Exercise Wessex Storm 2020 MOD 45167356.jpg
French army soldiers at Salisbury Plain, England, Exercise Wessex Storm 2020.
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Fields of
A Nepalese soldier on field training
A Nepalese soldier on field training

A soldier is a person who is a member of an army. A soldier can be a conscripted or volunteer enlisted person, a non-commissioned officer, or an officer.


The word soldier derives from the Middle English word soudeour, from Old French soudeer or soudeour, meaning mercenary, from soudee, meaning shilling's worth or wage, from sou or soud, shilling.[1] The word is also related to the Medieval Latin soldarius, meaning soldier (literally, "one having pay").[2] These words ultimately derive from the Late Latin word solidus, referring to an Ancient Roman coin used in the Byzantine Empire.[1][2]

Occupational designations

ROK army infantry soldiers during exercise, May 2014
ROK army infantry soldiers during exercise, May 2014

In most armies 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 (a member of tank crew), commando, dragoon, infantryman, guardian, artilleryman, paratrooper, grenadier, ranger, sniper, engineer, sapper, craftsman, signaller, medic, or a gunner.

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 British Army are known as "red caps" because of the colour of their caps (and berets).

Infantry are sometimes called "grunts" (in the United States Army) or "squaddies" (in the British Army), while U.S. Army artillery crews, or "gunners," are sometimes referred to as "redlegs", from the service branch color for artillery.[3] U.S. soldiers are often called "G.I.s" (short for the term "General Issue").

French Marine Infantry are called "porpoises" (French: marsouins) 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.


Soldiers in war have various different motivations for fighting including protecting their stated homeland, personal interests and ideological goals. Soldiers have reported not fighting for any national interests or ideological goal but commonly the friendship and connection with their other soldiers through mutual aid, this type of organization is described by horizontal connection.[4][5]

Career and conscripted

Some soldiers, such as conscripts or draftees, serve a single limited term. Others choose to serve until retirement; then they receive a pension and other benefits. In the United States, military members can get retirement pay after 20 years.[6] In other countries, the term of service is 30 years, hence the term "30-year man".

See also


  1. ^ a b Mish, Frederick C., ed. (2004). "soldier". Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. ISBN 0-87779-809-5.
  2. ^ a b Harper, Douglas (2010). "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  4. ^ Verweij, Desiree (6 December 2007). "Comrades or Friends? On Friendship in the Armed Forces". Journal of Military Ethics. 6 (4): 280–291. doi:10.1080/15027570701755398. S2CID 144653282 – via
  5. ^ Connable, Ben; McNerney, Michael; Marcellino, William; Frank, Aaron; Hargrove, Henry; Posard, Marek; Zimmerman, S.; Lander, Natasha; Castillo, Jasen; Sladden, James (9 December 2018). "Will to Fight: Analyzing, Modeling, and Simulating the Will to Fight of Military Units". RAND Corporation EBooks – via The second type of cohesion at the unit level is social cohesion. Mission accomplishment develops bonds. Social cohesion is bonding based on friendship, trust, and other aspects of interpersonal relationships. The essential argument here is that soldiers fight because of the close interpersonal bonds formed in their primary social group through shared experience and hardship. Social cohesion includes both horizontal (peer) and vertical (leader) bonds in the so-called standard model of military group cohesion.67 Some research on U.S. military forces after the Vietnam War questioned the primacy of social cohesion, but it is consistently emphasized in contemporary scholarship.68
  6. ^ "20-Year Retirement". Retrieved 8 March 2012.