Originally, the commander of a group or 'column' of several mercenary companies. The word derives from the Italian word of that period, colonne (the rank then being colonnello.)

In previous times, Colonel-General has been the highest rank in the German, Austrian and Russian armies.

Colo"nel (?), n. [F. colonel, It. colonello, prop., the chief or commander of a column, fr. colonna column, L. columna. See Column.] Mil.

The chief officer of a regiment; an officer ranking next above a lieutenant colonel and next below a brigadier general.


© Webster 1913.

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