Nickname given to members of African American cavalry regiments of the U.S. Army who served in the western U.S. (1867–96). An 1866 law authorized the army to form cavalry and infantry regiments of African American men under the command of white officers; the result was the 9th and 10th cavalries and the 38th through 41st infantries. The primary mission of the cavalry regiments was to control Indians on the western frontier (the nickname “buffalo” was given by the Indians). The soldiers took part in almost 200 engagements. Noted for their courage and discipline, they had the army's lowest desertion and court-martial rates. One of the 10th Cavalry's officers was John Pershing, whose nickname “Black Jack” reflected his advocacy on behalf of African American troops.
Learn more about buffalo soldier with a free trial on Britannica.com.
A soldier is a general English term that refers to a member of a land component of national armed forces. In most societies of the world, "soldier" is also a general term for any member of the land forces including commissioned or non-commissioned officers.
The word soldier is derived from an Old French word, itself a derivation of Solidarius, Latin for someone who served in the armed forces for pay, as opposed to warriors in tribal society where every grown man is automatically a member of his clan's fighting force. Solidare in Latin means "to pay"; Roman soldiers were paid in solidi, so-called because they were a new type of solid silver coin brought in after a reform of the Roman monetary system.
In the Russian language the word soldier is also "солдат" ("soldat"), although it is not related to the Russian word for money, but was borrowed from German use. In some languages the word soldier is derived from different etymology, for example Estonian "sõdur" is derived from word "sõda," which means "war." And Finnish "sotilas" or "soturi", and "sota" meaning "war".
In most armed forces the word soldier has been mostly abandoned with increasing specialisation in military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill-sets, and have been replaced by names which reflect Arm, Service or Branch of individual's service, type of unit or operational employment or technical use such as: trooper, Commando, dragoon, infantryman, marine, paratrooper, ranger, sniper, engineer, sapper, or a gunner.