General, the highest military rank in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The U.S. Army and Air Force have five grades of generals: brigadier general (one star), major general (two stars), lieutenant general (three stars), general (four stars), and general of the army or general of the air force (five stars). The U.S. Marine Corps has the same grades, except for the five-star rank. A special rank, General of the Armies of the United States, was given by Congress to John J. Pershing, in 1919, and to George Washington, posthumously, in 1976.
Most foreign armies have several grades of generals, although their titles do not necessarily correspond to those of the United States armed forces. Few have a brigadier general. In some armies a marshal (or field marshal) ranks above a general. The American five-star rank was created in 1944 as the equivalent of a foreign marshal.
The title of general originated in the 16th century to refer to an officer whose command was not limited to one branch of the army.