In the corps (Police, army, ...) there are grades that go from Private, lieutenant, ... general.

What do you say when some officer rank is lowered in status?

Say that he is a General and for bad behaviour he is taken back to be a Private.

  • 29
    That would have to be some incredibly bad behavior. Aug 28, 2017 at 21:17
  • 3
    See General demoted to Lt Colonel: "An Army spokesman says [the Maj. Gen.] was demoted by three steps to the rank of lieutenant colonel, a steep and rare downgrade for a senior officer". See here for Lt demoted to private in WWI.
    – ab2
    Aug 29, 2017 at 0:04
  • 2
    @GeoffAtkins Cashiering represents dismissal (and originally with the loss of the cash amount spent purchasing the commission, hence the word). Degradation might be more appropriate, but I think demotion is a less intense alternative
    – Henry
    Aug 29, 2017 at 10:23
  • 4
    "I am altering your rank, pray I don't alter it any further."
    – Stevoisiak
    Aug 29, 2017 at 13:59
  • 1
    In most modern militaries you can't demote an officer to an enlisted rank, AFAIK. Aug 29, 2017 at 15:30

3 Answers 3


How do you say when some officer get's his rank lowered the status?.

Say that he is a General and for bad behaviour his is taken back to be a Private

The noun would be "demotion", the verb "demote".


  • 28
    Common slang for this in the US is "busted" - "He was busted back down to Private." Aug 28, 2017 at 17:53
  • 15
    @JeffZeitlin: Good point, but it might be worth clarifying that this slang is always used with the preposition "down". "He was busted to private" wouldn't be idiomatic. Aug 28, 2017 at 21:21
  • 8
    @ruakh Doesn't it usually refer to some variation of being caught or arrested? Aug 29, 2017 at 6:05
  • 4
    @MichaelSeifert - A good point in response. Yes, "busted" for rank is almost invariably accompanied by down; perhaps I should have written that the slang is "busted down" instead of just "busted". Without the "down", and without an explicit rank indication, it could mean (as can-ned_food points out) "caught" or "arrested". Aug 29, 2017 at 11:24
  • 5
    @JeffZeitlin "busted back" is a variation I've seen, e.g. "He was busted back to Private". Aug 29, 2017 at 13:48

In the British army the phrase is reduced to the ranks.

The following is the OED entry on the very term:

b. orig. Mil. to reduce to (formerly also †into) the ranks: to demote (a non-commissioned officer) to the rank of private; (more generally) to strip (any officer or official) of his or her seniority; to demote. Also in extended use.>

?1758 C. W. Direct. Execution Militia Act 9 To serjeants to be reduced into the ranks, which is the purport of this clause.

1768 Gen. Wolfe's Instr. Young Officers 58 The lieutenant-colonel is determined to reduce to the ranks all such as are wilfully negligent, or too ignorant for their stations.

1800 Caledonian Mercury (Electronic text) 20 Dec. Before this took place, the Emperor [sc. the Czar of Russia] met him, and in consequence, he was reduced to the ranks, and his servant made an officer in his place.

1844 Queen's Regulations & Orders Army 149 Non-commissioned Officers may be reduced to the Ranks by the Sentence of a Regimental or other Court-Martial.

1869 T. W. Higginson Malbone ii. 69 The girls complained that in private theatricals no combination of disguises could reduce Kate to the ranks, nor give her the ‘make-up’ of a waiting-maid.

1908 S. M. Crothers By Christmas Fire v. 208 He rebukes even the Captains of Industry, and when they answer insolently, he suggests that they be reduced to the ranks.

1967 S. Mackay Old Crow vi. 31 She had once deprived a vicar of his living and, as a girl, had a captain reduced to the ranks.

1993 S. McAughtry Touch & Go vii. 54 Instead of being reduced to the ranks and put on shithouse fatigues, he was transferred to Air-Sea Rescue on Walrus amphibians.

  • 14
    The OED generalizes as "to demote", but I would not use this expression when the destination rank is not "in the ranks". It's perfect for the example of general to private, but in my humble opinion not appropriate for a captain demoted to lieutenant.
    – Law29
    Aug 28, 2017 at 21:43
  • @Law29 Originally that appears to have been the case. However nowadays it has taken on a more general meaning of demotion - perhaps because it carries a sense of drama.
    – WS2
    Aug 28, 2017 at 22:07
  • Demote is just the antonym of Promote. It has no other special use or meaning. Just as a Private might be promoted to Corporal or Captain to a Major, so a Sargeant might be Demoted to Corporal and a General to Colonel.
    – Paul Smith
    Aug 29, 2017 at 12:04

Not single word answers but within the non-commissioned ranks you would talk of someone "losing a stripe" or "losing his stripes" and I have even heard of someone losing a pip when reduced in rank within the lower commissioned ranks.

For someone who committed a serious enough offence to lose their commission without simply being either jailed or dishonourably discharged, (a delicate balancing act), they would be "stripped of their commission" -- note that this is not the same as being decommissioned. Or, if busted all the way back to private, "stripped of all rank".

I think I can remember a case or two in the history books where an officer was stripped of all rank before being hung or shot usually for cowardice, either because 1 officer stripped of commission and 1 enlisted man shot is better in the reports than an officer shot, or to add ignominy to the punishment.

Finally we get to the single word answer cashiered - i.e. stripped of all rank or position due to some misconduct but with the additional connotations of a ritual humiliation thrown it.

  • 1
    I think you meant "losing", not "loosing". At least it would match the connotation of what the poster was asking. That depends on whether or not the subject of the conversation intended to lose rank. Isn't English fun?
    – Suncat2000
    Aug 31, 2017 at 11:58
  • @Suncat2000 - Spot on - that is what I get for posting at 3:30 a.m. Aug 31, 2017 at 15:48

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