AskDefine | Define commander

Dictionary Definition



1 an officer in command of a military unit [syn: commanding officer, commandant]
2 someone in an official position of authority who can command or control others
3 a commissioned naval officer who ranks above a lieutenant commander and below a captain
4 an officer in the airforce [syn: air force officer]

User Contributed Dictionary




commander (plural: commanders)
  1. One who exercises control and direction of a military or naval organization.
  2. A naval officer whose rank is above that of a lieutenant commander and below that of captain.
  3. One who exercises control and direction over a group of persons.


One who exercises control and direction of a military or naval organization
A naval officer whose rank is above that of a lieutenant commander and below that of captain
One who exercises control and direction over a group of persons



  1. to order


Extensive Definition

Commander is a military rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the military, particularly in police and law enforcement.

Commander as a military rank

Commander is a military rank used in many navies and some air forces but is very rarely used as a rank in armies. The rank (originally "Master and Commander") originated in the 18th and early 19th centuries to describe lieutenants that were "captains" of smaller ships such as sloops or brigs. The Royal Navy shortened "Master and Commander" to just "Commander" in 1794.

Royal Navy

A commander in the British Royal Navy is above the rank of lieutenant-commander, below the rank of captain, and is equivalent in rank to a lieutenant colonel in the army. A commander may command a frigate, destroyer, submarine, aviation squadron or shore installation, or may serve on a staff.

Royal Australian Navy

A Commander in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is identical in description to a Commander in the British Royal Navy. RAN Chaplains who are Division 1, 2 and 3 (of 5 divisions) have the equivalent rank standing of Commanders but do not wear this rank on their uniform.

Royal Air Force

Since the British Royal Air Force's middle-ranking officers' designations are modelled after the Royal Navy's, the term wing commander is used as a rank and is equivalent to a lieutenant colonel in the army or commander in the navy. The rank is above Squadron Leader and below Group Captain.
In the now defunct Royal Naval Air Service, which amalgamated with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force in 1918, pilots held appointments as well as their normal Royal Navy ranks, and wore insignia appropriate to the appointment instead of the rank. Flight commander wore a star above a lieutenant's two rank stripes, squadron commander wore two stars above two rank stripes (less than eight years' seniority) or two-and-a-half rank stripes (over eight years seniority), and wing commander wore three rank stripes. The rank stripes had the usual Royal Navy curl, and were surmounted by an eagle.

Canadian Navy

United States

Commander as a military title

British Army

In the British Army, the term "commander" is officially applied to the non-commissioned officer in charge of a section (section commander), vehicle (vehicle commander) or gun (gun commander), to the subaltern or captain commanding a platoon (platoon commander), or to the brigadier commanding a brigade (brigade commander). Other officers commanding units are usually referred to as the Officer Commanding (OC), Commanding Officer (CO), General Officer Commanding (GOC), or General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-C), depending on rank and position, although the term "commander" may be applied to them informally.

United States Army

In the United States Army, the term "commander" is officially applied to the commanding officer of army units; hence, there are company commanders, battalion commanders, brigade commanders, and so forth. At the highest levels of U.S. military command structure, "commander" also refers to what used to be called commander-in-chief, or CINC, until October 24, 2002, although the term CINC is still used in casual speech.

United States Air Force

In the Air Force, the term "commander" (abbreviated "CC" in office symbols, i.e. "OG/CC" for "Operations Group Commander") is officially applied to the commanding officer of an Air Force unit; hence, there are flight commanders, squadron commanders, group commanders, wing commanders, and so forth. In rank, a flight commander is typically a Lieutanant or Captain, a squadron commander is typically a Major or Lieutenant Colonel, a group commander is typically a Colonel, and a wing commander is typically a senior Colonel or a Brigadier General.
An "Aircraft Commander" is also designated for all flights of United States Air Force Aircraft. This individual must be a pilot and an officer that has graduated from an formal aircraft commander course and is designated on flight orders by the unit commander for that particular flight. This individual is in command of all military personnel on the aircraft regardless of rank (even individuals that out-rank the aircraft commander).

Commander as a non-military rank or title

NASA rank

In NASA spacecraft missions since the beginning of Project Gemini, one crew member on each spacecraft is designated as Mission Commander. The Commander is the captain of the ship, and makes all real-time critical decisions on behalf of the crew and in coordination with the Mission Control Center (MCC).

British police rank

Commander is also a senior police rank in the two London police forces, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police Service. It is senior to Chief Superintendent in both forces and junior to Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police and Assistant Commissioner in the City of London Police. It equates to Assistant Chief Constable in other forces. The Metropolitan Police introduced the rank in 1946, when they split the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner (with senior DACs keeping that rank title and junior DACs being regraded as Commanders). The Metropolitan Police also had a rank of Deputy Commander, ranking just below Commander, between 1946 and 1968. In addition, officers in charge of policing each of London's boroughs are given the title of "Borough Commander", although they hold the rank of Chief Superintendent, not Commander.

United States police rank

The Los Angeles Police Department is one of the few American police departments which use this rank. A Commander in the LAPD is equivalent to an Inspector in other US departments (such as the NYPD); the LAPD rank was originally called Inspector as well, but was changed in 1974 to Commander after senior officers voiced a preference for the more military-sounding rank.
Commander is also utilized by larger Sheriff's Departments in the United States. The rank usually falls between Chief Deputy and Captain, which is three positions removed from the sheriff. The Clark County Sheriff's Office in southwest Washington state uses the rank of Commander. It falls between the rank of Sergeant and the rank of Assistant Chief. The insignia worn by a Clark County Sheriff's Office Commander is a gold oak leaf, the same insignia worn by a Major in the Army or Air Force.
The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) also uses the rank of Commander. The rank falls between those of Inspector and Assistant Chief.
The Rochester, NY Police Department (RPD) uses the rank of Commander. Higher than Captain and below Deputy Chief, the rank is achieved by appointment. Commander is the rank held by the two patrol division heads and other Commanders fill various administrative roles. The St. Paul Police Department (MN) is another police force that uses the rank of commander. In the St. Paul Police department, Commanders serve as the chief of the district/unit that they oversee.
Many police departments in the midwest (exception being the Chicago Police Department) use the rank of commander. It is equivalent to a lieutenant in most other departments, being above a sergeant and below a deputy chief or captain.
Commander is also used as a title in certain circumstances, such as the Commander of a squad of Detectives, who would usually be of the rank of Lieutenant.

Incident Command System

In the Incident Command System the Incident Commander is in charge of the response to an emergency. The title may pass from person to person as the incident develops.

Military and chivalric orders

The title of Commander is used in the Military Orders, such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, for a member senior to a Knight. The title of Knight Commander is often used to denote an even higher rank. These conventions are also used by most of the continental orders of chivalry. The United Kingdom uses different classifications.
In most of the British Orders of Knighthood, the grade of Knight (or Dame) Commander is the lowest grade of knighthood, but is above the grade of Companion (which does not carry a knighthood). In the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of the British Empire, the grade of Commander is senior to the grade of Lieutenant or Officer respectively, but junior to that of Knight or Dame Commander. In the British Order of St. John, a Commander ranks below a Knight. (However, Knights of the Order of St. John are not called "Sir.")

In common usage

"Commander" may sometimes be used by laymen, usually applied to the person who is accountable for and holds authority over a group or the attempts of a group to achieve a common goal.

In fiction

commander in Catalan: Comandant
commander in German: Fregattenkapitän
commander in Spanish: Capitán de Fragata
commander in Spanish: Comandante
commander in French: Capitaine de frégate
commander in Italian: Capitano di fregata
commander in Norwegian: Kommandørkaptein
commander in Polish: Komandor porucznik
commander in Portuguese: Comandante
commander in Finnish: Komentajakapteeni
commander in Swedish: Kommendörkapten

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

A per se, ADC, CO, OD, ace, admiral, aide, aide-de-camp, boatswain, boss, brigadier, brigadier general, captain, castellan, champion, chatelain, chatelaine, chicken colonel, chief, chief engineer, chief mate, chief of staff, chief petty officer, colonel, commandant, commander in chief, commanding officer, commissioned officer, commodore, company officer, dean, deck officer, director, ensign, exec, executive, executive officer, field marshal, field officer, first lieutenant, five-star general, fleet admiral, four-star general, fugleman, general, general officer, generalissimo, genius, governor, head, higher-up, intendant, jemadar, junior officer, laureate, leader, lieutenant, lieutenant colonel, lieutenant commander, lieutenant general, lieutenant junior grade, major, major general, manager, marechal, marshal, master, mate, naval officer, navarch, navigating officer, navigator, nonpareil, officer, one-star general, orderly officer, paragon, patron, petty officer, pipes, principal, prodigy, quartermaster, rear admiral, risaldar, ruler, sailing master, second mate, senior, senior officer, shavetail, shipmaster, sirdar, skipper, staff officer, star, subahdar, subaltern, sublieutenant, superior, superman, superstar, the Old Man, the brass, the greatest, the most, three-star general, top brass, top dog, two-star general, vice admiral, virtuoso, warrant officer, watch officer
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