Navy Traditions and Customs
Why is the Colonel Called "Kernal"?
The Origin of the Ranks and Rank Insignia Now Used by the United
States Armed Forces
Private comes from the Latin word privus or perhaps
privo that meant an individual person and later an individual
without (deprived of) an office. That certainly describes a Private
in our Army or Marine Corps. The term as a military rank seems
to come from the Sixteenth Century when individuals had the privilege
of enlisting or making private contracts to serve as private soldiers
in military units. Before the Sixteenth Century many armies were
simply feudal levies in which the feudal lords forced their serfs
or subjects to serve.
Airman is a recent word that means somebody involved with flying. The Air Force gave that title to the members of its four lowest enlisted ranks in 1952.