col·​o·​nel | \ˈkər-nᵊl \

Definition of colonel 

1a : a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking above a lieutenant colonel and below a brigadier general

b : lieutenant colonel

2 : a minor titular official of a state especially in southern or midland U.S. used as an honorific title

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Other Words from colonel

colonelcy \ ˈkər-​nᵊl-​sē \ noun

Did You Know?

English colonel is pronounced the same as kernel. This seems odd, but there is an explanation. In many languages when a word contains two identical or similar sounds, one of these sounds will often change over a period of time. This kind of change is called dissimilation. So when the Italian word colonello was taken into French, it became coronel; and the word was borrowed by the English from the French in this form. Later the spelling colonel came to be used in order to reflect the Italian origin of the word. But by then the pronunciation with r was well established.

Examples of colonel in a Sentence

He retired as a colonel in the air force.

Recent Examples on the Web

McSally, a former Air Force colonel and combat pilot, made the explosive charge in the final moments of the debate that had already included heated clashes over issues such as health care and immigration. Nicholas Riccardi, The Seattle Times, "McSally accuses Sinema of backing “treason” in Senate debate," 16 Oct. 2018 Doug Hurley served as a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corps, joining NASA with the Astronaut Class of 2000. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "NASA Announces Astronauts to Fly on SpaceX and Boeing Spacecraft," 3 Aug. 2018 Here are a few photos of the whole group: Only royal colonels ride during the Queen's annual birthday parade. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Princess Eugenie Just Posted the Sweetest Instagram About Her Dad Prince Andrew," 9 June 2018 In the video, a smiling colonel reads the oath off a piece of paper for the airman, later identified as Master Sgt. Scott Berson, charlotteobserver, "She used a dinosaur puppet to re-enlist. Military leaders are appalled | Charlotte Observer," 19 Apr. 2018 But during his show on February 18th, Mr Ramadan talked of a police colonel who earns 4,600 pounds ($261) per month. The Economist, "Ahead of a farcical election, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi goes after the press," 8 Mar. 2018 Ben Reisz is a retired Army colonel who commanded a sentry dog company, the 595th, which was part of the 504th MP battalion in Vietnam. Kyle Ringo, Houston Chronicle, "San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial built with thousands of small contributions," 27 May 2018 One of the members of the delegation was Ann Wright — a retired U.S. army colonel who resigned from the U.S. State Department over opposition to the Iraq War. Time, "Confusion and Protests. How Seoul Reacted to President Trump Quitting the North Korea Summit," 25 May 2018 At the time of the deaths, her husband, Parker, was a U.S. Army colonel stationed in Qatar. Jeff Truesdell,, "Fla. Mom Killed Her Teenage Kids Because They Were ‘Mouthy’ — and Now She Wants New Trial," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'colonel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of colonel

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for colonel

alteration of coronel, from Middle French, modification of Old Italian colonnello column of soldiers, colonel, diminutive of colonna column, from Latin columna — see column

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Statistics for colonel

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for colonel

The first known use of colonel was in 1548

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More Definitions for colonel



English Language Learners Definition of colonel

: an officer of high rank in the army, air force, or marines : a military officer who ranks above a major


col·​o·​nel | \ˈkər-nᵊl \

Kids Definition of colonel

: a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking above a major and below a general

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something that serves to warn or remind

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