Definition of colonel in US English:



  • 1An army officer of high rank, in particular (in the US Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps) an officer above a lieutenant colonel and below a brigadier general.

    • ‘There are a thousand colonels in the army who'd give their eye teeth for this chance.’
    • ‘There are many officers in the embassy who are equivalent to general officers and colonels.’
    • ‘He retired from the Army as a colonel in 1988 and was appointed deputy commander, IGR.’
    • ‘Henry, an outstanding officer and one of the youngest colonels in the Army Air Corps, pinned the eagles on his shirt collar at the age of 28.’
    • ‘In the past year I have met midshipmen, Air Force cadets, colonels at the Army War College, officers in the Pentagon, air and naval crews at sea, reserve and retired officers, and a variety of civilian defense analysts.’
    • ‘Some of these officers are now lieutenant colonels and colonels in the Army Reserve.’
    • ‘As a general rule, however, military intellectuals tend to face mandatory retirement as lieutenant colonels or colonels, just as they are achieving full intellectual maturity.’
    • ‘The Defense Department announced on Friday that the President has formally nominated three colonels for promotion to Brigadier General.’
    • ‘After 12 years of teaching ethics at the Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, I have learned a few lessons from the lieutenant colonels and colonels I've taught.’
    • ‘The senior officers - generals, brigadiers, colonels - were all at a loss about what to do.’
    • ‘The Pentagon did not identify the other panel members, but said they were three colonels and a lieutenant colonel.’
    • ‘When the Civil War began Grant returned to the Army and received the rank of colonel.’
    • ‘Many lieutenant colonels and colonels express frustration at being labeled as poor mentors, and portrayed as contributing to the attrition of captains.’
    • ‘As a result, lieutenant colonels, colonels, and general officers must operate in a more complex task environment than during the Cold War.’
    • ‘Ted rose to the rank of colonel at the war's end serving as the 26th Infantry Regiment Commander.’
    • ‘The problem is that many military generals and colonels and lieutenant-colonels do their own thing.’
    • ‘There are several interesting issues here, such as the much-vaunted discovery that Army colonels increasingly self-identify as Republicans.’
    • ‘There are five woman colonels [air force and army] or captains [navy] qualified for promotion to general positions.’
    • ‘Normally, a colonel would command a brigade, but TRISSOC is an elite service, and only brigadier generals are allowed to command brigades, with colonels as second-in-commands.’
    • ‘The admiral was said to be interested in inviting upper middle grade officers, army colonels and navy captains, to observe US military exercises as a way to establish contact with the next generation of Chinese military leaders.’
    1. 1.1informal


Mid 16th century: from obsolete French coronel (earlier form of colonel), from Italian colonnello ‘column of soldiers’, from colonna ‘column’, from Latin columna. The form coronel, source of the modern pronunciation, was usual until the mid 17th century.