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Polish Armed Forces rank insignia

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Title: Polish Armed Forces rank insignia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Insignia, Polish Navy, Major general, History of the Polish Army, Polish Army
Collection: Military Ranks of Poland
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Polish Armed Forces rank insignia

This article presents the ranks of the entire Polish Armed Forces as well as the rank insignia used today. The system of rank insignia is a direct descendant of various systems used throughout history by the Polish Army. Some of the grades trace their name back to the Middle Ages, for instance the rank of chorąży literally means a flag bearer or an Ensign.

Names of Polish ranks are often of foreign origin, like the ones introduced by the 17th-century mercenaries serving for the Polish Crown. These include the rank of kapral, which is a derivative of the Italian caporale - much like the English equivalent of corporal.

As the structure of Polish rank names substantially differs from the English one, it seems more appropriate to give the U.S. or U.K. equivalent ranks, based on the common NATO codes, rather than to provide a literal translation which can lead to numerous misinterpretations.


  • Origins 1
  • Customs 2
  • Marshal of Poland 3
  • Army (Land Forces) and Special Forces 4
    • Commissioned Ranks 4.1


Most rank titles are cognates to the ones in English, with some exceptions. Notably colonel's literal meaning is regimental-leader, likewise plutonowy means platoon-leader. Also, the title equivalent to petty officer is identical to the word for boatswain, so a Bosman may or may not be a bosman.

Until World War II, each of the branches of the Land Forces used a set of different names for the same grades. For instance a sergeant was called sierżant in the infantry, ogniomistrz (literally master of fire) in the artillery and wachmistrz (from German Wachtmeister, or Master of the Guards) in the cavalry. This is similar to the German army calling a cavalry officer which is equivalent to Hauptmann a Rittmeister

Modern polish military practices were heavily influenced by Prussian/German and Russian traditions, as most founding officers after 1918 independence were veterans of those respective armies.


The Polish language requires the use of a prior honorific before stating the addressee's rank e.g. 'Panie Kapitanie...' (Sir Captain...). This is directly equivalent to French practice where the possessive Mon is pre-pended to the addressee's rank. During the communist period use of the formal 'Pan' (Sir) was frowned upon and 'Obywatel' (Citizen) (as in: Obywatelu Kapitanie!) was used. This has reverted to prior style in the post-communist era.

It is customary to include other titles when referring to an officer in writing. This can lead to some interesting abbreviations. For example, a Lt. Col. in the airforce by the name Nowak who is a pilot and has a MSc in engineering would be written ppłk pil. mgr inż. Nowak. (LtCol plt MEng Nowak)

Uniquely, Polish forces use a two-fingered version of the salute, and the saluting custom does not allow saluting with the fingers to the head without having a headgear on (cap/beret or helmet).

Marshal of Poland

NATO Code OF-10

Armed Forces
Polish name Marszałek Polski
Abbreviation marsz.
English name Marshal of Poland
U.K. equivalent Field Marshal
U.S. equivalent General of the Army

Marshal of Poland (Marszałek Polski) is the highest rank in the Polish Armed Forces. Note that unlike the remaining ranks, it does not belong to any particular service but to the armed forces as a whole. So far only six individuals have been promoted to this rank. With the death of the last surviving holder, Michał Rola-Żymierski in 1989 the rank of Marshal of Poland has been vacant.

Army (Land Forces) and Special Forces

Commissioned Ranks

NATO Code OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1

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