Other forms: generals; generalled; generalling

If I ask you to give me a general sense of how a car works, I'm looking for you to describe the two or three main principals in a few minutes, not to open the hood, take apart your engine, and tell me everything you know.

General comes from the French word générale, which means "common to all people," but we use it for more than just people. You might inquire about the general habits of schoolchildren, or the general temperature at night in the desert. And when someone's a general in the army or another organization, like the Surgeon General of the United States, for example, that means they oversee everything. So "general" is a high ranking, because generals are in charge of so many.

Definitions of general
  1. adjective
    applying to all or most members of a category or group
    “the general public”
    general assistance”
    “a general rule”
    “in general terms”
    “comprehensible to the general reader”
    comprehensive, overarching
    including all or everything
    not marked by fine distinctions
    broad, unspecific
    not detailed or specific
    all-purpose, general-purpose
    not limited in use or function
    relating to or applicable to an entire class or group
    lacking fine distinctions or detail
    involving only main features
    existing everywhere
    applicable to or common to all members of a group or set
    widely circulated or diffused
    not precise
    unspecialised, unspecialized
    not specialized or modified for a particular purpose or function
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    (sometimes followed by `to') applying to or characterized by or distinguishing something particular or special or unique
    ad hoc
    for or concerned with one specific purpose
    fully detailed and specific about particulars
    limited, special
    having a specific function or scope
    particular, peculiar, special
    unique or specific to a person or thing or category
    separate and distinct from others of the same group or category
    particularised, particularized
    directed toward a specific object
    limited to the thing specified
    (followed by `to') applying exclusively to a given category or condition or locality
    sharply exact or accurate or delimited
    specialised, specialized
    developed or designed for a special activity or function
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  2. adjective
    of worldwide scope or applicability
  3. adjective
    prevailing among and common to the general public
    “the general discontent”
    having no special distinction or quality; widely known or commonly encountered; average or ordinary or usual
  4. adjective
    not specialized or limited to one class of things
    general studies”
    general knowledge”
    not diversified
  5. adjective
    somewhat indefinite
    “bearing a general resemblance to the original”
    “a general description of the merchandise”
    not precise
  6. adjective
    affecting the entire body
    “a general anesthetic”
    general symptoms”
    affecting an entire system
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    affecting only a restricted part or area of the body
    localised, localized
    confined or restricted to a particular location
    pertaining to the surface of a body part
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  7. noun
    a fact about the whole (as opposed to particular)
    “he discussed the general but neglected the particular”
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    particular, specific
    a fact about some part (as opposed to general)
    type of:
    a piece of information about circumstances that exist or events that have occurred
  8. noun
    the head of a religious order or congregation
    synonyms: superior general
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    type of:
    chief, head, top dog
    a person who is in charge
  9. noun
    a general officer of the highest rank
    synonyms: full general
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    Gnaeus Julius Agricola
    Roman general who was governor of Britain and extended Roman rule north to the Firth of Forth (37-93)
    ancient Athenian statesman and general in the Peloponnesian War (circa 450-404 BC)
    Antigonus Cyclops
    a general of Alexander the Great and king of Macedonia; lost one eye; killed in a battle at Ipsus (382-301 BC)
    Marcus Antonius
    Roman general under Julius Caesar in the Gallic wars; repudiated his wife for the Egyptian queen Cleopatra; they were defeated by Octavian at Actium (83-30 BC)
    Benedict Arnold
    United States general and traitor in the American Revolution; in 1780 his plan to surrender West Point to the British was foiled (1741-1801)
    Byzantine general under Justinian I; he recovered former Roman territories in northern Africa and fought against the Persians
    (Old Testament) Babylonian general and son of Nebuchadnezzar II; according to the Old Testament he was warned of his doom by divine handwriting on the wall that was interpreted by Daniel (6th century BC)
    El Libertador
    Venezuelan statesman who led the revolt of South American colonies against Spanish rule; founded Bolivia in 1825 (1783-1830)
    Omar Nelson Bradley
    United States general who played an important role in the Allied victory in World War II (1893-1981)
    Braxton Bragg
    Confederate general during the American Civil War who was defeated by Grant in the battle of Chattanooga (1817-1876)
    Gentleman Johnny
    British general in the American Revolution who captured Fort Ticonderoga but lost the battle of Saratoga in 1777 (1722-1792)
    Ambrose Everett Burnside
    United States general in the American Civil War who was defeated by Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Fredericksburg (1824-1881)
    Gaius Julius Caesar
    conqueror of Gaul and master of Italy (100-44 BC)
    Chiang Chung-cheng
    Chinese military and political figure; in the Chinese civil war that followed World War II he was defeated by the Chinese communists and in 1949 was forced to withdraw to Taiwan where he served as president of Nationalist China until his death (1897-1975)
    First Duke of Marlborough
    English general considered one of the greatest generals in history (1650-1722)
    Mark Wayne Clark
    United States general who was Allied commander in Africa and Italy in World War II and was commander of the United Nations forces in Korea (1896-1984)
    Karl von Clausewitz
    Prussian general and military theorist who proposed a doctrine of total war and war as an extension of diplomacy (1780-1831)
    Lucius DuBignon Clay
    United States general who commanded United States forces in Europe from 1945 to 1949 and who oversaw the Berlin airlift (1897-1978)
    Baron Clive of Plassey
    British general and statesman whose victory at Plassey in 1757 strengthened British control of India (1725-1774)
    First Marquess Cornwallis
    commander of the British forces in the American War of Independence; was defeated by American and French troops at Yorktown (1738-1805)
    Oliver Cromwell
    English general and statesman who led the parliamentary army in the English Civil War (1599-1658)
    Butcher Cumberland
    English general; son of George II; fought unsuccessfully in the battle of Fontenoy (1721-1765)
    George Armstrong Custer
    United States general who was killed along with all his command by the Sioux at the Battle of Little Bighorn (1839-1876)
    Moshe Dayan
    Israeli general and statesman (1915-1981)
    Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle
    French general and statesman who became very popular during World War II as the leader of the Free French forces in exile (1890-1970)
    Demetrius Poliorcetes
    son of Antigonus Cyclops and king of Macedonia; he and his father were defeated at the battle of Ipsus (337-283 BC)
    James Harold Doolittle
    United States Air Force officer who electrified the world in 1942 by leading a squadron of 16 bombers on a daylight raid over Tokyo (1896-1993)
    Baron Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding
    British marshal of the RAF who commanded the British air defense forces that defeated the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain (1882-1970)
    Dwight David Eisenhower
    United States general who supervised the invasion of Normandy and the defeat of Nazi Germany; 34th President of the United States (1890-1961)
    Prince Eugene of Savoy
    Austrian general in the service of the Holy Roman Empire during the War of the Spanish Succession (1663-1736)
    Gaius Flaminius
    Roman statesman and general who built the Flaminian Way; died when he was defeated by Hannibal (died 217 BC)
    Francisco Franco
    Spanish general whose armies took control of Spain in 1939 and who ruled as a dictator until his death (1892-1975)
    Giuseppe Garibaldi
    Italian patriot whose conquest of Sicily and Naples led to the formation of the Italian state (1807-1882)
    Ulysses Simpson Grant
    18th President of the United States; commander of the Union armies in the American Civil War (1822-1885)
    Leslie Richard Groves
    United States general who served as military director of the atomic bomb project (1896-1970)
    general who commanded the Carthaginian army in the second Punic War; crossed the Alps and defeated the Romans but was recalled to defend Carthage and was defeated (247-182 BC)
    Sir Arthur Travers Harris
    British marshal of the Royal Air Force; during World War II he directed mass bombing raids against German cities that resulted in heavy civilian casualties (1892-1984)
    general who commanded a Carthaginian army in Spain; joined his brother Hannibal in Italy and was killed by the Romans at the battle of Metaurus River (died 207 BC)
    Paul Ludwig von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg
    German field marshal and statesman; as president of the Weimar Republic he reluctantly appointed Hitler as chancellor in 1933 (1847-1934)
    (Apocrypha) the Assyrian general who was decapitated by the biblical heroine Judith
    Fighting Joe Hooker
    United States general in the Union Army who was defeated at Chancellorsville by Robert E. Lee (1814-1879)
    Samuel Houston
    United States politician and military leader who fought to gain independence for Texas from Mexico and to make it a part of the United States (1793-1863)
    Andrew Jackson
    7th president of the US; successfully defended New Orleans from the British in 1815; expanded the power of the presidency (1767-1845)
    Thomas Jonathan Jackson
    general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War whose troops at the first Battle of Bull Run stood like a stone wall (1824-1863)
    Joseph Eggleston Johnston
    Confederate general in the American Civil War; led the Confederate troops in the West (1807-1891)
    Joseph ben Matthias
    Jewish general who led the revolt of the Jews against the Romans and then wrote a history of those events (37-100)
    Robert Edward Lee
    American general who led the Confederate Armies in the American Civil War (1807-1870)
    Lucius Licinius Lucullus
    Roman general famous for self-indulgence and giving lavish banquets (circa 110-57 BC)
    Lucius Licinius Luculus
    Roman general famous for giving lavish banquets (110-57 BC)
    Spartan general who defeated the Athenians in the final battle of the Peloponnesian War (died in 395 BC)
    Macedonian general under Alexander the Great; with Seleucus he defeated Antigonus and Demetrius at the battle of Ipsus (circa 355-281 BC)
    Douglas MacArthur
    United States general who served as chief of staff and commanded Allied forces in the South Pacific during World War II; he accepted the surrender of Japan (1880-1964)
    George Catlett Marshall
    United States general and statesman who as Secretary of State organized the European Recovery Program (1880-1959)
    George Gordon Meade
    United States general in charge of the Union troops at the Battle of Gettysburg (1815-1872)
    Athenian general who defeated the Persians at Marathon (540-489)
    William Mitchell
    United States aviator and general who was an early advocate of military air power (1879-1936)
    1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
    English general during World War II; won victories over Rommel in North Africa and led British ground forces in the invasion of Normandy (1887-1976)
    Napoleon Bonaparte
    French general who became emperor of the French (1769-1821)
    Duc d'Elchingen
    French marshal in the Napoleonic Wars (1769-1815)
    John Joseph Pershing
    United States general who commanded the American forces in Europe during World War I (1860-1948)
    George Edward Pickett
    American Confederate general known for leading a disastrous charge at Gettysburg (1825-1875)
    Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
    Roman general and statesman who quarrelled with Caesar and fled to Egypt where he was murdered (106-48 BC)
    Colin luther Powell
    United States general who was the first African American to serve as chief of staff; later served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush (born 1937)
    Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur
    French general who commanded French troops in the American Revolution, notably at Yorktown (1725-1807)
    Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
    Mexican general who tried to crush the Texas revolt and who lost battles to Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War (1795-1876)
    Hermann Maurice Saxe
    a French marshal who distinguished himself in the War of the Austrian Succession (1696-1750)
    Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major
    Roman general who commanded the invasion of Carthage in the second Punic War and defeated Hannibal at Zama (circa 237-183 BC)
    Winfield Scott
    United States general who was a hero of the War of 1812 and who defeated Santa Anna in the Mexican War (1786-1866)
    Seleucus I Nicator
    Macedonian general who accompanied Alexander the Great into Asia; founded a line of kings who reigned in Asia Minor until 65 BC (358-281 BC)
    William Tecumseh Sherman
    United States general who was commander of all Union troops in the West; he captured Atlanta and led a destructive march to the sea that cut the Confederacy in two (1820-1891)
    Indian general and nawab of Bengal who opposed the colonization of India by England; he captured Calcutta in 1756 and many of his prisoners suffocated in a crowded room that became known as the Black Hole of Calcutta; he was defeated at the battle of Plassey by a group of Indian nobles in alliance with Robert Clive (1728-1757)
    Joseph Warren Stilwell
    United States general who commanded the Allied forces in China and Burma and India during World War II (1883-1946)
    Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix
    Roman general and dictator (138-78 BC)
    Albrecht Eusebius Wenzel von Wallenstein
    Austrian general who fought for the Hapsburgs during the Thirty Years' War (1583-1634)
    President Washington
    1st President of the United States; commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution (1732-1799)
    Archibald Percival Wavell
    British field marshal in North Africa in World War II; he defeated the Italians before being defeated by the Germans (1883-1950)
    Mad Anthony Wayne
    American general during the American Revolution (1745-1796)
    First Duke of Wellington
    British general and statesman; he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo; subsequently served as Prime Minister (1769-1852)
    Greek general and historian; student of Socrates (430-355 BC)
    Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov
    Soviet general who during World Warr II directed the counteroffensive at Stalingrad and relieved Leningrad and captured Berlin (1896-1974)
    Blucher, G. L. von Blucher, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, von Blucher
    Prussian general who is remembered for his leadership in the wars against Napoleon (1742-1819)
    type of:
    general officer
    officers in the Army or Air Force or Marines above the rank of colonel
  10. verb
    command as a general
    “We are generaled by an incompetent!”
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    type of:
    be in command of




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