col·​o·​nel ˈkər-nᵊl How to pronounce colonel (audio)
: a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking above a lieutenant colonel and below a brigadier general
: a minor titular official of a state especially in southern or midland U.S.
used as an honorific title
colonelcy 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 Also on tap for midseason is Going Dutch, a live-action comedy starring Denis Leary as a U.S. Army colonel reassigned to an extremely unimportant base in the Netherlands. Rick Porter, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 May 2024 Read More: Putin’s Myths About Ukraine, Debunked The detention on suspicion of high treason of the two colonels on the 7th May—the day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration—were the first among high-ranking officers serving as lead-protection bodyguards. TIME, 10 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for colonel 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'colonel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of colonel was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near colonel

Cite this Entry

“Colonel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


col·​o·​nel ˈkərn-ᵊl How to pronounce colonel (audio)
: a military commissioned officer ranking just below a brigadier general
colonelcy noun

an altered form of earlier coronel "colonel," from early French coronel (same meaning), from early Italian colonnello "colonel, column of soldiers," derived from Latin columna "column" — related to column

More from Merriam-Webster on colonel

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