The rank can be traced back to the militaries of Europe where a brigadier general, or simply a brigadier, would command a brigade in the field. The rank spread throughout the world after being adopted in the 18th century by the United States with simultaneous spreading of the rank by the British Empire.
In the Commonwealth of Nations the equivalent rank is normally Brigadier, while many other countries use the rank of brigade general. A few countries use Major General as the equivalent of Brigadier General, rather than as the rank above. These are countries which then generally use a rank of Colonel General to make four general officer ranks.
The Argentine Army does not use the rank of brigadier-general, instead using the equivalent rank of brigade general (in Spanish general de brigada).
The Bangladesh Army introduced the rank of Brigadier General in 2001, however the grade stayed equivalent to Brigadier . Brigadier General is equivalent to Commodore of Bangladesh Navy & Air Commodore of Bangladesh Air Force. It is still more popularly called Brigadier (One Star General).
The Belgian Army uses the rank of général de brigade (French) and brigadegeneraal (Dutch). However, in this small military there are no permanent promotions to this rank, and it is only awarded as a temporary promotion to a full colonel who assumes a post requiring the rank, notably in an international context (e.g. as Military Attaché in a major embassy such as Washington, D.C.).
The rank title "brigadier-general" is still used notwithstanding that brigades in the army are now commanded by colonels. Until the late 1990s brigades were commanded by brigadier-generals. In the air force context, brigadier-generals used to command air force "Groups" until these bodies were abolished in the late 1990s.
The rank insignia for a brigadier-general is a single gold maple leaf beneath crossed sword and baton, all surmounted by St. Edward's Crown, worn on the shoulder straps of the service dress jacket, and on slip-ons on other uniforms. The service dress jacket also features a wide strip of gold braid around the cuff. On the visor of the service cap are two rows of gold oak leaves; the air force wedge cap features gold braid on the edges of the ear flaps. The cap insignia for a general officer is a modified version of the Canadian Forces insignia; the collar insignia (Army generals only) is two crossed sabres. Some brigadier-generals, by nature of holding a branch-specific appointment, may continue to wear the insignia of their personnel branch; for example, the chaplain-general wears the general officer's cap insignia with the collar insignia of the Chaplain Branch, while the surgeon-general continues to wear the cap and collar insignia of the Canadian Forces Medical Service.
Brigadier-generals are addressed by rank and name; thereafter by subordinates as "Sir" or "Ma'am". They are normally entitled to staff cars.
Note: Before unification in 1968 of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Navy, rank structure and insignia followed the British pattern. In army usage, the term "brigadier" was used to denote what is now known as a brigadier-general while the air force used the term "Air Commodore".
The equivalent modern German rank is Brigadegeneral. The concept of a brigadier general rank is relatively new, as prior to 1950 the lowest German general officer rank was generalmajor, which was often considered equivalent to brigadier general in other armies.
Notice that Iranian Revolutionary Guards also use this rank. The difference is in salutation. One refers an army or air force brigadier general as "Timsar Sar-Tip", while a revolutionary guard general is referred to as "Sardar Sar-Tip". As an unwritten rule which states the highest Iranian military rank to be the rank of a Majorgeneral the Brigadier General is considered to be second highest rank of Iranian military. Which is customly the rank of the commander of Airforce and equvalantly the Navy.
Brigadier General is equivalent to brigadier in the Pakistan army, commodore in the Pakistan Navy and air commodore in the Pakistan Air Force. Brigadier is also called a one star general. Like other armies, this rank is higher than colonel and lower than major general.
In the Turkish Army and the Turkish Air Force, the equivalent rank is Tuğgeneral (the Turkish Navy equivalent would be Tuğamiral). The name is derived from tugay, the Turkish word for a brigade. Both tugay and tuğ- as military terms may owe their origins to the older Turkish word tuğ, meaning horsetail, which was used as a symbol of authority and rank in Ottoman and pre-Ottoman times.
It was abolished in both the army and the marines in 1922, being replaced in the army by the grade of Colonel Commandant (which already existed in the marines). Colonel Commandant was in turn replaced by the grade of Brigadier in the army in 1928, and at some time between World War II and 1957 in the marines.
Brigadier-General was a temporary rank only, bestowed on a colonel or lieutenant-colonel (or on a colonel commandant in the marines) for the duration of a specific command.
The insignia for the rank was a crossed sword and baton on its own; higher grades of general at the time and still consist of this device with the addition of a star, crown or both for a full general.
Brigadier is the highest field officer rank (hence absence of the word "general"), whereas brigadier-general was the lowest general officer rank. However, the two ranks are considered equal.