1. of or relating to all persons or things belonging to a group or category: a general meeting of the employees.
  2. of, relating to, or true of such persons or things in the main, with possible exceptions; common to most; prevalent; usual: the general mood of the people.
  3. not limited to one class, field, product, service, etc.; miscellaneous: the general public; general science.
  4. considering or dealing with overall characteristics, universal aspects, or important elements, especially without considering all details or specific aspects: general instructions; a general description; a general resemblance one to another.
  5. not specific or definite: I could give them only a general idea of what was going on.
  6. (of anesthesia or an anesthetic) causing loss of consciousness and abolishing sensitivity to pain throughout the body.
  7. having extended command or superior or chief rank: the secretary general of the United Nations; the attorney general.


  1. Military.
    1. U.S. Army and Air officer ranking above a lieutenant general and below a general of the army or general of the air force.
    2. U.S. officer of any of the five highest ranks: a brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, general, or general of the army.
    3. U.S. Marine officer holding the highest rank in the corps.
    4. (in numerous armies) an officer in the highest, second, or third highest rank, as one ranking immediately below a field marshal in the British army.
  2. Ecclesiastical. the chief official of a religious order.
  3. something that is general; generality.
  4. Archaic. the general public.

  1. in general,
    1. with respect to the whole class referred to; as a whole: He likes people in general.
    2. as a rule; usually: In general, the bus is here by 9 a.m.


  1. a diminutive hero of folk tales.
  2. an extremely small person; dwarf.
  3. General, nickname of Charles Sherwood Stratton.


  1. common; widespreada general feeling of horror at the crime
  2. of, including, applying to, or participated in by all or most of the members of a group, category, or community
  3. relating to various branches of an activity, profession, etc; not specializedgeneral office work
  4. including various or miscellaneous itemsgeneral knowledge; a general store
  5. not specific as to detail; overalla general description of the merchandise
  6. not definite; vaguegive me a general idea of when you will finish
  7. applicable or true in most cases; usual
  8. (prenominal or immediately postpositive) having superior or extended authority or rankgeneral manager; consul general
  9. Also: pass designating a degree awarded at some universities, studied at a lower academic standard than an honours degreeSee honours (def. 2)
  10. med relating to or involving the entire body or many of its parts; systemic
  11. logic (of a statement) not specifying an individual subject but quantifying over a domain


  1. an officer of a rank senior to lieutenant general, esp one who commands a large military formation
  2. any person acting as a leader and applying strategy or tactics
  3. a general condition or principle: opposed to particular
  4. a title for the head of a religious order, congregation, etc
  5. med short for general anaesthetic
  6. archaic the people; public
  7. in general generally; mostly or usually


  1. General, stage name of Charles Stratton. 1838–83, US midget, exhibited in P. T. Barnum’s circus
  2. a dwarf; midget

c.1200, “comprehensive, inclusive, full,” from Latin generalis “relating to all, of a whole class” (contrasted with specialis), from genus (genitive generis) “stock, kind” (see genus). General store attested by 1810, American English; a general hospital (1737) is one not restricted to one class of persons or type of disease.


late 14c., “whole class of things or persons,” from general (adj.). Meaning “commander of an army” is 1570s, shortening of captain general, from Middle French capitaine général. The English adjective was affixed to civic officer designations by late 14c. to indicate superior rank and extended jurisdiction.

A thumb-sized hero of children’s stories from the sixteenth century on.

see in general; on (general) principle.

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