ensign (rank)
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Ensign (;
Late Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest of 1066, until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments ...
, from
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French: ) was the language spoken in most of the northern half of France from approximately the 8th to the 14th centuries. Rather than a unified language, Old French was a linkage of Romance dialects, mutually intel ...
(), from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
(plural)) is a junior rank of a
commissioned officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an Military, armed force or Uniformed services, uniformed service. Broadly speaking, "officer" means a commissioned officer, a non-commissioned officer, or a warrant off ...
in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the
infantry Infantry is a military specialization which engages in ground combat on foot. Infantry generally consists of light infantry, mountain infantry, motorized infantry & mechanized infantry, airborne infantry, air assault infantry, and marine i ...
or
navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval warfare, naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral zone, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and ...
. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank acquired the name. This rank has generally been replaced in army ranks by
second lieutenant Second lieutenant is a junior Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1 rank. Australia The rank of second lieutenant existed in the Colonial forces of Australia, military forces of ...
. Ensigns were generally the lowest-ranking commissioned officer, except where the rank of subaltern existed. In contrast, the Arab rank of ensign, لواء, ''
liwa' Sanjaks (liwāʾ) (plural form: alwiyāʾ) * Armenian language, Armenian: նահանգ (''nahang''; meaning "province") * Bulgarian language, Bulgarian: окръг (''okrǔg''; meaning "county", "province", or "region") * el, Διοίκησι ...
'', derives from the command of units with an ensign, not the carrier of such a unit's ensign, and is today the equivalent of a
major general Major general (abbreviated MG, maj. gen. and similar) is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of ...
. In Thomas Venn's 1672 ''Military and Maritime Discipline in Three Books'', the duties of ensigns are to include not only carrying the color but assisting the captain and lieutenant of a company and in their absence, have their authority. "Ensign" is ''enseigne'' in French, and ''
chorąży Standard-bearer (Polish language, Polish: ''Chorąży'' ; Russian language, Russian and Ukrainian language, Ukrainian: , ''khorunzhiy''; ; ) is a military rank in Poland, Ukraine and some neighboring countries. A ''chorąży'' was once a knight who ...
'' in Polish, each of which derives from a term for a flag. The Spanish '' alférez'' and Portuguese '' alferes'' is a junior officer rank below lieutenant associated with carrying the flag, and so is often translated as "ensign". Unlike the rank in other languages, its etymology has nothing to do with flags, but instead comes from the
Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C ...
for "cavalier" or "knight". '' Fähnrich'' in German comes from an older German military title, ''Fahnenträger'' (flag bearer); however, it is an officer cadet rank, not a junior officer – the same applies to the Dutch '' vaandrig'', which has a parallel etymology. In the German
Landsknecht The (singular: , ), also rendered as Landsknechts or Lansquenets, were Germanic mercenaries used in pike and shot formations during the early modern period. Consisting predominantly of pikemen and supporting infantry, foot soldiers, their fron ...
armies (c. 1480), the equivalent rank of
cornet The cornet (, ) is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished from it by its conical Bore (wind instruments), bore, more compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B, thou ...
existed for those men who carried the troop standard (known as a "cornet"). It is still used in the artillery and cavalry units of the
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Neth ...
(''kornet'').


Estonia

In Estonian Defence Forces the equivalent of “ensign” is ''lipnik''. It is used mainly as a rank for reserve officers.


French speaking countries

During the '' Ancien Régime'' in France, as in other countries, the ensign (''enseigne'') was the banner of an infantry regiment. As in other countries, the name began to be used for the officers who carried the ensign. It was renamed
sub-lieutenant Sub-lieutenant is usually a junior officer rank, used in armies, navies and air forces. In most armies, sub-lieutenant is the lowest officer rank. However, in Brazil, it is the highest non-commissioned rank, and in Spain, it is the second high ...
(''sous-lieutenant'') at the end of the 18th century. The Navy used a rank of ship-of-the-line ensign (''enseigne de vaisseau''), which was the first officer rank. It was briefly renamed ship-of-the-line sub-lieutenant (''sous-lieutenant de vaisseau'') in the end of the 18th century, but its original name was soon restored. Within many French speaking countries, the rank is still used in the naval forces. The ranks are usually split into a first and second class ( and respectively).


New Zealand

The
Royal New Zealand Navy The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN; mi, Te Taua Moana o Aotearoa, , Sea Warriors of New Zealand) is the maritime arm of the New Zealand Defence Force. The fleet currently consists of nine ships. The Navy had its origins in the Naval Defence Act ...
, unlike the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were foug ...
– whose uniforms, insignia, and traditions it inherited – created the ensign grade to equal the lowest commissioned
RNZAF The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) ( mi, Te Tauaarangi o Aotearoa, "The Warriors of the Sky of New Zealand"; previously ', "War Party of the Blue") is the aerial warfare, aerial military service, service branch of the New Zealand Defence Fo ...
grade of
pilot officer Pilot officer (Plt Off officially in the RAF; in the RAAF and RNZAF; formerly P/O in all services, and still often used in the RAF) is the lowest Officer (armed forces)#Commissioned officers, commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the a ...
and the New Zealand Army grade of
second lieutenant Second lieutenant is a junior Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1 rank. Australia The rank of second lieutenant existed in the Colonial forces of Australia, military forces of ...
. It ranks above the grade of
midshipman A midshipman is an officer of the lowest Military rank#Subordinate/student officer, rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Royal Can ...
. Like the grade of pilot officer, it uses a single thin strip of braid. The fact that the Royal Navy has no real equivalent to the lowest commissioned
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
and
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
grades was one of the driving factors behind the RNZN's decision to create the ensign grade. Another was that, at the time, New Zealand was actively involved with the United States Armed Forces, so it made sense to balance the rank system out with that used by the
United States Navy The United States Navy (USN) is the maritime military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the eight uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most powerful navy in the world, with the es ...
.


United Kingdom

Until 1871, when it was replaced by
second lieutenant Second lieutenant is a junior Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1 rank. Australia The rank of second lieutenant existed in the Colonial forces of Australia, military forces of ...
, ensign was the lowest rank of
commissioned officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an Military, armed force or Uniformed services, uniformed service. Broadly speaking, "officer" means a commissioned officer, a non-commissioned officer, or a warrant off ...
in
infantry Infantry is a military specialization which engages in ground combat on foot. Infantry generally consists of light infantry, mountain infantry, motorized infantry & mechanized infantry, airborne infantry, air assault infantry, and marine i ...
regiments of the British Army (except
fusilier Fusilier is a name given to various kinds of soldiers; its meaning depends on the historical context. While fusilier is derived from the 17th-century French language, French word ''fusil'' – meaning a type of flintlock musket – the term has ...
and rifle regiments, and the Marines, which always used
second lieutenant Second lieutenant is a junior Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1 rank. Australia The rank of second lieutenant existed in the Colonial forces of Australia, military forces of ...
). It was the duty of officers of this rank to carry the colours of the regiment. In the 16th century, "ensign" was corrupted into "ancient", and was used in the two senses of a banner and the bearer of the banner. Today, the term "ensign" is still used by the Foot Guards regiments, for instance during the ceremony of
trooping the colour Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed every year in London London is the capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a population of just under 9 million. It stands on ...
. The equivalent cavalry rank was
cornet The cornet (, ) is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished from it by its conical Bore (wind instruments), bore, more compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B, thou ...
, also being derived from the name of a banner. File:British-Army-Ensign&SLt(1856-1880)-Collar Insignia.svg, 1856 to 1871 British Ensign's collar rank insignia


United States


Army

The rank of ensign was established in the U.S. Army by the act of September 29; 1789, (the first act of legislation after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution); each of the eight companies in the Regiment of Infantry was authorized one captain, one lieutenant and one ensign. With the passage of the act of April 30, 1790, the number of companies in the regiment of infantry was increased to 12 and each of the companies was authorized the same number of officers. The act of March 3, 1791 added a second regiment to the Army strength, doubling the total number of ensigns. With the organization of the
Legion of the United States The Legion of the United States was a reorganization and extension of the Continental Army The Continental Army was the army of the United Colonies (the Thirteen Colonies) in the American Revolution, Revolutionary-era United States. It w ...
authorized by the act of March 5, 1792, ensigns were retained in the companies of infantry and were included in the authorized strength of companies of rifles; in addition,
cornet The cornet (, ) is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished from it by its conical Bore (wind instruments), bore, more compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B, thou ...
s were added to the companies of dragoons. The ranks of ensign and
cornet The cornet (, ) is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished from it by its conical Bore (wind instruments), bore, more compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B, thou ...
were abolished in the
United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare, land military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight Uniformed services of the United States, U.S. uniformed services, and is designated as the Army o ...
in the Army Organization Act of 1815.


Navy

In the
United States Navy The United States Navy (USN) is the maritime military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the eight uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most powerful navy in the world, with the es ...
, the rank of ensign superseded passed midshipman in 1862. Ensign is the junior commissioned officer rank in the
United States Navy The United States Navy (USN) is the maritime military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the eight uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most powerful navy in the world, with the es ...
, the
United States Coast Guard The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the maritime security, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement, law enforcement military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country's eight Uniformed services ...
, the
United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), also referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, is the federal Uniformed services, uniformed service of the United States Public Health Se ...
, and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known informally as the NOAA Corps, is one of eight federal uniformed services of the United States, and operates under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administ ...
. This rank is also used in the U.S. Maritime Service and the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Ensign ranks below lieutenant junior grade, and it is equivalent to a
second lieutenant Second lieutenant is a junior Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1 rank. Australia The rank of second lieutenant existed in the Colonial forces of Australia, military forces of ...
in the U.S. Army, the
Marine Corps Marines, or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate in littoral zones in support of naval operations. Historically, tasks undertaken by marines have included helping maintain discipline and order aboard the ship (refle ...
, and the
Air Force An air force – in the broadest sense – is the national military branch that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an ar ...
. Where a newly commissioned ensign is assigned in the Navy is dependent on status as either an unrestricted line, restricted line, or staff corps officer. For unrestricted line officers, depending on assignment to which warfare community, prospective Surface Warfare Officers (SWO) will spend 22 weeks at Surface Warfare Officer School followed by assignment to a warship for qualification as a SWO. Prospective Submarine Warfare Officers will attend Naval Nuclear Power School for 26 weeks, followed by Nuclear Power Training Unit (Prototype) for 24 weeks and Submarine Officer Basic Course for 12 weeks before reporting to their first submarine. Prospective Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers have a 12 to 18 month flight training track to earn their wings, followed by a six to nine-month training track in a Fleet Replacement Squadron before being assigned to fly combat aircraft in a deployable Fleet aviation squadron. Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) Special Warfare Officers attend a 6-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course followed by a 4-month SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) course before assignment to a SEAL Team. Finally, Special Operations Officers, primarily Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) / Diver officers will have a training track similar in length to that of SEAL officers, to include schools for EOD, SCUBA, hard hat diving, airborne (parachutists) and combat arms skills training before assignment to their first operational assignment. Restricted Line officers, depending on designator, may train, qualify and be assigned as naval intelligence officers, naval cryptographic officers, aircraft maintenance duty officers, meteorologists/oceanographers, information professionals, human resources professionals, public affairs officers, or a host of other specialties. Still others may become staff corps officers in the Supply Corps, Civil Engineering Corps, Nurse Corps, Medical Service Corps, or be law school students or medical or dental school students in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, Medical Corps or Dental Corps, respectively.


Coast Guard

While the Coast Guard does not categorize its officers as unrestricted line, restricted line or staff corps, a similar career sorting and training process also takes place, ranging from those in operational fields such as cuttermen aboard Coast Guard cutters, Naval Aviators in Coast Guard Aviation, specialists in maritime safety and inspections, and a host of other Coast Guard officer career fields. All ensigns will become branch officers or division officers in their first operational assignments, responsible for leading a group of
petty officer A petty officer (PO) is a non-commissioned officer in many navy, navies and is given the NATO Military rank, rank denotation Ranks and insignia of NATO, OR-5 or OR-6. In many nations, they are typically equal to a sergeant in comparison to othe ...
s and
enlisted men An enlisted rank (also known as an enlisted grade or enlisted rate) is, in some armed services, any rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a ranking, ...
in one of the ship's, squadrons, team's or other organization's branches and divisions (for example, engineering, navigation, communications, sensors or weapons aboard a warship, or similar functions in the operations, aircraft maintenance, administrative or safety/NATOPS departments in a flying squadron) while at the same time receiving on-the-job training in leadership, naval systems, programs, and policies from higher-ranking officers and from senior enlisted men and women in the Chief Petty Officer rates. Navy and Coast Guard ensigns wear collar insignia of a single gold bar and because of this share the nickname "butterbars" with Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps second lieutenants, who wear the same insignia.


Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

In the
United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), also referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, is the federal Uniformed services, uniformed service of the United States Public Health Se ...
– a
uniformed service Uniformed services is an abstract term that are generally bodies of people in employment of a State (polity), state who wear a distinct uniform that differentiates them from the public sector, public and private sector. Their purpose is to maintai ...
in the
United States Public Health Service The United States Public Health Service (USPHS or PHS) is a collection of agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services concerned with public health, containing nine out of the department's twelve operating divisions. The Assistant S ...
— those wearing the rank of ensign are part of a commissioned officer student training, and extern program (COSTEP), either junior, for those with more than a year remaining of education in a commissionable degree (JRCOSTEP), or senior, for those within one year of graduating with a commissionable degree (SRCOSTEP). Some officers may hold a permanent rank of ensign based on their experience and education, but then can hold the temporary rank of lieutenant, junior grade.


NOAA Corps

In the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known informally as the NOAA Corps, is one of eight federal uniformed services of the United States, and operates under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administ ...
(NOAA Corps) – a
uniformed service Uniformed services is an abstract term that are generally bodies of people in employment of a State (polity), state who wear a distinct uniform that differentiates them from the public sector, public and private sector. Their purpose is to maintai ...
in the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (abbreviated as NOAA ) is an United States scientific and regulatory agency within the United States Department of Commerce that forecasts weather, monitors oceanic and atmospheric conditio ...
— ensign is the most junior rank. All NOAA Corps officers become ensigns via direct commissions.


Gallery

File:Belize Coast Guard OF-1a.svg, Ensign
( Belize Coast Guard) File:Generic-Navy-1.svg, Ensign
( Republic of Fiji Navy) File:Generic-Navy-(star)-O1.svg, Ensign
)
(
Irish Naval Service The Naval Service ( ga, An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh) is the maritime component of the Defence Forces of Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in ...
) File:US Navy O1 shoulderboard.svg, Ensign
( Liberian National Coast Guard) File:Generic-Navy-2.svg, Ensign
( Namibian Navy) File:RNZN OF-1a.svg, Ensign
(
Royal New Zealand Navy The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN; mi, Te Taua Moana o Aotearoa, , Sea Warriors of New Zealand) is the maritime arm of the New Zealand Defence Force. The fleet currently consists of nine ships. The Navy had its origins in the Naval Defence Act ...
) File:PN ENS BlkDr-Slv.svg, Ensign
(
Philippine Navy The Philippine Navy (PN) ( tgl, Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas, , Sea Army of the Philippines) ( es, Armada de Filipinas, , Ejército del Mar de las Filipinas) is the naval warfare service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It has an es ...
) File:Generic-Navy-1.svg, Ensign
(
South African Navy The South African Navy (SA Navy) is the naval warfare branch of the South African National Defence Force. The Navy is primarily engaged in maintaining a conventional military deterrent, participating in counter-piracy operations, fishery prote ...
) File:Generic-Navy-2.svg, Ensign
( Tanzania Naval Command) File:US Navy O1 insignia.svg, Ensign
(
United States Navy The United States Navy (USN) is the maritime military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the eight uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most powerful navy in the world, with the es ...
) File:USCG O-1 insignia.svg, Ensign
(
United States Coast Guard The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the maritime security, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement, law enforcement military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country's eight Uniformed services ...
) File:US PHS O1 insignia.svg, Ensign
(
United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), also referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, is the federal Uniformed services, uniformed service of the United States Public Health Se ...
) File:US NOAA O1 insignia.svg, Ensign
(
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known informally as the NOAA Corps, is one of eight federal uniformed services of the United States, and operates under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administ ...
)
(
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
)


French-speaking countries

File:Generic-Navy-3.svg,

(
Royal Canadian Navy The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN; french: Marine royale canadienne, ''MRC'') is the Navy, naval force of Canada. The RCN is one of three environmental commands within the Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2021, the RCN operates 12 frigates, four attack s ...
) File:Generic-Navy-2.svg,

(Royal Canadian Navy) File:France-Navy-OF-1b Sleeve.svg,
(
French Navy The French Navy (french: Marine nationale, lit=National Navy), informally , is the Navy, maritime arm of the French Armed Forces and one of the five Military branch, military service branches of France. It is among the largest and most powerfu ...
) File:France-Navy-OF-1a Sleeve.svg,
(French Navy) File:11. Madagascar Navy - SLT.svg,
( Madagascar Navy) File:10. Madagascar Navy - ENS.svg,
(Madagascar Navy)


See also

* U.S. Navy officer rank insignia *
Comparative military ranks This article is a list of various Sovereign state, nations' armed forces military rank, ranking designations. Comparisons are made between the different systems used by nations to categorize the hierarchy of an armed force compared to another. S ...
*
Sub-lieutenant Sub-lieutenant is usually a junior officer rank, used in armies, navies and air forces. In most armies, sub-lieutenant is the lowest officer rank. However, in Brazil, it is the highest non-commissioned rank, and in Spain, it is the second high ...
* ''
Signifer A ''signifer'' () was a Standard-bearer, standard bearer of the Roman legions. He carried a ''signum'' (Colours, standards and guidons, standard) for a cohort (military unit), cohort or centuria, century. Each century had a ''signifer'' so ther ...
'' * ''
Vexillarius image:PraetorianVexillifer 1.jpg, left, A Historical reenactment, reenactor, equipped as a ''vexillifer'', with a ''vexillum'' standard Vexillarius is a term referring to one of several distinct types of Roman soldier. A vexillarius or vexillifer ...
''


References

*''Division Officer's Guide''. James Stavridis and Robert Girrier. Naval Institute Press, 2004. .


External links


The Definition of Ensigns – Chapter I.
{{DEFAULTSORT:Ensign (Rank) Military ranks Military ranks of Germany Military ranks of the British Army Military ranks of the United States Coast Guard Military ranks of the United States Navy Naval ranks