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

Other Words from colonel

colonelcy \ ˈkər-​nᵊl-​sē How to pronounce colonel (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 The relative anonymity of the Russian colonel-general was apparent in Russia too, according to Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist who studies the country’s security services. Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2022 Wood, a colonel in the Arkansas National Guard, was appointed to the civilian position of war court overseer during the Trump administration and has wide latitude to review and dismiss cases, as well as negotiate plea agreements. The New York Times, Arkansas Online, 13 Mar. 2022 The former colonel and U.S. Army procurement officer in Huntsville, Alabama, helped the company win contracts in 2011 and 2012 with El Salvador, Costa Rica and Saudi Arabia. Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic, 1 Apr. 2022 The colonel wins a theatrical battle of wills with the camp’s commander, thereby earning the devotion of his fellow prisoners. Paul Baumann, National Review, 3 Mar. 2022 The retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force is the first and only African American female to fly the U-2 spy plane. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Jan. 2022 Over two days of witness testimony, the board heard from the Marine colonel who led the investigation into the sinking, the corporal who drove the vehicle and parents of two of those killed. Andrew Dyer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Jan. 2022 The colonel’s death had brought many members of the Sanjari family’s tribe to their home to mourn. New York Times, 18 Dec. 2021 Observers, though say the tensions between Guinea’s president and the army colonel stem from a recent proposal to cut some military salaries. Time, 6 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for colonel

Time Traveler

The first known use of colonel was in 1548

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Dictionary Entries Near colonel

colon crayfish


Colonel Blimp

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Statistics for colonel

Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Colonel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for colonel


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

More from Merriam-Webster on colonel

Nglish: Translation of colonel for Spanish Speakers

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


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