col·​o·​nel | \ ˈkər-nᵊl How to pronounce colonel (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from colonel

colonelcy \ ˈkər-​nᵊl-​sē How to pronounce colonelcy (audio) \ 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 Mirren’s father was born in Russia and her grandfather was a colonel in the Russian army during the Russo-Japanese War. Julia Jacobs, New York Times, "Helen Mirren Plays Catherine II in the Years That Made Her ‘the Great’," 21 Oct. 2019 The idea that the military exists solely to fight and win our nation’s wars is as juvenile as the colonel challenging the audience to throw down. Elliot Ackerman, Time, "Why Bringing Back the Draft Could Stop America’s Forever Wars," 10 Oct. 2019 Buzz Aldrin Born in New Jersey, Aldrin was born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., after his father who was a colonel in the Air Force. Alex Stuckey, Houston Chronicle, "Listen: These are the three brave men going to the moon," 26 June 2019 Araujo’s father, Tony Araujo, is a colonel with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Florida pair, believed to be in love triangle, charged in 'savage' beating death of partner, police say," 1 May 2018 McGee, a retired Air Force colonel, was a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, stationed in Italy. Sig Christenson,, "San Antonio veteran, 100, honored at Super Bowl coin toss," 3 Feb. 2020 The top money-raiser among the nine is Democrat Al Pollack, a retired Sheriff’s Office colonel. Anthony Man,, "Sheriff Gregory Tony fundraising soars as ex-Sheriff Scott Israel’s pace slows," 13 Dec. 2019 On one recent day, the ceremony was for a retired colonel with more than 30 years of active duty service, including Vietnam. Steve Hartman, CBS News, "Elite unit works day and night to give fellow Marines the funeral they deserve," 15 Nov. 2019 Four service members who were at Fort Hood that day and three of their family members have since killed themselves, according to Howard and Dr. Kathy Platoni, a retired Army colonel and psychologist who saw friends die during the shooting. Keith Bierygolick,, "10 years after Fort Hood: The forgotten soldier, and the father who is still fighting his war," 5 Nov. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about colonel

Time Traveler for colonel

Time Traveler

The first known use of colonel was in 1548

See more words from the same year

Statistics for colonel

Last Updated

22 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Colonel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for colonel


How to pronounce colonel (audio)

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 How to pronounce colonel (audio) \

Kids Definition of colonel

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on colonel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with colonel

Spanish Central: Translation of colonel

Nglish: Translation of colonel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of colonel for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about colonel

Comments on colonel

What made you want to look up colonel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!