Origins of American Army Titles of Rank

  All of the current titles of rank or grade used in the U.S. Army originated in Europe during the late or post Roman period. Warfare was the way of life. Lords battled for their sovereigns; to gain loot, land, and fame. Knights fought for their liege lords; also for loot, shelter, and a measure of loyalty. The common folk went to war for their landlord because they had no choice in the matter. If you wanted somewhere to live and something to eat you worked and fought.


Private:
  Latin > Middle English-
 
Having attained no title of rank, a private soldier.
Corporal:
  Latin > Old Italian, Old French-
Lowest noncommissioned officer;
influenced by 'corps', meaning head or chief.
Sergeant:
  Latin > Old French, Middle English-
 
Slave, to serve;
attendant upon a knight in the field.
Warrant:
 Germanic > Old French > Middle English-
Writing or document certifying or authorizing;
to give one's word, to vouch.
Lieutenant:
  Latin > Old French, Middle English-
Deputy, to hold in lieu; officer representing and
exercising powers on behalf of his lord.
Captain:
  Latin > Old French, Middle English-
Officer entrusted with a command or a fortress.
 
Major:
  Latin > Middle English-

Of superior importance; shortened form of 'sergeant-major'.
Colonel:

  Latin > Old Italian, French-

Officer commanding a column of soldiers and support trains.
 
General:

  Latin > Middle English-

(Originally) Of similar social class with the king;
(More Recently) Officer familiar with all facets,
  no longer a specialist, a general officer.

 

 


Copyright (c) RWD Ploessl

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