A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines. The term ''general'' is used in two ways: as the generic title for all grades of general officer and as a specific rank. It originates in the 16th century, as a shortening of ''captain general'', which rank was taken from Middle French ''capitaine général''. The adjective ''general'' had been affixed to officer designations since the late medieval period to indicate relative superiority or an extended jurisdiction. Today, the title of ''general'' is known in some countries as a four-star rank. However, different countries use different systems of stars or other insignia for senior ranks. It has a NATO code of OF-9 and is the highest rank currently in use in a number of armies, air forces, and marine organizations.

General officer ranks

The various grades of general officer are at the top of the military rank structure. Lower-ranking officers in land-centric military forces are typically known as field officers or field-grade officers, and below them are company-grade officers.

Common systems

There are two common systems of general ranks used worldwide. In addition, there is a third system, the Arab system of ranks, which is used throughout the Middle East and North Africa but is not used elsewhere in the world. Variations of one form, the old European system, were once used throughout Europe. It is used in the United Kingdom (although it did not originate there), from which it eventually spread to the Commonwealth and the United States of America. The general officer ranks are named by prefixing "general", as an adjective, with field officer ranks, although in some countries the highest general officers are titled field marshal, marshal, or captain general. The other is derived from the French Revolution, where generals' ranks are named according to the unit they (theoretically) command.

Old European system

The system used either a ''brigadier general'' or a ''colonel general'' rank (i.e. exclude one of the italicised ranks). In 17th and 18th century, it became customary in Prussia and other German states to confer the rank of "full" general with the addition of the branch of service from which the general emerged and which originally also determined the character of the formations which he commanded, e.g. general of the infantry, general of the cavalry and general of the artillery. Such rank designations were also introduced in the Imperial Russian Army, firstly by the emperor Peter I. The rank of field marshal was used by some countries as the highest rank, while in other countries it was used as a divisional or brigade rank. Many countries (notably pre-revolutionary France and eventually much of Latin America) actually used two brigade command ranks, which is why some countries now use two stars as their brigade general insignia. Mexico and Argentina still use two brigade command ranks. In some nations (particularly in the Commonwealth since the 1920s), the equivalent to brigadier general is brigadier, which is not always considered by these armies to be a general officer rank, although it is always treated as equivalent to the rank of brigadier general for comparative purposes. As a lieutenant outranks a sergeant major; confusion often arises because a lieutenant is outranked by a major. Originally the serjeant major was, exclusively, the commander of the infantry, junior only to the captain general and lieutenant general. The distinction of serjeant major general only applied after serjeant majors were introduced as a rank of field officer. Serjeant was eventually dropped from both rank titles, creating the modern rank titles. Serjeant major (later spelled sergeant major) as a senior rank of non-commissioned officer was a later creation. The equivalent of the rank of general in the navy was admiral.

French (Revolutionary) system

Arab system

The armies of Arab countries use traditional Arabic titles. These were formalized in their current system to replace the Turkish system that was formerly in use in the Arab world and the Turco-Egyptian ranks in Egypt.

Other variations

Other nomenclatures for general officers include the titles and ranks: * Adjutant general * Commandant-general * Inspector general * General-in-chief * General of the Army (which is distinct from the title army general) * General of the Air Force (USAF only) * General of the Armies of the United States (of America), a title created for General John J. Pershing, and subsequently granted posthumously to George Washington * ''Generaladmiral'' ("general admiral") (German Navy) * Air general and aviation general (Chilean Air Force; roughly equivalent to air chief marshal and air vice-marshal) * Wing general and group general (Mexican Air Force; roughly equivalent to air commodore and acting air commodore) * ''General-potpukovnik'' ("lieutenant colonel general", a Serb/Slovenian/Macedonian rank immediately inferior to colonel general, and roughly equivalent to Commonwealth/US major general) * Director general (a common administrative term sometimes used as an appointment in military services) * Director general of national defence (most senior rank in the Mexican Armed Forces) * ''Controller general'' (general officer rank in the French National Police) * ''Prefect general'' (the most senior rank of the Argentine Naval Prefecture) * Master-General of the Ordnance (very senior British military position) * Police General (most senior rank of the Philippine National Police) * Commissioner (highest rank of the Bureau of Immigration) * Admiral (highest rank of the Philippine Coast Guard & Philippine Navy) In addition to militarily educated generals, there are also generals in medicine and engineering. The rank of the most senior chaplain, (chaplain general), is also usually considered to be a general officer rank.

Specific rank of general

In the old European system, a general, without prefix or suffix (and sometimes referred to informally as a "full general"), is usually the most senior type of general, above lieutenant general and directly below field marshal as a four-star rank (NATO OF-9). Usually it is the most senior peacetime rank, with more senior ranks (for example, field marshal, marshal of the air force, fleet admiral) being used only in wartime or as honorary titles. In some armies, however, the rank of captain general, general of the army, army general or colonel general occupied or occupies this position. Depending on circumstances and the army in question, these ranks may be considered to be equivalent to a "full" general or to a field marshal five-star rank (NATO OF-10). The rank of general came about as a "captain-general", the captain of an army in general (i.e., the whole army). The rank of captain-general began appearing around the time of the organisation of professional armies in the 17th century. In most countries "captain-general" contracted to just "general".

General ranks by country

The following articles deal with the rank of general, or its equivalent, as it is or was employed in the militaries of those countries: * General (Australia) * General (Bangladesh) * General (Brazil) * General (Canada) * (China) – People's Republic of China (PRC) and Republic of China (ROC/Taiwan) * General (Denmark) * (Estonia) * General (Finland) * (France) * General (Germany) ** (Nazi Germany, SS four-star rank, equal to a ) ** (Nazi Germany, police four-star rank) ** (East Germany, four-star rank) * () (Greece) * General (India) * (, Israel) * (Italy) * serving as chief of staff, serving as chief of staff and serving as chief of staff (JSDF, four-star rank) (Japan) ** (IJA) * (North Korea and South Korea) * * General (Pakistan) * (Poland) * General of the army (russian: генерал армии, Russia since 1992) ** () (Imperial Russian Army until 1917) ** General of the army (, Soviet Union until 1992) * General (Sri Lanka) * General (Sweden) * General (Switzerland) * General (United Kingdom) * General (United States) * (Vietnam) * General (Yugoslav People's Army) * General (Zimbabwe)

Army generals' insignia

File:Afgn-Army-Setar Jenral(General).svg|
Setar Jenral
(Afghan National Army)
Teniente General
(Argentine Army)
File:Australian Army OF-9.svg|
(Australian Army)
(Bangladesh Army)

(Bolivian Army)

(Brazilian Army)
File:Rank insignia of Генерал of the Bulgarian Army.png|

(Bulgarian Army)
File:Cambodian Army OF-09.svg|
– ''Neay Odomsenei''
(Cambodian Army)
File:Canadian Army OF-9.svg|
(Canadian Army)
File:CEJ ejercito chile.png|

(Chilean Army)

(Republic of China Army)

(Republic of China Army)

(People's Liberation Army)
(Colombian Army)

(Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces)
File:CzArmy 2011 OF9-Armadni general shoulder.svg|

(Army of the Czech Republic)
File:Rank insignia of general of the Royal Danish Army.svg|
(Royal Danish Army)
File:DR Congo Army OF-9.svg|
(Land Forces of DR Congo)

(Ecuadorian Army)

(Estonian Land Forces)
File:Kenraali M05.svg|

(Finnish Army)

(French Army)
(Armed Forces of Gabon)

(Georgian Defense Forces)
File:HD H 64 General.svg|

(German Army)
File:Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Minister of Defence rank insignia.svg|
(Guyana Defence Force)

(Hellenic Army)
File:General of the Indian Army.svg|
(Indian Army)
File:21- Arteshbod-IRGC.png|
(Iranian Corps)
(Iranian Army)
File:Pdu jendtni staf.png|

(Indonesian Army)

(Italian Army)
File:JGSDF General insignia (b).svg|

(Japan Ground Self-Defense Force)

(Korean People's Army)

(Republic of Korea Army)

(Army of the Republic of North Macedonia)

(Malaysian Army)
File:Mexico army OF9.svg|

(Mexican Army)
File:20-Moroccan Army-GEN.svg|

(Moroccan Army)
(Namibian Army)

(Royal Netherlands Army)

(Norwegian Army)
File:OF-9 Pakistan Army.svg|
(Pakistan Army)
File:PA GEN Svc.svg|

(Philippine Army)

(Polish Army)
(Portuguese Army)
(Romanian Land Forces)
(Russian Ground Forces)
(Rwandan Defence Forces)
File:18-Serbian Army-GEN.svg|
(Serbian Army)
(South African Army)

(Spanish Army)
File:Sri Lanka-army-OF-9.svg|
(Sri Lanka Army)
(Swedish Army)
File:CHE OF9 General.svg|
(Swiss Land Forces)
عماد أول
(Syrian Arab Army)
File:RTA OF-9 (General).svg|

(Royal Thai Army)
(Turkish Land Forces)
''Orgeneral (Chief of Staff)''
(Turkish Land Forces)
File:Погон генерала ЗСУ (2020).svg|
(Ukrainian Ground Forces)
File:British Army OF-9.svg|
(UK (British) Army)
File:US Army O10 (Army greens).svg|
(US Army)
Armiya Generali
(Uzbekistan Ground Forces)
File:Vietnam People's Army General.jpg|

(People's Army of Vietnam)

(Yemeni Army)
(Zimbabwe National Army)
File:16. Myanmar Army GEN.svg|General Tatmadaw

Air force generals' insignia

File:BE-Air Force-OF9.svg |
(Belgian Air Component)
File:Tenente brigadeiro.gif |

(Brazilian Air Force)
File:General del Aire FACH.png |
''General del Aire''
Chilean Air Force
File:Colombia-AirForce-OF-9.svg |

(Colombian Air Force)
File:RDAF Gen.svg |
(Royal Danish Air Force)
File:Estonia-AirForce-OF-9.svg |

( – Estonian Air Force)

(Finnish Air Force)
''Général d´armée aérienne''
(French Air Force)
File:Georgia Air Force OF-10.png |

(Georgian Air Force)
File:LD B 64 General.svg |

(German Air Force)
File:IAF aluf.svg |
(Israeli Air Force)
File:IT-Airforce-OF-10.png |

(Italian Air Force)
File:JASDF General insignia (b).svg|

(Japan Air Self-Defense Force)
File:North_Korea-AirForce-OF-9.svg |
(Korean People's Army Air Force (North Korea))
File:19.SKAF-GEN.svg |
(Republic of Korea Air Force (South Korea))
File:Gral sedena.gif |

(Mexican Air Force)
File:19.Moroccan Air Force-GEN.svg |

(Royal Moroccan Air Force)
File:Nl-luchtmacht-generaal.svg |

(Royal Netherlands Air Force)
File:Norway-air_force-OF-9.svg |
Royal Norwegian Air Force
File:PAF GEN Svc.svg |

(Philippine Air Force)
File:Rank insignia of generał of the Air Force of Poland.svg |
(Polish Air Force)
File:Portugal-AirForce-OF-9.svg |

(Portuguese Air Force)
File:RO-Airforce-OF-9s.PNG |
(Romanian Air Force)
File:Russia-Airforce-OF-9-2013.svg |
(Russian Aerospace Forces)
File:18-Serbian Air Force-GEN.svg |
(Serbian Air Force)
File:SAAF-OF-9.svg |
(South African Air Force)
File:Captain general of the Air Force 2a.png |

(Spanish Air Force)
File:OF-9_General_FV_hylsa.jpg |

(Swedish Air Force)
File:Turkey-air-force-OF-9a.svg |
(Turkish Air Force)
File:US Air Force O10 shoulderboard.svg|
(US Air Force)

Naval infantry generals' insignia

OF-9_Amiral_FL_hylsa.jpg |
(Swedish Amphibious Corps)
British Royal Marines OF-9.svg |
(UK Royal Marines)
US Marine 10 shoulderboard vertical.svg|
(US Marine Corps)
File:22-TNI Navy-ADM.svg |

(Indonesian Marine Corps)

Generals' insignia of disbanded armies

Generaloberst (Wehrmacht) 5.svg |
SS Oberst-Gruppenführer.svg |
GDR Army OF9 Armeegeneral.gif |

(National People's Army (GDR))
General of the army rank insignia (Manchukuo).png|

(Manchukuo Imperial Army)
Mengjiang-Army-OF-9.svg |

(Inner Mongolian Army)
PR General.svg |

(Philippine Revolutionary Army)
Rhon-Army-OF-9.svg |
(Rhodesian Army)
RAF A F9GenArmy until 1974.svg |
Army general
(Army of the Soviet Union)
B ARVN-OF-9.svg |
''Đại Tướng'', 1967–1975
(Army of the Republic of Vietnam)

Air force and naval equivalents

Some countries (such as the United States) use the general officer ranks for both the army and the air force, as well as their marine corps; other nations only use the general officer ranks for the army, while in the air force they use air officers as the equivalent of general officers. They use the air force rank of air chief marshal as the equivalent of the specific army rank of general. This latter group includes the British Royal Air Force and many current and former Commonwealth air forces—e.g. Royal Australian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Nigerian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, etc. In most navies, flag officers are the equivalent of general officers, and the naval rank of admiral is equivalent to the specific army rank of general. A noteworthy historical exception was the Cromwellian naval rank "general at sea". In recent years in the American service there is a tendency to use ''flag officer'' and ''flag rank'' to refer to generals and admirals of the services collectively.

See also

*General officers in the United States *List of comparative military ranks *List of Roman generals *General officer commanding *''Général'' *''Generalissimo'' *''Shōgun''



External links

Generals of World War II

Schema-root.org: US Generals
News feeds for US Generals in the news
Marines.mil: General Officer Biographies
Biographies of US Marine Corps General Officers
Bios & Information on Generals of Western History
Information on 10 Generals who influenced Western History {{DEFAULTSORT:General Officer Category:Military ranks