Region 1.’
    • ‘That memorandum is in somewhat general and imprecise terms.’
    • ‘Several general features were characteristic of all the meetings.’
    • ‘Like sonata form it is not a rigid formula, and therefore the scheme illustrated can be taken as only a rough guide to its general features.’
    • ‘The desire for esteem seems to me to make a strong claim to be one element in that more general account.’
    • ‘It was a statuesque form of him, but the wooden carving had his general features and form.’
    • ‘Most patients thought about research in broad, general terms.’
    • ‘A general feature of the book is that as each section progresses it becomes more advanced in subject matter.’
    broad, imprecise, inexact, rough, sweeping, overall, loose, basic, approximate, non-specific, unspecific, vague, hazy, fuzzy, woolly, ill-defined, indefinite, unfocused
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  • 3often in titles Chief or principal.

    ‘the Director General of the BBC’
    ‘the general manager’
    • ‘The writer is a general manager of engineering.’
    • ‘That is a matter for the general manager and the chief executive of the Department of Labour.’
    • ‘He said he later received a telephone call from the general manager, informing him that there was a problem at the factory.’
    • ‘Proof that they had sought and received permission from the general chief of staff was brushed aside.’
    • ‘He started work there when he was 14, becoming general manager at 21.’
    • ‘The club needs either a Chief Exec or general manager with a day-to-day overview of the running of the club to avoid situations like this.’
    • ‘Numbers like these are ominous to general managers around the league for various reasons.’
    • ‘The major work of the general managers is pretty much done by this point in the spring.’
    • ‘As general manager I have responsibility for the restaurant.’
    • ‘I am working in a school as a general manager and teaching English.’
    • ‘Both will be titled vice president and general manager.’
    • ‘He is among the least qualified general managers in major league history.’
    • ‘He was general manager of two top hotels on the Veradero beach.’
    • ‘Major league general managers have more than a month left to overhaul their rosters.’
    • ‘A new general manager will oversee this process and concentrate on building up the trade orders which a previous lack of capacity meant they had to let go.’
    • ‘I think you are the only museum in Australia that actually has a general manager running things day-to-day for you.’
    • ‘Major league general managers circulate after holding their organizational meetings.’
    • ‘He was general manager of business development and marketing of JFK, La Guardia and Newark airports.’
    • ‘I had a written agreement with the general manager that the £90 dinner bill would be waived for one night when I went out.’
    • ‘By comparison, half of the teams in the majors have changed general managers in the past three years.’


  • 1A commander of an army, or an army officer of very high rank.

    • ‘In the early hours of the morning young officers shut their generals in their quarters and assumed command of four infantry battalions at the camp.’
    • ‘He ordered his generals to prepare an expedition into Arabia.’
    • ‘But under his warring sons several major field armies emerged, under generals of even higher rank.’
    • ‘He orders his former generals to become gardeners.’
    • ‘Alarmed generals order both sides to resume hostilities.’
    • ‘Senior generals and staff officers know this, which is why they are reluctant to rush into attacking at such a time.’
    • ‘Several military officers attentively listened to the orders of a general.’
    • ‘He ordered his generals to plan an invasion of Czechoslovakia.’
    • ‘Soldiers may pull the trigger, but the generals writing out the orders, and the journalists failing to write the truth, are vital links in the chain of cause and effect.’
    • ‘There is no military justification for these measures, no matter how much sycophantic generals parrot the party line and try to blind public opinion with technicalities.’
    • ‘Alexander the Great and his generals introduced the practice to the Phoenicians, Egyptians and Carthaginians.’
    • ‘None of his generals dared order reinforcements without his permission, and no-one dared wake him.’
    • ‘The most stable connection is that between the military commander and generals and officers directly subordinated to him.’
    • ‘There is an old and well-worn military adage that while the generals give the orders, it falls to the young soldiers to do the killing and the dying.’
    • ‘Just inside the museum's front gate, a tree-shaded path lined with stone statues of civil servants and generals leads to the mausoleum.’
    • ‘We received initial guidance from our higher headquarters and our commanding general.’
    • ‘Many generals and other officers were penalized.’
    • ‘Originally a vast hunting lodge, Louis built up Versailles in order to house his generals, ministers and other court suck-ups.’
    • ‘All of the guards drew their swords and looked to the general for orders.’
    • ‘In accordance with the time-honoured custom of generals, he was carried in on a four-horse chariot and clothed in purple, a far more brilliant hue than any other.’
    1. 1.1 A high rank of officer in the army and in the US air force, above lieutenant general and below field marshal, general of the army, or general of the air force.
      • ‘Though the experience might be scary at first for both action officers and generals, it would cut the work of an average Army headquarters by 50 percent.’
      • ‘I hope the generals and colonels, the ones who really make the decisions on such things, agree.’
      • ‘It is essential to grow leaders from private or lieutenant to command sergeant major or general.’
      • ‘These ad hoc units were locally raised and led, but funded by the federal government and under the overall command of U.S. Army generals.’
      • ‘The senior officers - generals, brigadiers, colonels - were all at a loss about what to do.’
      • ‘Several years ago I stood in Normandy overlooking the St. Lo-Periers Road with the commanding generals of the U.S. Army and Air Force in Europe.’
      • ‘There are paintings and photographs of generals, lieutenants, sergeants, privates, secretaries and commanders-in-chief.’
      • ‘He is just the latest in a long line of generals to try their hand at running for president.’
      • ‘It was the first time in history that a black officer had ever been raised to full general in the U.S. Army.’
      • ‘In careerist terms, the war gave the army's generals the victories that had eluded their predecessors 30 years previously.’
      • ‘Thousands of generals and officers of the Armed Forces became the journal's contributors during the years of its existence.’
      • ‘No, the generals will not issue an order because of the misgivings of one colonel.’
      • ‘Three Air Force generals are part of NASA's investigation board reviewing events leading to the disaster.’
      • ‘The guys in the army who make the decisions are senior Army leaders, mostly generals who gained their experience in the combat arms.’
      • ‘Army generals were in the lead in these efforts and were moving the Army into a new era of worldwide service and commitment heretofore not seen.’
      • ‘A similar stand was taken by 24 retired four-star Marine and Army generals in an open letter to the President in July 1997.’
      • ‘I'm privileged to spend a good bit of time with our military officers, from generals to new lieutenants.’
      • ‘Further, numerous key Army Air Force generals visited both Texas and New Mexico in this time period suggesting something very important had occurred.’
      • ‘It underwrites the Army's training of everyone from privates to generals.’
      • ‘He said nothing, leading by example, pressing division generals for tougher combat missions during the day and giving orders to his captains with a smile at night.’
    2. 1.2informal
    3. 1.3 The head of a religious order organized on quasi-military lines, e.g. the Jesuits, the Dominicans, or the Salvation Army.
      • ‘Realizing that he might need some help, the Church sent the generals of the Dominican and Franciscan orders as his advisors.’
  • 2the generalarchaic The general public.


  • as a general rule

    • In most cases.

      • ‘But as a general rule, such claims are not permitted in Australia.’
      • ‘During the three years I spent stationed in their country I found them to be, as a general rule, a humble, friendly, and polite group.’
      • ‘A student may be moved quickly through a literature level to the next hardest level, but it is important, as a general rule, that no levels be skipped.’
      • ‘No, of course I do not take that as a general rule.’
      • ‘Pines are woody perennial species with approximately 10 years per generation as a general rule.’
      • ‘This doesn't happen in every single case, and not necessarily as speedily and thoroughly as some would want, but it holds well enough as a general rule.’
      • ‘But as a general rule, we should strive for what is in a child's best interest.’
      • ‘Very few hotels still have a dress code: as a general rule, smarter places will ask you to wear a skirt or a jacket and long trousers at dinner.’
      • ‘I permitted senior students to have some pocket money, but as a general rule, I prohibited all other students from having any money.’
      • ‘Therefore, as a general rule, greater transparency is usually better.’
      normally, in general, as a rule, as a general rule, in the general run of things, by and large, more often than not, almost always, in the main, mainly, mostly, for the most part, in most cases, most of the time, predominantly, on the whole
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  • in general

    • 1Usually; mainly.

      ‘in general, Alexander was a peaceful, loving man’
      • ‘Women do not in general share sport as a common language or as a means of bonding in the same way.’
      • ‘It includes the regulation of the manner in which the court process may in general be utilised.’
      • ‘The crime rate is low, unemployment is low and, in general, people feel relatively safe.’
      • ‘Oak in general is one of the strongest of the common hardwoods of the temperate northern hemisphere.’
      • ‘I think that in general two weeks is ample time to rent and view something.’
      • ‘It has become a commonplace that numbers are in general poorly dealt with by the mass media.’
      • ‘State claims do not in general support any particular standard of responsibility.’
      • ‘The bottom line is that, in general, we don't trust people other than ourselves.’
      generally, normally, as a rule, as a general rule, in the general run of things, by and large, more often than not, almost always, in the main, mainly, mostly, for the most part, in most cases, most of the time, predominantly, on the whole
      View synonyms
    • 2As a whole.

      ‘our understanding of culture in general and of literature in particular’
      • ‘What is it that draws me to paganism in general and druidry in particular?’
      • ‘After the film we went and sat on the common for ages and just talked about life in general.’
      • ‘He also criticised the standard of the council's road inspection regime in general.’
      • ‘The application of computers in general to business in general proceeds rapidly.’
      • ‘However, the whole purpose of the programme is to raise property values in general in those areas.’
      • ‘There are perhaps three kinds of books one can write on the subject of history in general.’
      • ‘I fell out of love with the whole studio environment and the music business in general.’
      • ‘Babies are a booming business for the publishing world in particular and the media in general.’
      • ‘It was used to bash intellectuals in general and it was used to bash the political left in general.’
      • ‘I doubt if society in general would value the inevitable fall in living standards.’
      as a whole, as a body, generally, at large, in the main
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Middle English: via Old French from Latin generalis, from genus, gener- ‘class, race, kind’. The noun primarily denotes a person having overall authority: the sense ‘army commander’ is an abbreviation of captain general, from French capitaine général ‘commander-in-chief’.