Major, John, 1469-1550, Scottish theologian and historian. He studied and taught at the Univ. of Paris. His works, all in Latin, were published there. He was one of the most famous teachers of scholastic philosophy of his day, at Paris and later at the Univ. of Glasgow and at St. Salvator's College, St. Andrews. The best known of his works is Historia Majoris Britanniae, tam Angliae quam Scotiae (Paris, 1521; Edinburgh, 1740). His History of Greater Britain, both England and Scotland was the first critical history of Scotland. An English translation by Archibald Constable was published (1892) with a biography by Aeneas J. G. Mackay. Major's name was also spelled Mair.
Major, John, 1943-, British statesman, b. John Major Ball. Raised in a working-class area of London, he was elected to Lambeth borough council (1968-71) and entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1979. He became Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's chief secretary to the Treasury in 1987, foreign secretary in 1989, and, later that year, chancellor of the exchequer. A Thatcher loyalist, he became her successor after she withdrew from the 1990 party elections. Diplomatic and respected, even by the opposition, he moderated the Thatcher government's controversial poll tax and its opposition to greater integration into the European Community (now the European Union). He provided military support to the United States in the Persian Gulf War (1991). In 1992, Major and the Conservatives again defeated Labour in a national election. Despite a political setback in 1992 when his government could no longer support the minimum exchange level of the pound within the exchange-rate mechanism of the European Monetary System, Major was able to win ratification of the Treaty of European Union (Maastricht Treaty) in 1993. In 1994 his government's representatives participated in the negotiation of a cease-fire in Northern Ireland. Although party infighting, policy changes, and scandals eroded his parliamentary and public support, Major was reaffirmed as Conservative party leader in 1995. After the Conservatives were defeated by Tony Blair and Labour in a landslide in 1997, Major resigned as party leader; he retired from Parliament in 2001

See E. Pearce, The Quiet Rise of John Major (1991).

Major is a military rank the use of which varies according to country. Depending on the country, the rank derives either from "Captain-Major", a rank of senior captain, or "Sergeant-Major" a rank of senior sergeant.

In most countries Major derives from Captain-Major and denotes a mid-level command status officer (immediately superior to the rank of Captain and immediately subordinate to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel). Where major derives from sergeant major, notably in France, major is a senior sub-officer rank.

Early history

In considering terms of rank it is important to understand that the early evolution of the terms often was outside of English, and that the term always has been of essentially international distribution. In general European usage, the rank of Major originates from Romance comparative adjectives with the sense of Latin maior (also spelled major), meaning 'senior' and 'greater'. Historically all Majors, Sergeants Major, and Major Generals (to use English forms) derive from the rank, or rather the office of Sergeant Major. The Sergeant Major was the senior sergeant responsible for marshalling a battalion of pike. He was presumably the senior Company Sergeant from among the companies providing the pikemen, or at least a commissioned officer considered analogous to such a non-commissioned officer (sergeant). Hence, Major is an abbreviation of Sergeant Major: the (Sergeant) Major 'the senior sergeant'. This is obscured in French and English, by the later evolution of a separate, non-commissioned rank called sergent major or Sergeant Major. Similarly, the rank of Major General is truncated from original Sergeant Major General 'the sergeant major or sergeant major-like soldier with general authority over the marshalling of the whole army'. Originally, there existed a single Sergeant Major General in each major field force.

The original usage is illustrated in the first recorded(?) English (1643) attestation, as "Sergeant-Major", 'the third-in-command of a regiment'. The early German equivalent was Feld Wachtmeister, in which Field functions as major and Wachtmeister ('watch master' or 'quarter[-ing] master') is the more commonly used term for a cavalry sergeant. Similarly we early on find Spanish Majors referred to Sargento Major.

In several European navies, the rank of Major was used in the sense or form "Pilot-Major" to denote the senior deck officer of a vessel in contrast to the Captain (or Captain General) who was typically an Army officer, with little naval knowledge, assigned to command the mission on which a vessel was embarked. The English equivalent of this usage is Master, as opposed to the Captain or Commander.

In the Spanish navy of the 16th and 17th centuries, the captain's principal seaman was the "maestre" (master) who was responsible for the maritime operation of the ship. Next in the chain of command was the "piloto" (pilot) responsible for the safe navigation of the ship. A flagship's pilot was the "piloto mayor" (chief or major pilot) who determined the course of the whole squadron.

Officer rank

In most comparative military scales a Major is a senior officer ranking above company grade ranks that usually include captain and between one and three lower subaltern officer ranks. In the NATO rank code, Major as a Level 3 officer. The naval equivalent to a Major is, in some nations, the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

By the time of the English Civil War, Major had become a rank in itself, and was assigned to mid-level officers on the battlefield, and was most often used by those serving as aides to a superior General.

Non-commissioned rank

In the French military, a major is the most senior non-commissioned rank. This rank can only be awarded by senior NCO (adjudants-chefs), after a very selective exam. Officially it is not a non-commissioned rank, but an intermediate rank between non-commissioned and commissioned.

Use as a suffix

The rank of Major may still be found in its original form as a suffix (either hyphenated or not), to denote an officer more senior to the base rank. As a suffix, major derives from a comparative adjective major 'greater' and 'senior' following the modified Romance language noun; e.g. Adjutant-Major, and Colonel-Major. It is also still commonly used in the rank of Sergeant Major, and is also used in ceremonial appointments such as Drum-Major and Pipe-Major.

In Argentina, the armed forces all use the rank of sub-officer-major as the highest non-commissioned rank. The army and air force also use the officer rank of major. The army has a rank of colonel-major, but this is essentially an automatic promotion for long-serving colonels rather than a functional rank in its own right. The Argentine National Gendarmerie uses the rank of commandant-major, which is roughly equivalent to a colonel or chief superintendent in the commonwealth.

It is similarly still used as a prefix for the General officer rank of Major-General, which is similarly used in many other languages (e.g. General-Major in Dutch).

Links to Major ranks by country

Links to ranks equivalent to Major by country

See also


External links

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