AskDefine | Define corporal

Dictionary Definition

corporal adj
1 affecting or characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit; "bodily needs"; "a corporal defect"; "corporeal suffering"; "a somatic symptom or somatic illness" [syn: bodily, corporeal, somatic]
2 possessing or existing in bodily form; "what seemed corporal melted as breath into the wind"- Shakespeare; "an incarnate spirit"; "`corporate' is an archaic term" [syn: bodied, corporate, embodied, incarnate] n : a noncommissioned officer in the army or airforce or marines

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /ˈkɔːɹ.pɜ˞.əɫ/ or /ˈkɔːɹ.pɹəɫ/, /"kO:r.p3`.@5/ or /"

Etymology 1

From corporalis < corpus.


  1. Having a physical, tangible body; corporeal.
  2. Of or pertaining to the body, especially the human body.
of the body
  • Finnish: lihallinen, ruumiillinen
  • German: körperlich
  • Greek: σωματικός (somatikós)
  • Russian: телесный (telésnyj)
checktrans-top Translations to be checked
Derived terms

Etymology 2

Corrupted from the caporal, from the caporale, from capo from the caput.


  1. A non-commissioned officer rank in the military (OR-4) force, below a sergeant but above a private or patrolman.
  2. A non-commissioned officer rank in the police force, below a sergeant but above a private or patrolman.
military rank
  • Dutch: korporaal
  • Finnish: korpraali, alikersantti
  • German: Stabsgefreiter, Oberstabsgefreiter
  • Greek: δεκανέας (dekanéas)
  • Hungarian: tizedes
  • Japanese: 伍長(ごちょう, gochou)
  • Latin: decurion
  • Russian: капрал (kaprál)
police rank

Etymology 3

From the corporale, the neuter of corporalis representing the doctrine of transubstantiation in which the eucharist becomes the body of Christ.


  1. The white linen cloth on which the elements of the eucharist are placed; a communion cloth.
ecclesiastical: cloth on which the elements of the eucharist are placed

Extensive Definition

Corporal is a rank in use in some form by most militaries, police forces or other uniformed organizations around the world. It is usually equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-4. The word is derived from the Italian phrase capo corporale, meaning "head of a body (of soldiers)".


All three branches of the Argentine Armed Forces 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, from junior to senior: Cabo (Corporal) and Cabo Primero (First Corporal).
On the other hand, 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.


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 (SeCo), and is in charge of 7-14 men of private rank. He may also have a second-in-command, generally a Lance-Corporal. The same ranks within artillery units are Bombardier and Lance-Bombardier respectively.
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 (lang-nl Korporaal, lang-fr Caporal), Master Corporal (, ) and 1st Master Corporal (, ). 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 second lowest officer rank in the three Brazilian military. The first lowest is soldado (soldier) and the third is terceiro-sargento (third sergeant).


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 tan (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 severally 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.
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 and completed their DP 2A course.
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. An NCO in, the Danish military, is a sergeant, meaning that all coporals are sergeants in the Danish military. Professional (non-conscripted) soldiers may sometimes get the rank of corporal, on a temporary basis, in order to get better quarters. The rank of corporal is generally being phased out in the Danish Army, but is not an uncommon sight in the Home Guard.


Korpraali (literally translated as "Corporal"), carrying one-chevron rank insignia, is the equivalent to Lance Corporal and it is the most senior rank of Private. Alikersantti (literally translated as "Sub-Sergeant"), carrying two-chevron rank insignia, is the lowest NCO rank and it is the equivalent to Corporal elsewhere. An alikersantti is usually the leader of a group that consists of 4–7 men and around 20% of conscripts are promoted to alikersantti after they have gone through 16 weeks of NCO training following the 8-week basic training common for all conscripts. The next rank is kersantti (Sergeant).


There are three ranks of corporal (caporal in French). These are not NCO ranks, but enlisted ones. The corporals are called "ranked" (gradés).
  • "Corporal" (caporal) is a NATO OR-3 level rank. The insignia is two chevrons of wool (vs. the two gold chevrons of a sergent).
  • "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 insigia is one gold chevron and two gold chevrons.
In the regiments of cavalry traditions, the caporaux are called brigadiers.


The German military had no direct equivalent to a corporal in either the Commonwealth or US 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. This and the rank of Oberstabsgefreiter (highest rank 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, Staff SGT (E-6)= Stabsunteroffizier, SGT 1stClass(E-7)= Feldwebel, Master SGT (E-8)= Oberfeldwebel, First SGT (E-8) = Hauptfeldwebel, SGT Major (E-9) = Stabsfeldwebel
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 Iranian army. A Sarjukhe is usually responsible for 4 to 5 soldiers. Including the Corporal himself.


Corporal (Cpl) (Ceannaire in Irish) is the lowest rank of non-commissioned officer within the Irish Army and Air Corps. The Naval equivalent is Leading Seaman (LS).
The Army rank insignia consists of two winged chevrons (or "stripes"). The Dress Uniform being red chevrons with a yellow border. 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) of a section as the 2I/C. Another role is that of training NCO of a section, as all Corporals must be qualified instructors. In the Artillery Corps, the Corporal is normally assigned to a gun detachment as a Layer, or a Detachment Commander. Artillery corporals can also find themselves in charge of the battery signals section.
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.


In the Israel Defense Forces, soldiers are promoted from Private to Corporal (Rav-turai or Rabat) after approximately 8 months of service, if they performed their duties appropriately during this time. Soldiers who take a commander's course may 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 12 months after becoming a Corporal, or to a 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. A VFB (volontario in ferma breve, volunteer for short time service) can be promoted to the rank of Senior Corporal (caporale scelto) after 6 months of service, compatibly with the needs of the Corps.


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


In the Norwegian Defence Force, promotion to the rank of Korporal is used as a way to acknowledge soldiers who have done a good job in their service, without giving them any real authority, though they are often delegated some more responsibilities from sergeants and officers. Promotion may come after six months or more, and the rank carries two chevrons and a slight pay increase. In addition, every candidate who completes a special selection period, the Aspirantperiode, including those aspiring to become a Sergeant and drafted personnel in the Military Police automatically qualifies for the rank of Korporal.
The pay raise is fondly known as Colatillegget, or the "coke raise", as the sum in question is approximately enough to buy one Coke each day.


The rank of Corporal () existed in Russian army from 1647 to 1798, when it has been replaced with that of Non-Commissioned Officer (, from lang-de Unteroffizier, literally sub-officer). Soviet and modern Russian armies have the rank of Junior Sergeant () that is more or less equivalent to Corporal.


Corporals (CPL) in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between Lance Corporal and Third Sergeant. It is a rank most commonly held by National Servicemen with at least pre-university education, who are usually promoted to the rank near the end of their active-duty obligation. Enlistees are also promoted to this rank upon completion of the Basic Section Leaders Course(BSLC). The rank insignia for a Corporal is two chevrons pointing downward with an arc.
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
In the Singapore Police Force, a Corporal is a non-commissioned officer ranking below Sergeant.


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.


In the Swedish Army, the rank of Korpral is given to conscripts under training as section leaders and platoon leaders after 5 months of training. Those who are selected as (wartime) platoon leaders are later promoted to Furir (corresponding to the British Corporal) and later Sergeant, while the section leaders are promoted to the rank of Furir after 10 months of service. The second-in-command at the section level, and often also at the platoon level, holds the same rank as the section or platoon leader.

United Kingdom

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 or even Staff Sergeants in the United States Army and Corporals are often described as the "backbone" of the British Army. However with current manning strengths of the British Army as they are, Corporals have also been found to do the jobs of lance corporals and even privates. The rank has been somewhat devalued in recent years and Corporals no longer have the clout or standing as they once had outside training establishments.
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). Ironically, 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.
Royal Artillery Corporals are called Bombardiers, although until 1920 the Royal Artillery had Corporals and Bombardier was a lower rank.
A common nickname for a corporal is a "full screw".
Corporal is the lowest NCO rank in the Royal Air Force, coming between Junior Technician (up to 2008) or SAC Technician (from 2004) in the technical trades, or SAC in the non technical trades, and Sergeant. Between 1950 and 1964, Corporals in technical trades were known as Corporal Technicians and wore their chevrons point up.
Although classified as NATO OR-4, British Corporals frequently fill OR-5 equivalent posts.

United States

United States Army

In the U.S. Army Corporal (CPL) is preceded by the first three forms of Private and the rank of Specialist. A Corporal ranks above a Specialist and below a Sergeant, but 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, including Specialists. A promotion from Specialist to Corporal is a lateral appointment; an increase in rank, but not in pay grade.
Currently, very few soldiers are made Corporal. Most go from Private First Class to Specialist to Sergeant. However, Corporals are found in many combat units. The typical criterion for promotion to Corporal is that the Specialist must be serving in a leadership position that would typically be occupied by an NCO such as a Sergeant.
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.
The rank of Corporal is the only rank in the United States Army that was never removed from the NCO Corps since the earliest days of the Army. }}

United States Marine Corps

Corporal (Cpl) is the fourth enlisted rank in the U.S. Marine Corps, 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 large jump in authority and responsibility compared to promotion from Private through Lance Corporal. It is also the first Marine rank requiring competition among peers rather than simple "time in grade" promotions and therefore sometimes difficult to attain. 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. Because of 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.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

NCO, acting corporal, acting sergeant, altar cloth, baldacchino, baldachin, baptismal font, bodily, carnal, centurion, cerecloth, chancel screen, chief warrant officer, chrismal, color sergeant, corporeal, earthly, fanon, first sergeant, fleshly, havildar, hylic, jube, kneeling stool, lance corporal, lance sergeant, master sergeant, material, materiate, mess sergeant, naik, noncom, noncommissioned officer, nonspiritual, oblation cloth, paten, physical, piscina, platoon sergeant, prayer rug, prie-dieu, reredos, rood cloth, rood screen, sacrament cloth, sarge, secular, sergeant, sergeant first class, sergeant major, somatic, staff sergeant, stoup, substantial, technical sergeant, temporal, top sergeant, topkick, unspiritual, warrant officer, worldly
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