Common anglophone military ranks
Navies Armies Air forces
Admiral of
the fleet
Marshal /
field marshal
Marshal of
the Air Force
Admiral General Air marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Major /
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant Flying officer
Ensign 2nd lieutenant Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Officer cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant officer Sergeant major Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

Corporal is a rank in use in some form by most militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. It is usually equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-4.

The rank of corporal nominally corresponds to commanding a section or squad of soldiers. However, in the United States Army, but not the U.S. Marines, a corporal is usually a fire team leader or second-in-command of a squad of soldiers.

In most countries which derive their military structure from the British military system, it is a more senior rank than that of private. However, in several other countries, such as Canada, Italy and Norway, corporal is a junior rank, indicating a more experienced soldier than a private, and also on a higher pay scale, but having no particular command appointment corresponding to the rank; it is similar to the U.S. Army's "Specialist".



The word is derived from the medieval Italian phrase capo corporale, meaning "head of a body (of soldiers)".[1] It may also be derived from an appointment as an officer's bodyguard,[citation needed] originally being an adjective pertaining to the word "body".


All three branches of the Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic use two or three ranks of corporal, or cabo. Corporals in the Argentine military are considered suboficiales subalternos (subaltern sub-officers/lower non-commissioned officers), superior only to all ranks of Volunteers (enlisted members of the Army and Air Force) and Seamen (enlisted members of the Navy).

In the Argentine Army, there are two ranks of corporal, junior and senior: Cabo (Corporal) and Cabo Primero (First Corporal).

While the Argentine Navy has three Corporal ranks, from junior to senior: Cabo Segundo (Corporal Second Class), Cabo Primero (Corporal First Class) and Cabo Principal (Principal Corporal), which is equal to the Army rank of Sargento (Sergeant). The Air Force has the same number of Corporal ranks as the Navy, and keeps the same titles, with the exception of Cabo (Corporal) instead of the Navy's Cabo Segundo (Corporal Second Class).

The rank is also used by the Argentine National Gendarmerie and the Argentine Federal Police, which use the rank in the same manner as the Army, as well as the Argentine Naval Prefecture.


An Australian Army Cadet Corporal's Uniform.

Corporal is the second lowest of the non-commissioned officer ranks in the Australian Army, falling between Lance-Corporal and Sergeant. A corporal is usually a Section Commander (Sect Comd), and is in charge of 7-14 men of private rank. He is assisted by a second-in-command, a Lance-Corporal or a senior Private. The same ranks within artillery units are Bombardier and Lance-Bombardier respectively. A corporal is frequently referred to as 'seco' (abbv. of Section Commander) by all ranks in everyday speech but never in written correspondence.

Corporal is also a rank of the Royal Australian Air Force, being equal to both the Australian Army and Royal Air Force rank of Corporal. There is no RAAF equivalent to the Army rank of Lance-Corporal. The rank of "Cadet Corporal" is also used within the Australian Air Force Cadets and Australian Army Cadets


All branches of the Belgian Armed Forces, except the Naval Component, use three ranks of Corporal: Corporal (Dutch: Korporaal, French: Caporal), Master Corporal (Dutch: Korporaal-chef, French: Caporal-chef) and 1st Master Corporal (Dutch: 1ste Korporaal-chef, French: 1e Caporal-chef). Corporal is equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-3, whereas Master Corporal and 1st Master Corporal are equivalent to OR-4. The rank immediately below Corporal is 1st Private and the rank directly above 1st Master Corporal is Sergeant.

The equivalent of these ranks in the Naval Component are Quartermaster, Chief Quartermaster and 1st Chief Quartermaster.


Corporal (in Portuguese cabo) is the first NCO rank of the Brazilian Army. Soldiers who successfully complete the Corporal Course (CFC) may be promoted to the rank of Corporal should they excel in the course. A corporal in the Brazilian Army will lead the smallest fractions of units as machine gun squads, mortar and infantry squads.


Corporal (Cpl) is an Army and Air Force non-commissioned member rank of the Canadian Forces. Its Naval equivalent is Leading Seaman (LS). It is senior to the rank of Private and its naval equivalent Able Seaman, and junior to Master Corporal (Caporal-Chef) and its equivalent Master Seaman (Matelot-Chef). It is part of the cadre of junior non-commissioned officers, and one of the Junior Ranks. In French the rank is caporal (cpl).

The rank insignia of a corporal is a 2-bar chevron, point down, worn in gold thread on both upper sleeves of the Service Dress jacket; in rifle green (Army) or dark blue (Air Force) thread on CADPAT slip-ons for Operational Dress; in old gold thread on blue slip-ons on other Air Force uniforms; and in gold metal and green enamel miniature pins on the collars of the Army dress shirt and outerwear coats. On Army ceremonial uniforms, it is usually rendered in gold braid (black for rifle regiments), on either both sleeves, or just the right, depending on unit custom.

Corporal is the first non-commissioned officer rank, and the lowest rank officially empowered to issue a lawful command. Corporals can lead troops if they have the formal qualifications to be promoted to Master Corporal but have not been promoted yet. However, the rank of Corporal was severely downgraded after Unification, along with the attendant responsibilities. A corporal in the Canadian Army in 1967 had the same duties and responsibilities that a sergeant has today. In an infantry section a Corporal will sometimes command a assault team if a Master Corporal is leading the section or they are pending promotion to Master Corporal.

Another effect of Unification was to delete the appointments of Lance-Corporal and Lance-Sergeant (a Corporal holding the acting rank of Sergeant). The former is still common in other Commonwealth militaries.

Corporal is deemed to be the substantive rank of the members carrying the appointment of Master Corporal. On pay documents, Corporal was formerly listed as "Cpl (A)" and Master Corporal as "Cpl (B)".

Privates in the Canadian Forces are considered to be apprentices in their trades, and corporals are journeymen. To become a Corporal one must have served four years as a private, and have achieved Qualification Level 5 trades training, or two years in the reserves but only require the completion of their trades course (DP1). In some cases, privates having served a minimum of 3 years may be advance promoted to the rank of Corporal with the approval of their superiors, providing they have shown dedication to the military and exemplary skills with reference to their trade. The rank of corporal in artillery units follows the British convention and is styled Bombardier (Bdr) — thus a Master Corporal is a Master Bombardier (MBdr).

In rifle regiments, a distinction was historically drawn between a Corporal and an Acting Corporal; The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada had a special insignia to distinguish between the two.


In the Danish military the rank of corporal (Korporal in Danish) is the lowest rank of the NCO group. Professional (non-conscripted) soldiers, often those with the rank of "Overkonstabel" (somewhat similar to "Specialist" in the U.S. Army) may sometimes get selected for the rank of corporal, if they have unique experience or skills. This can't be given as a battlefield appointment and the aspiring corporal has to take a 3-week course in order to be promoted. A corporal will often be given a task similar to that of other countries corporals; i.e. ad hoc assistance of squad-commanders. The rank of corporal was phased out but was reintroduced into the Danish Army in October 2008.[2][3]


Insignia of alikersantti

Alikersantti is an OR-4 rank and the lowest NCO rank of the Finnish Defence Forces. Alikersantti carries two-chevron rank insignia. In translations from English to Finnish the Corporal rank is often mistranslated as Lance Corporal, which is called korpraali in Finnish.


There are three ranks of corporal (caporal in French). In the French Army these are not NCO ranks, but enlisted ones. The corporals are called "ranked" (gradés) .NCO start at the rank of Sergent (OR-5).

Insigia-First Class Staff Corporal
  • "Corporal" (caporal) is a NATO OR-3 level rank. The insignia is two chevrons of wool (vs. the two gold chevrons of a sergeant).
  • "Staff Corporal" (caporal-chef) is OR-4. The insignia is two chevrons of wool plus a gold chevron.
  • "First Class Staff Corporal" (caporal-chef de première classe) is intermediate between OR-4 and OR-5. The insignia is one red chevron and two gold chevrons.[citation needed]

In the regiments of cavalry traditions, the caporaux are called brigadiers, but not in Troupes de Marine where they are still called caporaux whether they are infantry, cavalry or artillery.


The German military had no direct equivalent to a corporal in either the Commonwealth or U.S. militaries, in terms of duties and responsibilities. Some sources identify Unteroffizier as the traditional German equivalent to corporal, and this grade has existed as a military rank since at least the 18th century. Other sources identify the lower rank of Gefreiter as being equivalent to a Corporal of other armies, though in the German military this rank conferred a higher rate of pay without any of the duties and responsibilities granted corporals in other armies (hence being more like ranks such as Private First Class).

This and the rank of Stabsgefreiter and Oberstabsgefreiter (highest ranks of Privates) are today classified by NATO as OR-4 ranks, with Unteroffizier (lowest NCO-rank) being classified as OR-5. Given the vastly different status of the rank of Corporal in the British (section commander) and American (section second-in-command) armies, identifying equivalents in the German military is largely fruitless, though the American rank system corresponds more accurately to the overall German NCO rank system. For Example: Sergeant (E-5)= Unteroffizier/Stabsunteroffizier, Staff Sergeant (E-6)= Feldwebel/Oberfeldwebel, Sergeant First Class(E-7)= Hauptfeldwebel, Master Sergeant (E-8)= Stabsfeldwebel, First Sergeant (E-8)= Is an German NCO duty in Company. Ordinarily Hauptfeldwebel/Stabsfeldwebel, Sergeant Major/Command Sergeant Major (E-9) = Oberstabsfeldwebel

SS equivalent to Unteroffizier was Unterscharführer.

India and Pakistan

The equivalent to Corporal in the British Indian Army was Naik in all units. These ranks are still used in the Indian Army and Pakistan Army.


Corporal (in Persian سرجوخه Sarjukhe) is one of the lower ranks of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army. A Sarjukhe is usually responsible for 4 to 5 soldiers in the army.


Irish Army Cpl's subdued rank slider.

Corporal (Cpl) (Ceannaire in Irish) is the lowest rank of non-commissioned officer within the Irish Army and Air Corps. The Naval Service equivalent is Leading Seaman (LS).


The main role of an Infantry Corporal is to either command a section as the section commander or to command the Fire Support Group (FSG) as the 2I/C of the section. All corporals are qualified instructors on drill, section weapons, and fieldcraft.

In the Artillery Corps, the Corporal is normally assigned to a gun detachment as a Layer [disambiguation needed ], or a Detachment Commander. Artillery corporals can also find themselves in charge of the battery signals section.

The Army rank insignia consists of two winged chevrons (or "stripes"), the dress uniform being red chevrons with a yellow border.

Air Corps

Before 1994, the Air Corps was considered part of the Army and wore Army uniforms with distinct corps badges but the same rank insignia. With the introduction of a unique Air Corps blue uniform in 1994, the same rank markings in a white colour were worn, before the introduction of a new two-chevron badge with wing rank marking.


IDF Rank: Rav turai (Rabat)

In the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers are promoted from private to corporal (Rav-turai or Rabat) after 7–10 months of service (7 for combatants, 8 for combat support and 10 for non-combatants), if they performed their duties appropriately during this time. Soldiers who take a commander's course, are prisoner instructors or practical engineers become corporals earlier. Corporals get a symbolic pay raise of 3.60 NIS and those who are also noncommissioned officers (mashak) are able to command privates in their respective units.

A corporal may be promoted to sergeant about 11 or 12 months after becoming a corporal, or to the rank of Second Lieutenant if they complete an officer's course.


A soldier can be promoted from Private (soldato) to Corporal rank (caporale) after 3 months of service.[4]


Corporal (in Spanish "Cabo") is one of the lower ranks of the Mexican army.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Defence Force awards the corporal rank to soldiers or airman after 6 or 7 years of service. There is substantial responsibility on the part of a corporal in the New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force. They usually command a small team and work closely with their Sergeants. A pay increase is also given.

Like their British and Australian counterparts, they wear two chevrons to distinguish their rank.


In the Norwegian Armed Forces, promotion to the rank of Korporal is an acknowledgement for good service by conscripted personnel. The rank does give some commanding authority, and corporals may be given increased informal responsibilities by senior officers and NCOs. The rank carries two chevrons and a slight pay increase.

All conscripted personnel in the Military Police are awarded the rank after the recruitment period is over.


Shoulder strap of a kapral in the Polish Army.

In the Polish Land Forces, the rank of kapral is the lowest rank in the NCO corps (OR-3 in NATO code). Most commonly the rank is held by a NCO commanding an infantry squad, tank or gun crew, or a similar unit. The equivalent rank in the Polish Navy is mat.

As with many other military ranks, direct comparison between various armies might be misleading. Before World War II Polish Army's kapral was more or less equivalent to the British rank of Lance Corporal, while British rank of Corporal was named plutonowy (lit. Platooner). In modern times the rank is still equivalent to Lance Corporal in UK or Private First Class in U.S. Army (OR-3), while British and American rank of Corporal (OR-4) is equivalent to the Polish rank of starszy kapral (lit. Senior Corporal), introduced in 1971.

Historically, the rank was first introduced in Poland in 17th century, together with mercenary troops of Italian origin. In foreign troops on royal payroll kapral commanded four ranks of musketeers or part of a company of pikemen. In 20th century, between the world wars, the rank of corporal was held by both conscripted NCOs and professional soldiers alike. This was changed after World War II, when the Polish Army was under Soviet command and the rank of kapral was modified to resemble that of Soviet Junior Sergeant, reserved for conscripted NCOs. In modern Polish Army the rank is reserved for professional soldiers exclusively.

The insignia of kapral (worn on shoulder straps and/or badge above breast pocket) are two bars.


The rank of Corporal (Russian: капрал) existed in the Russian Army from 1647 to 1798, when it was replaced with that of Non-Commissioned Officer (Russian: унтер-офицер, from German: Unteroffizier, literally sub-officer). Soviet and modern Russian armies have the rank of Junior Sergeant (Russian: младший сержант) that is more or less equivalent to the rank of corporal.


Corporals (CPL) in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between Lance Corporal and Corporal First Class.[5] It is a rank most commonly held by Full Time National Servicemen with at least a pass in their IPPT. The rank insignia for a corporal is two chevrons pointing downward with an arc on top.

In the past, the SAF followed the British model, and Corporals were non-commissioned officers often holding the appointment of section leader. Today, a corporal is not a Specialist (NCO-equivalent), and holds no command authority, although they may be given higher responsibilities such as appointment as a section 2IC, or 2nd-in-command[citation needed]

In the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Prison Service and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, a Corporal is a rank below Sergeant. The rank is also used in uniformed groups for students such as National Police Cadet Corps(NPCC), National Cadet Corps(NCC) and National Civil Defence Cadet Corps(NCDCC).


In the Spanish Armed Forces Cabo (Corporal) is the rank between Soldado de Primera (First Class Private) and Cabo Primero (First Corporal). It actually equates to a NATO OR-3, with Cabo Primero equating to an OR-4 and Cabo Mayor to an OR-5.


In the Swedish Army, Navy and Air Force the rank of Korpral is a rank for soldiers with a specialization, and often in charge of a group six to ten men.

Army Navy Airforce
SWE-Kadett2.svg SWE-Navy-2UpArrow.svg SWE-Airforce-korpral.png

United Kingdom

RAF corporal insignia.
RAF Corporal as it appears on Dress Uniform.

Corporal (Cpl) is the second rank of non-commissioned officer in the British Army and Royal Marines, falling between Lance-Corporal and Sergeant. The badge of rank is a two-bar chevron (also known as "stripes", "tapes" or "hooks"). A corporal's role varies between regiments, but in the standard infantry role a corporal commands a section, with a Lance-Corporal as Second-in-Command (2ic). When the section is split into fire teams, they command one each. In the Royal Armoured Corps, a Corporal commands an individual tank. Their duties therefore largely correspond to those of sergeants in the United States Army and corporals are often described as the "backbone" of the British Army.

In the Household Cavalry all non-commissioned ranks are designated as different grades of Corporal up to Regimental Corporal Major (who is a Warrant Officer class 1). There is no effective actual rank of Corporal however, and the ranks progress directly from Lance-Corporal to Lance-Corporal of Horse (who is effectively equivalent to a Corporal; technically a LCoH holds the rank of Corporal, but is automatically give the appointment of LCoH). Similarly, in the Foot Guards the appointment of Lance-Sergeant is effectively used instead of Corporal, with the equivalent of a Lance-Corporal being referred to as 'Corporal' and possessing two stripes: this is sometimes said to have originated with Queen Victoria who did not like 'her own guardsmen' having only one chevron.

Royal Artillery corporals are called bombardiers, although until 1920 the Royal Artillery had corporals and bombardier was a lower rank. The rank of Second Corporal existed in the Royal Engineers and Royal Army Ordnance Corps until 1920.

A common nickname for a corporal is a "full screw", with lance-corporals being known as "lance-jacks", e.g. in the popular television series 'Dad's Army', lance-corporal Jack Jones the Butcher.

Corporal is the lowest NCO rank in the Royal Air Force (aside from the RAF Regiment who have Lance-Corporals), coming between Junior Technician or Senior Aircraftman (Technician) and Sergeant in the technical trades, or Senior Aircraftman and Sergeant in the non technical trades. Between 1950 and 1964, corporals in technical trades were known as Corporal Technicians and wore their chevrons point up.

In the Royal Navy, a corporal is a petty officer who assists the Master-At-Arms. Although classified as NATO OR-4, British corporals frequently fill OR-5 equivalent posts.

The Army Cadet Force, Combined Cadet Force, Air Training Corps, Royal Marines sections of the Sea Cadet Corps and the Combined Cadet Force all have the rank of corporal, reflecting the structure of their parent service; therefore it is the second NCO rank of the ACF, CCF and Marine Cadets, and the first NCO rank in the ATC.

United States

United States Army

US Army E-4.svg

In the U.S. Army Corporal (CPL) is preceded by the first three forms of private and the rank of specialist.[6] A corporal rank shares the same pay grade (E-4) as a specialist. Unlike a specialist, however, a corporal is a non-commissioned officer and may direct the activities of other soldiers.[7] A soldier may be promoted to corporal directly from the rank of private first class or laterally promoted from specialist.

Many corporals are found in recruiting units in which specialists are temporarily given a lateral appointment to corporal as an incentive for recruiter duty. In rare cases, soldiers in regular units are permanently promoted to corporal. The typical criterion for promotion to corporal is that the junior enlisted soldier must be serving in a leadership position that would typically be occupied by an NCO such as a sergeant or higher. Normally these promotions are given to specialists who work in an NCO position but who are prevented promotion to sergeant (E-5) due to promotion point quotas.

For a time, it was not uncommon to find paralegal corporals assigned to the legal assistance branch of a post's staff judge advocate's office, despite often having little or no actual leadership duties. Army Regulation 27-55 Notarial Services conferred (under provisions of 10 U.S.C. §§ 936, 1044a) authority to act as a notary and consul of the United States upon JAG Corps NCOs. Notarisation of powers of attorney and other documents is a "bread-and-butter" task in such offices, which necessitated the presence of either NCOs or state notaries. AR 27-55 was later amended to confer the authority on such paralegal specialists who are so designated by their respective staff judge advocate.

It is common for a corporal to lead a fireteam; however, if a soldier is promoted to corporal and there are too many soldiers of that rank, the new corporal will stay in his current position.

United States Marine Corps


Corporal (Cpl) is the fourth enlisted rank in the U.S. Marine Corps,[8] ranking immediately above Lance Corporal and immediately below Sergeant. The Marine Corps, unlike the Army, has no other rank at the pay grade of E-4. Corporal is the lowest grade of non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, though promotion to corporal traditionally confers a significant jump in authority and responsibility compared to promotion from private through lance corporal. Theoretically, Marine corporals generally serve as "fire-team leaders," commanding a 4-man team or unit of similar size.

In practice, however, the billet of fire team leader is generally held by a lance corporal, while corporals serve in the squad leader billet that would normally be held by a sergeant (E-5) in infantry units. In support units, they direct the activities of junior Marines and provide technical supervision. Due to its emphasis on small-unit tactics, the Marine Corps usually places corporals in billets where other services would normally have an E-5 or E-6 in authority. Similarly, the term "Strategic Corporal" refers to the special responsibilities conferred upon a Marine corporal.

Ship's Corporal

In some navies a Ship's Corporal is a position, not the rank of a petty officer who assists the master at arms in his various duties.


Corporals in popular culture

Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were all corporals at one time. The first was nicknamed "The Little Corporal".

A Corporalship or Corporal's guard is a name for a small band of followers based on the small amount of soldiers directly led by a corporal.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Corporal — • A square white linen cloth, now usually somewhat smaller than the breadth of an altar, upon which the Sacred Host and chalice are placed during the celebration of Mass Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Corporal     Corporal …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Corporal — Cor po*ral, a. [L. corporalis, fr. corpus body. See {Corpse}.] 1. Belonging or relating to the body; bodily. Past corporal toil. Shak. [1913 Webster] Pillories and other corporal infections. Milton. [1913 Webster] {Corporal punishment} (law),… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • corporal — CORPORÁL, Ă, corporali, e, adj. Care ţine de corp (I 1), privitor la corp; aplicat corpului; trupesc. ♢ Percheziţie corporală = percheziţie făcută unei persoane pentru a vedea dacă nu ascunde sub haine, în buzunarele hainelor etc. arme sau alte… …   Dicționar Român

  • corporal — corporal, aux [ kɔrpɔral, o ] n. m. • déb. XIIIe; lat. ecclés. corporale, de corpus « corps » (de Jésus Christ) ♦ Liturg. cathol. Linge consacré, rectangulaire, que le prêtre étend sur l autel au commencement de la messe pour y déposer le calice… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Corporal — Cor po*ral (k[^o]r p[ o]*ral), n. [Corrupted fr. F. caporal, It. caporale, fr. capo head, chief, L. caput. See {Chief}, and cf. {Caporal}.] (Mil.) A noncommissioned officer, next below a sergeant. In the United States army he is the lowest… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Corporal — Cor po*ral (k[^o]r p[ o]*ral), ||Corporale Cor po*ra le ( r? l?), n. [LL. corporale: cf. F. corporal. See {Corporal},a.] A fine linen cloth, on which the sacred elements are consecrated in the eucharist, or with which they are covered; a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • corporal — adjetivo 1. Del cuerpo: salud corporal, castigo corporal, higiene corporal. Voy a clases de expresión corporal todos los miércoles. sustantivo masculino 1. (preferentemente en plural) Área: religión En las iglesias católicas, lienzo blanco… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • corporal — (Del lat. corporālis). 1. adj. Perteneciente o relativo al cuerpo, especialmente al humano. Presencia corporal. [m6]Pena corporal. 2. m. Lienzo que se extiende en el altar, encima del ara, para poner sobre él la hostia y el cáliz. U. m. en pl.) ☛ …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • corporal — I adjective bodily, corporeal, fleshy, incarnate, material, not spiritual, palpable, physical, somatic, substantial, tangible associated concepts: corporal imbecility, corporal oath, corporal punishment II index bodily …   Law dictionary

  • corporal — corporal, corporeal Both words are now largely restricted to particular uses. Corporal means ‘relating to the human body’ and is found chiefly in the expression corporal punishment (beating, spanking, etc., now effectively banned in schools in… …   Modern English usage

  • corporal — Ⅰ. corporal [1] ► NOUN ▪ a rank of non commissioned officer in the army, above lance corporal or private first class and below sergeant. ORIGIN Italian caporale, probably from Latin corpus body (of troops) . Ⅱ. corporal [2] ► ADJECTIVE ▪ …   English terms dictionary

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