Definition: General

From New World Encyclopedia


From Middle English general, in turn from Anglo-Norman general, generall, Middle French general, and their source, Latin generālis, from genus (“class, kind”) + -ālis (“-al”).


general (countable and uncountable, plural generals)

  1. A rank in the army and air force that is higher than colonel or brigadier, and is usually the highest rank group next to commander in chief, except in countries that use the rank of field marshal.
  2. a commissioned rank in the British Army and Royal Marines, above lieutenant general and below field marshal.
  3. a commissioned general officer in the United States Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force superior to a lieutenant general. A general is equal in rank or grade to a four star admiral. In the US Army, a general is junior to a general of the army. In the US Marine Corps, a general is the highest rank of commissioned officer. In the US Air Force, a general is junior to a general of the air force.
  4. a great strategist or tactician
    Hannibal was one of the greatest generals of the ancient world.
  5. (countable) A general anesthetic.
  6. (uncountable) General anesthesia.

Usage notes

When used as a title, it is always capitalized.

Derived terms

  • brigadier general
  • colonel general
  • lieutenant general
  • major general


general (comparative more general, superlative most general)

  1. Including or involving every part or member of a given or implied entity, whole etc.; as opposed to specific or particular
  2. Not limited in use or application; applicable to the whole or every member of a class or category
  3. Giving or consisting of only the most important aspects of something, ignoring minor details; indefinite
  4. Not limited to a specific class; miscellaneous, concerned with all branches of a given subject or area.


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