COLONEL (derived either from Lat. columna, Fr. colonne, column, or Lat. corona, a crown), the superior officer of a regiment of infantry or cavalry; also an officer of corresponding rank in the general army list. The colonelcy of a regiment formerly implied a proprietary right in it. Whether the colonel commanded it directly in the field or not, he always superintended its finance and interior economy, and the emoluments of the office, in the 18th century, were often the only form of pay drawn by general officers. The general officers of the 17th and 18th centuries were invariably colonels of regiments, and in this case the active command was exercised by the lieutenant-colonels. At the present day, British general officers are often, though not always, given the colonelcy of a regiment, which has become almost purely an honorary office. The sovereign, foreign sovereigns, royal princes and others, hold honorary colonelcies, as colonels-in-chief or honorary colonels of many regiments. In other armies, the regiment being a fighting unit, the colonel is its active commander; in Great Britain the lieutenant-colonel commands in the field the battalion of infantry and the regiment of cavalry. Colonels are actively employed in the army at large in staff appointments, brigade commands, etc. extra-regimentally. Colonel-general, a rank formerly used in many armies, still survives in the German service, a colonel-general (General-Oberst) ranking between a general of infantry, cavalry or artillery, and a general field marshal (General-Feldmarschall). Colonels-general are usually given the honorary rank of general field marshal.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)