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
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

Prosecutors on Tuesday accused a South Florida prison colonel with wrongfully pepper spraying an inmate, then forcing an underling to create a false report about the incident. David Ovalle, miamiherald, "Florida prison colonel charged in pepper-spray attack on inmate caught on video | Miami Herald," 15 May 2018 The pilots that shot him down near the Yalu River indicated that his plane landed gently into the water that he was captured, taken prisoner and interrogated by a colonel Kosodov (Ph) and sent to Monino Air Base in Russia. Fox News, "Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses tragic boat accident," 21 July 2018 Because her father, John Ashley who served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War, built it specifically for her and her husband back in 1785. Lauren Smith, House Beautiful, "A Darling Farmhouse Steeped in Revolutionary War History," 14 Sep. 2015 The colonel of the book’s title is Rep. William C.P. Breckinridge, a handsome, sweet-talking Confederate war hero and Kentucky Democrat who hailed from a storied political family. Melanie Kirkpatrick, WSJ, "‘Bringing Down the Colonel’ Review: The Mistress Wanted Marriage," 18 Nov. 2018 As was his wish, however, the colonel cashed in his checks with his boots on, and breathed his last surrounded by those who loved him best., "July 1, 1919: Prohibition begins," 1 July 2018 Exactly how many mines the colonel successfully disarmed is unknown, but it is believed to be in the thousands. Thomas Page, CNN, "'The Deminer:' Unearthed videos reveal life and death of bomb disposal hero," 26 Apr. 2018 He was wounded at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and then worked as a journalist for the North Vietnamese Army, rising through the ranks to become a colonel in 1963. Thomas A. Bass, WSJ, "A Vietnamese Patriot Dies Far From Home," 17 Aug. 2018 Mike Hopkins, a member of the Astronaut Class of 2009, is a colonel in the Air Force who served as a flight test engineer on C-17s and C-130s. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "NASA Announces Astronauts to Fly on SpaceX and Boeing Spacecraft," 3 Aug. 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

11 Jan 2019

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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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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

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