A soldier is one who fights as part of an army. A soldier can be a Conscription or volunteer Enlisted rank, a non-commissioned officer, or an officer. An individual who fights on behalf of a polity which is not their own, is referred to as a mercenary.
[Steinhoff, Uwe. "What are mercenaries?." Private Military and Security Companies. Routledge, 2009. 33-43.]
The word soldier
derives from the Middle English
word soudeour, from Old French
soudeer or soudeour, meaning mercenary, from soudee, meaning shilling
's worth or wage, from sou or soud, shilling.
The word is also related to the Medieval Latin
soldarius, meaning soldier (literally, "one having pay").
These words ultimately derive from the Late Latin
word solidus, referring to an Ancient Rome
coin used in the Byzantine Empire
In most armies use of the word "soldier" has taken on a more general meaning due to the increasing specialization of military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill-sets. As a result, "soldiers" are referred to by names or ranks which reflect an individual's military occupation specialty arm, service, or branch of military employment, their type of unit, or operational employment or technical use such as: trooper,
(a member of tank crew), commando
, ranger, sniper
, Combat Engineer
, craftsman, signaller
, Combat medic
, or a gunner.
In many countries soldiers serving in specific occupations are referred to by terms other than their occupational name. For example, military police
personnel in the British Army
are known as "red caps" because of the colour of their caps (and berets).
Infantry are sometimes called "grunts" (in the United States Army) or "squaddies" (in the British Army), while U.S. Army artillery crews, or "gunners," are sometimes referred to as "redlegs", from the service branch color for artillery. U.S. soldiers are often called "G.I.s" (short for the term "General Issue").
French Marine Infantry are called marsouins (porpoises) because of their amphibious role. Military units in most armies have nicknames of this type, arising either from items of distinctive Military uniform, some historical connotation or rivalry between branches or regiments.
Career soldiers and conscripts
Some soldiers, such as Conscription
or draftees, serve a single limited term. Others choose to serve until retirement; then they receive a pension and other benefits. In the United States, military members can retire after 20 years.
In other countries, the term of service is 30 years, hence the term "30-year man".
Women as soldiers
According to the United Nations, 10-30% of all soldiers worldwide are women. 70-90% are men.