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Captain Aarne Juutilainen, also called "The Terror of Morocco" by Finnish troops, was well known as a soldier in the French Foreign Legion and one of the war heroes of the Winter War.[1]
Captain Aarne Juutilainen, also called "The Terror of Morocco" by Finnish troops, was well known as a soldier in the French Foreign Legion and one of the war heroes of the Winter War.[1]

The army rank of captain (from the French capitaine) is a commissioned officer rank historically corresponding to the command of a company of soldiers. The rank is also used by some air forces and marine forces. Today, a captain is typically either the commander or second-in-command of a company or artillery battery (or United States Army cavalry troop or Commonwealth squadron). In the Chinese People's Liberation Army, a captain may also command a company, or be the second-in-command of a battalion.

In NATO countries, the rank of captain is described by the code OF-2 and is one rank above an OF-1 (lieutenant or first lieutenant) and one below an OF-3 (major or commandant). The rank of captain is generally considered[by whom?] to be the highest rank a soldier can achieve while remaining in the field.

In some militaries, such as United States Army and Air Force and the British Army, captain is the entry-level rank for officer candidates possessing a professional degree, namely, most medical professionals (doctors, pharmacists, dentists) and lawyers. In the U.S. Army, lawyers who are not already officers at captain rank or above enter as lieutenants during training, and are promoted to the rank of captain after completion of their training if they are in the active component, or after a certain amount of time, usually one year from their date of commission as a lieutenant, for the reserve components.

The rank of captain should not be confused with the naval rank of captain, or with the UK-influenced air force rank of group captain, both of which are equivalent to the army rank of colonel.


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The term ultimately goes back to Late Latin capitaneus meaning "chief, prominent";[2] in Middle English adopted as capitayn in the 14th century, from Old French capitaine.

The military rank of captain was in use from the 1560s, referring to an officer who commands a company. The naval sense, an officer who commands a man-of-war, is somewhat earlier, from the 1550s, later extended in meaning to "master or commander of any kind of vessel". A captain in the period prior to the professionalization of the armed services of European nations subsequent to the French Revolution, during the early modern period, was a nobleman who purchased the right to head a company from the previous holder of that right. He would in turn receive money from another nobleman to serve as his lieutenant. The funding to provide for the troops came from the monarch or his government; the captain had to be responsible for it. If he was not, or was otherwise court-martialed, he would be dismissed ("cashiered"), and the monarch would receive money from another nobleman to command the company. Otherwise, the only pension for the captain was selling the right to another nobleman when he was ready to retire.

Air forces

Many air forces, such as the United States Air Force, use a rank structure and insignia similar to those of the army.

However, the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force, many other Commonwealth air forces and a few non-Commonwealth air forces[3] use an air force-specific rank structure in which flight lieutenant is OF-2. A group captain is OF-5 and was derived from the naval rank of captain.

In the unified system of the Canadian Forces, the air force rank titles are pearl grey and increase from OF-1 to OF-5 in half strip increments.[4]

Equivalent captain ranks

Rank name Country name
Akhmad Mongolia
Bo Gyi (ဗိုလ်ကြီး) Myanmar
Capitaine France and most Armed forces modelled after the French Armed Forces
Canada (Fr.)
Belgium (Fr.)
Switzerland (Fr.)
Capitano Italy
Capitán Spain
Capitão Brazil
Capitão Portugal
Căpitan Romania
Hauptmann Austria
Switzerland (De.)
Đại Úy Vietnam
Hauptsturmführer Waffen-SS
Jeg-tooran (جګتورن) Afghanistan
"Kapitán", Capitán, Captain Philippines
Kapetan (Капетан) Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia
Kapitan (Капитан) Russia
Kapitan Poland
Kapitan Azerbaijan
Kapitan (Капитан) Bulgaria
Kapitan (Капітан) Ukraine
Kapitani Georgia
Kapitein Netherlands
Belgium (Nl.)
Kapteinis Latvia
Kapitonas Lithuania
Kapitán Czech Rep.
Kapitán Slovakia
Kaptajn Denmark
Kaptan (کپتان) Pakistan
Kapteeni Finland
Kaptein Norway
Kapten Indonesia/Malaysia
Kapten Sweden
Lochagos (Λοχαγός) Greece
Naqeeb (نقيب) All Arabic-speaking countries except for Algeria, Palestine, and Tunisia
Phu Kong (ผู้กอง) Thailand
Roi Ek (ร้อยเอก) Thailand
Sarvān (سروان) Iran
Satnik Croatia
Stotnik Slovenia
Seren (סרן) Israel
Shambel (ሻምበል) Ethiopian Army and Air force
Shangwei (上尉), China
Shangwei (上尉), Taiwan
Százados Hungary
Taewi (대위) South Korea
Taii (大尉), Ichii (一尉) Japan
Yüzbaşı Turkey


A variety of images illustrative of different forces' insignia for captain (or captain-equivalents) are shown below:

See also



  1. ^ Mäkelä, Jukka L. (1969). Marokon Kauhu [Terror of Morocco] (in Finnish). Porvoo: W. Söderström (WSOY). OCLC 3935082.
  2. ^ căpĭtānĕus. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  3. ^ Non-Commonwealth air forces using an air force-specific rank structure include the Egyptian Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman, Royal Thai Air Force and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
  4. ^ Force, Government of Canada, National Defence, Royal Canadian Air. "Article - Royal Canadian Air Force - Backgrounder - New insignia for the Royal Canadian Air Force".
  5. ^ Defense Logistics Agency (27 May 2016). "Insignia, Rank, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy and Captain, U.S. Marine Corps". Quick Search Assist. Building 4/D, 700 Robbins Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111-5094: DLA Document Services. Retrieved 13 November 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: location (link)