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German soldiers in Bosnia
Activity sectors Military
Competencies Physical

A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary.[1] The majority of cognates of the word "soldier" that exist in other languages have a meaning that embraces both commissioned and non-commissioned officers in national land forces.



The word soldier entered modern English in the 14th century, from the equivalent Middle English word soudeour, from Anglo-French soudeer or soudeour, meaning mercenary, from soudee, meaning shilling's worth or wage, from sou or soud, shilling.[2] The word is also related to the Medieval Latin soldarius, meaning soldier (literally, "one having pay").[3] These words were ultimately derived from the Late Latin word solidus, referring to an Ancient Roman coin used in the Byzantine Empire.[2][3]

Occupational designations

In most armed forces use of the word soldier has taken on a more general meaning, due to the increasing specialization of military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill-sets. As a result, "soldiers" are referred to by names or ranks which reflect an individual's military occupation specialty arm, service or branch of military employment, their type of unit, or operational employment or technical use such as: trooper, tanker, commando, dragoon, infantryman, marine, paratrooper, ranger, sniper, engineer, sapper, medic, or a gunner.

U.S. Army soldiers on patrol in Iraq
British Army soldiers on exercise
Canadian Army soldiers on urban warfare training

Other terms

In many countries soldiers serving in specific occupations are referred to by terms other than their occupational name. For example military police personnel in the UK are known as "redcaps" from the colour of their berets or other headwear.

In the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, infantrymen are called "grunts", while artillerymen are sometimes referred to as "redlegs", from the branch color for artillery. US soldiers are often called "G.I.s".

French Marine Infantry are called marsouins (French: porpoises) because of their amphibious role.[citation needed] Military units in most armies have nicknames of this type, arising either from items of distinctive uniform, some historical connotation or rivalry between branches or regiments.

U.S. Marines are sometimes called "jar-heads" because of their "high and tight" haircuts and the way they wear their hats makes their heads look like the cap of a jar or decanter.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "mercenary." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 16 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b Mish, Frederick C., ed (2004). "soldier". Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. ISBN 0-87779-809-5. 
  3. ^ a b Harper, Douglas (2010). "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 

External links

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