[ kur-nl ]

  1. an officer in the U.S. Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps ranking between lieutenant colonel and brigadier general: corresponding to a captain in the U.S. Navy.

  2. a commissioned officer of similar rank in the armed forces of some other nations.

  1. an honorary title bestowed by some Southern states, as to those who have brought honor to the state, prominent businesspersons, visiting celebrities, or the like: When the vice president visited the state he was made a Kentucky colonel.

  2. Older Use. (in the South) a title of respect prefixed to the name of distinguished elderly men.

Origin of colonel

1540–50; <Middle French <Italian colon(n)ello, equivalent to colonn(a) column + -ello <Latin -ellus diminutive suffix; so named because such an officer originally headed the first column or company of a regiment

pronunciation note For colonel

Colonel [kur-nl], /ˈkɜr nl/, with its medial l pronounced as [r], /r/, illustrates one source for the apparent vagaries of English spelling: divergence between a word's orthographic development and its established pronunciation. In this case, English borrowed from French two variant forms of the same word, one pronounced with medial and final [l], /l/, and a second reflecting dissimilation of the first [l] /l/ to [r]. /r/. After a period of competition, the dissimilated form triumphed in pronunciation, while the spelling colonel became the orthographic standard.

Other words from colonel

  • colo·nel·cy, noun

Words Nearby colonel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use colonel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for colonel


/ (ˈkɜːnəl) /

  1. an officer of land or air forces junior to a brigadier but senior to a lieutenant colonel

Origin of colonel

C16: via Old French, from Old Italian colonnello column of soldiers, from colonna column

Derived forms of colonel

  • colonelcy or colonelship, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012