Ensign (rank)

NaviesArmiesAir forces
Commissioned officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Field marshal or
General of the Army
Marshal of
the air force
AdmiralGeneralAir chief marshal
Vice admiralLieutenant generalAir marshal
Rear admiralMajor generalAir vice-marshal
CommodoreBrigadier or
brigadier general
Air commodore
CaptainColonelGroup captain
CommanderLieutenant colonelWing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
LieutenantCaptainFlight lieutenant
junior grade
Lieutenant or
first lieutenant
Flying officer
Ensign or
Second lieutenantPilot officer
Officer cadetOfficer cadetFlight cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officerSergeantSergeant
Leading seamanCorporal or
SeamanPrivate or
gunner or
Aircraftman or

Ensign (ən/, Late Middle English, from Old French enseigne (12c.) "mark, symbol, signal; flag, standard, pennant", from Latin insignia (plural)) is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank acquired the name. This rank has generally been replaced in army ranks by second lieutenant.[1] Ensigns were generally the lowest ranking commissioned officer, except where the rank of subaltern existed.[2] In contrast, the Arab rank of ensign, لواء, liwa', derives from the command of units with an ensign, not the carrier of such a unit's ensign, and is today the equivalent of a major general.

In Thomas Venn's 1672 Military and Maritime Discipline in Three Books, the duties of ensigns are to include not only carrying the colour but assisting the captain and lieutenant of a company and in their absence, have their authority.[3]

"Ensign" is enseigne in French, and chorąży in Polish, each of which derives from a term for a flag. The Spanish alférez and Portuguese alferes is a junior officer rank below lieutenant associated with carrying the flag, and so is often translated as "ensign". Unlike the rank in other languages, its etymology has nothing to do with flags, but instead comes from the Arabic for "cavalier" or "knight". Fähnrich in German comes from an older German military title, Fahnenträger (flag bearer); however, it is an officer cadet rank, not a junior officer - the same applies to the Dutch vaandrig, which has a parallel etymology. In the German Landsknecht armies (c. 1480), the equivalent rank of a Cornet existed for those men who carried the troop standard (known as a "cornet"). It is still used in the artillery and cavalry units of the Netherlands (kornet).

The NATO rank code is OF-1 (junior).


In Argentina, the rank of ensign is used by both the air force and the gendarmerie. It is, however, used differently in the two services. The air force uses the rank for newly qualified officers, while the gendarmerie uses "ensign" ranks as an equivalent for the army's "lieutenant" ranks.

Argentine Air Force Rank Argentine Gendarmerie Rank Equivalent Commonwealth Ranks for comparison
Ensign Subensign Acting pilot officer / 2nd lieutenant
Lieutenant Ensign Pilot officer / 2nd lieutenant
First lieutenant First ensign Flying officer / lieutenant

The other armed forces of Argentina have ranks equivalent to ensign: subteniente (which can be translated into English as "sublieutenant") in the army and guardiamarina (midshipman) in the navy".[4] In the army, the most junior sublieutenant in a regiment (or other unit) is also the flag carrier.

Other Languages
Deutsch: Alférez
eesti: Lipnik
Ελληνικά: Σημαιοφόρος
español: Alférez
lietuvių: Ensainas
português: Alferes
русский: Энсин
Simple English: Ensign (rank)
українська: Енсін (звання)