The word "admiral" in Middle English comes from Anglo-French admiral, "commander", from Medieval Latin admiralis, admirallus. These themselves come from Arabic "amir", or amir-al- أمير الـ, "commander of the" (as in amir-al-baHr أمير البحر "commander of the sea"). Crusaders learned the term during their encounters with the Arabs, perhaps as early as the 11th century.
The Norman Roger II of Sicily (1095–1154), employed a Greek Christian known as George of Antioch, who previously had served as a naval commander for several North African Moslem rulers. Roger styled George in Abbasid fashion as "Amir of Amirs", i.e. "Commander of Commanders", with the title becoming Latinized in the 13th century as "ammiratus ammiratorum".
The Sicilians and later Genoese took the first two parts of the term and used them as one word, admiral, from their Aragon opponents. The French and Spanish gave their sea commanders similar titles while in Portuguese the word changed to Almirante. As the word was used by people speaking Latin or Latin-based languages it gained the "d" and endured a series of different endings and spellings leading to the English spelling "admyrall" in the 14th century and to "admiral" by the 16th century.
The word "admiral" has today come to be almost exclusively associated with the highest naval rank in most of the world's navies, equivalent to the army rank of (full) general. However, this wasn't always the case; for example, in some European countries prior to the end of World War II, admiral was the third highest naval rank after general admiral and grand admiral.
The rank of admiral has also been subdivided into various grades, several of which are historically extinct while others remain in use in most present day navies. The Royal Navy used colours (red, white, and blue, in descending order) to indicate seniority of its admirals until 1864; for example, Horatio Nelson's highest rank was vice admiral of the white. The generic term for these naval equivalents of army generals is the flag officer. Some navies have also used army-type titles for them, such as the Cromwellian "general at sea".
Admiral Insignias by CountryEdit
The rank insignia for an admiral often involves four stars and/or 3 stripes/rings over a broad stripe/ring, but as one can see below, there are many cases where the insignia do not involve four stars.
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