[ jen-er-uhl ]
/ ˈdʒɛn ər əl /
Save This Word!
See synonyms for: general / generals on Thesaurus.com

There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Idioms about general

    in general,
    1. with respect to the whole class referred to; as a whole: He likes people in general.
    2. as a rule; usually: In general, the bus is here by 9 a.m.

Origin of general

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English, from Latin generālis, equivalent to gener- (stem of genus “race, kind”) + -ālis adjective suffix; see origin at genus, -al1

synonym study for general

1, 2. General, common, popular, universal agree in the idea of being nonexclusive and widespread. General means belonging to, or prevailing throughout, a whole class or body collectively, irrespective of individuals: a general belief. Common means shared by all, and belonging to one as much as another: a common interest; common fund; but use of this sense is frequently avoided because of ambiguity of sense. Popular means belonging to, adapted for, or favored by the people or the public generally, rather than by a particular (especially a superior) class: the popular conception; a popular candidate. Universal means found everywhere, and with no exceptions: a universal longing.

historical usage of general

English general (adjective and noun) comes via Old French from the Latin adjective generālis “common, belonging to all, belonging to a race or genus” (as opposed to speciālis “particular, belong to a species”).
The military sense of general (noun) dates from the mid-16th century; general officer and general of the army date from the mid-17th century. The heads of some Roman Catholic religious orders are called generals, a usage that began in the 16th century and applied originally to the Jesuits but now applies to the Franciscans and Dominicans as well; the usage was extended in the 19th century to the head of the Salvation Army.
The phrase in general originally meant “in a body, collectively” (a sense that is now obsolete), with a clear relation to the sense of the adjective general “with respect to a whole class, group, or category.” It later developed further to mean “usually,” which can be interpreted as meaning “as a general rule (rather than a specific instance).”


gen·er·al·ness, nounpseu·do·gen·er·al, adjectiveun·der·gen·er·al, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does general mean?

General describes all people or things belonging to a group. A general election, for example, is an election that is held on a regular schedule.

General can also describe all people or things with possible exceptions. When we describe a word as being used in general, we mean that it’s mostly used that way but there might be a few exceptions to it.

General also describes something that is not specific or definite, as in While Nat doesn’t have all the details about the party yet, they have a general idea what it’s going to be like.

In the military a general is a high-ranking officer, although each branch of the military ranks officers a little differently. In the U.S. Army, a general is an officer of the five highest ranks—brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, general, or general of the army, all of which have their own authorities and responsibilities. In the U.S. Marine Corps, a general is the highest-ranking officer in the entire corps. 

Example: The general consensus is that the movie was pretty terrible.

Where does general come from?

The first records of the term general come from the late 1200s. It comes from the Latin generālis, meaning “of a particular kind.” Something that is general is supposed to relate to all people or things of a certain kind.

Perhaps the largest group general is applied to is the general public, a term that describes all people in a society. When someone wants to appeal to the general public, they want to create a message that will be acceptable and favorable to the largest number of people possible.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to general?



What are some synonyms for general?



What are some words that share a root or word element with general



What are some words that often get used in discussing general?


How is general used in real life?

General is most often used to describe something broad or not specific.



Try using general!

Is general used correctly in the following sentence?

When Tomica cooks, she follows general principles rather than specific instructions.

How to use general in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for general

/ (ˈdʒɛnərəl, ˈdʒɛnrəl) /


Derived forms of general

generalness, noun

Word Origin for general

C13: from Latin generālis of a particular kind, from genus kind
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with general


see in general; on (general) principle.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.