Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A commissioned rank in the U.S. Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps that is above lieutenant colonel and below brigadier general.
  • n. One who holds this rank or a similar rank in another military organization.
  • n. An honorary nonmilitary title awarded by some states of the United States.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps. In U.S. military, it ranks above a lieutenant colonel and below a brigadier general.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The chief commander of a regiment of troops, whether infantry or cavalry, next in rank below that of a general officer—in the United States army, of a brigadier-general.
  • To act as colonel; play the colonel.
  • n. In angling, the name of an artificial salmon-fly

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a commissioned military officer in the United States Army or Air Force or Marines who ranks above a lieutenant colonel and below a brigadier general

Etymologies

Alteration of obsolete coronel, from French, from Old Italian colonello, from diminutive of colonna, column of soldiers, from Latin columna, column.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested 1548, from Middle French coronel, from Italian colonnello ("the officer of a small company of soldiers (column) that marched at the head of a regiment"), from compagna colonnella ("little column company"), from Latin columna ("pillar"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • William Jackson was reportedly a professor at the University of Georgia; the nature of his military service and the source of the title colonel is unknown.

    Archive 2007-03-01

  • He was given the title colonel to impress Titusville residents.

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  • I'm guessing the colonel is a fan of Sergio Leone films.

    David Isenberg: Sergio Leone on PMC

  • A retired French army colonel is aiming to take a stratospheric leap into the record books by completing a 1000mph (1,600km/h) skydive from the edge of space in Canada next month.

    Man Plans Record Skydive From Edge of Space | Impact Lab

  • ‘I’ve come from Gritsky’s’ (that was what they called the colonel); ‘they’re expecting you.

    Chapter XXI. Part III

  • "I've come from Gritsky's" (that was what they called the colonel); "they're expecting you."

    Anna Karenina

  • Earlier, a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Air Force had marched, ramrod-erect, onto the loose dirt of the bullring and asked 23 saluting recruits to solemnly raise their right hands, so as to be sworn into the force.

    The Boys from Brazil

  • Drawing on my own 28 years of military experience, the colonel is correct:

    Heroes or Villains?

  • One day I sat cross-legged on the thin carpet of a two-room shack in a poor suburb, listening to a former colonel from the South Vietnamese army recount why he beat his eight-year-old son.

    Denise Hamilton discusses Sugar Skull

  • He was a brave soldier of no particular distinction in battles against the Indians, though he acquired the title of colonel, not uncommon in the South, by being elected commander of a local militia.

    An Inexplicable Gift for Fame

Comments

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  • It sounds like the American Heritage pronouncer is starting the word with a "p."

    December 11, 2009

  • According to Wikipedia: The term colonel derives from Latin columnella 'small column'. However, it was never actually a Roman rank. The system of ranks in the Roman military was quite different. As a rank the term arose in the late sixteenth century Italy where it referred to the officer in charge of a column (Italian colonna, plural colonne) or field force. The term is first attested as colonnello, but it is perhaps a truncation of something like capitano colonnello 'captain of the column, the captain designated to command the column'. In this context colonna seems to refer to a force marching in column, rather than to a battle formation — a battle or battlation of pike.

    July 26, 2009