squad (n.)

1640s, "small number of military men detailed for some purpose," from French esquade, from French escadre, from Spanish escuadra or Italian squadra "battalion," literally "square," from Vulgar Latin *exquadra "to square," from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + quadrare "make square," from quadrus "a square" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Before the widespread use of of automatic weapons, infantry troops tended to fight in a square formation to repel cavalry or superior forces. Extended to sports 1902, police work 1905.

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zouave (n.)
member of a French light infantry troop, 1848, from French, from Arabic Zwawa, from Berber Igawawaen, name of a Kabyle tribe in Algeria, from which the zouaves originally were recruited in 1831. The military units soon became exclusively French but served only in Algeria until 1854 and were "distinguished for their dash, intrepidity, and hardihood, and for their peculiar drill and showy Oriental uniform" [Century Dictionary]. Some Northern regiments in the American Civil War adopted the name and elements of the uniform. The women's fashionable zouave jacket (1859) also is based on the uniform.
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cohort (n.)

early 15c., "company of soldiers, band of warriors," from French cohorte (14c.) and directly from Latin cohortem (nominative cohors) "enclosure," with meaning extended to "infantry company" in the Roman army through the notion of "enclosed group, retinue;" from assimilated form of com "with" (see co-) + a root akin to hortus "garden," from PIE *ghr-ti-, from PIE root *gher- (1) "to grasp, enclose."

Sense of "accomplice" is first recorded 1952, American English, from meaning "group united in common cause" (1719). In demographics, "group of persons having a common statistical characteristic" (originally being born in the same year), 1944.

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janizary (n.)

also janisary, "elite Turkish infantry," 1520s, from French janissaire (15c.), from Italian giannizzero, from Turkish yenicheri, literally "new troops," from yeni "new." The second element means "soldiery, but is said to have been conformed to the Italian form from an original Turkish asker (plural asakir) "army, soldier," from Arabic 'askar "army, troop." Formed 1362 from slaves and prisoners of war, until late 17c. largely recruited from converts to Islam and by compulsory conscription of Christian subjects. In later times Turks and other Muslims joined the corps because of the various privileges attached to it; it was abolished 1826. Related: Janizarian; Janisarian.

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ensign (n.)
early 15c., "a token, sign, symbol; badge of office, mark or insignia of authority or rank;" also "battle flag, flag or banner of a ship or troop of soldiers," via Scottish, from Old French enseigne (12c.) "mark, symbol, signal; flag, standard, pennant," from Latin insignia (plural); see insignia, which is a doublet of this word. As the word for the soldier who carries the flag, 1510s. U.S. Navy sense of "commissioned officer of the lowest rank" is from 1862. French navy had rank of enseigne de vaisseau at least since early 18c. Until 1871 one of the lowest grades of commissioned officers in a British army infantry regiment, also a rank in the American Revolutionary army.
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musket (n.)

"firearm for infantry" (later replaced by the rifle), 1580s, from French mousquette, also the name of a kind of sparrow-hawk, diminutive of mosca "a fly," from Latin musca (see midge). The hawk so called either for its size or because it looks speckled when in flight.

Early firearms often were given names of beasts (compare dragoon, also falcon, a kind of cannon mentioned by Hakluyt), and the equivalent word in Italian was used to mean "an arrow for a crossbow." Wedgwood also compares culverin, a simple early sort of firearm, from French couleuvrine, from couleuvre "grass snake."

French mousquette had been borrowed earlier into Middle English (late 14c.; c. 1200 as a surname) in its literal sense of "sparrow-hawk."

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plaid (n.)

1510s, "garment consisting of a long piece of woolen cloth, often having a tartan pattern, traditionally worn in Scotland," from Scottish, from or related to Gaelic plaide "blanket, mantle," a word of uncertain etymology, perhaps a contraction of peallaid "sheepskin," from peall "skin," from Latin pellis (but OED finds this "phonetically improbable").

It is a large rectangular piece of woolen stuff, and is worn in Scotland by both sexes for warmth and for protection against the weather. It is a special dress of the Highlanders, and forms part of the uniform of certain infantry regiments in the British army. A variety of the plaid is called maud. [Century Dictionary]

The wearing of it by males was forbidden by Act of Parliament, under penalty of transportation, 1746-82. The meaning "a pattern of bars crossing each other at right angles" is by 1890. As an adjective, "ornamented with a pattern of bars or stripes of color crossing one another at right angles," c. 1600, from the noun.

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G.I. (adj.)
also GI, 1936 as an adjective meaning "U.S. Army equipment," American English, apparently an abbreviation of Government Issue, and applied to anything associated with servicemen. Transferred noun sense of "U.S. Army soldier" arose during World War II (first recorded 1943), apparently from the jocular notion that the men themselves were manufactured by the government.

An earlier G.I. (1908) was an abbreviation of galvanized iron, especially in G.I. can, a type of metal trash can; the term was picked up by U.S. soldiers in World War I as slang for a similar-looking type of German artillery shells. But it is highly unlikely that this G.I. came to mean "soldier." No two sources seem to agree on the entire etymology, but none backs the widespread notion that it stands for *General Infantry. GI Joe "any U.S. soldier" attested from 1942 (date in OED is a typo).
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pike (n.1)

"weapon with a long shaft and a pointed metal head," 1510s, from French pique "a spear; pikeman," from piquer "to pick, puncture, pierce," from Old French pic "sharp point or spike," a general continental term (Spanish pica, Italian picca, Provençal piqua), perhaps ultimately from a Germanic [Barnhart] or Celtic source (see pike (n.2)). An alternative explanation traces the Old French word (via Vulgar Latin *piccare "to prick, pierce") to Latin picus "woodpecker." No doubt, too, there is influence from pike (n.1), which by 1200 had a sense of "spiked staff."

"Formerly the chief weapon of a large part of the infantry; in the 18th c. superseded by the bayonet" [OED]; hence old expressions such as pass through pikes "come through difficulties, run the gauntlet;" push of pikes "close-quarters combat." German Pike, Dutch piek, Danish pik, etc. are from French pique.

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pugilist (n.)

"one who fights with the fists," 1789, from Latin pugil "boxer, fist-fighter," related to pugnus "a fist" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick") + -ist. For sense development, compare punch (v.), also from a root meaning "to pierce." Related: Pugilistic "of or pertaining to fighting with the fists" (1789); pugilistically.

Pugil (n.) occasionally turns up in English as "boxer, fist-fighter" (17c.-18c), but it has not caught on; earlier it meant "a little handful or a big pinch" of something (1570s). Pugil stick (1962) was introduced by U.S. military as a substitute for rifles in bayonet drills.

UNTIL recently bayonet training has lacked realism. Bayonet instruction consisted of basic positions and movements, the fundamentals of bayonet fighting, and a practical examination conducted on the Bayonet Assault Course. This training is essential for the combat Infantryman; however, he completes his training without knowing what an actual bayonet fight is like. The dummies used in training cannot fight back or take evasive action. The only true test of an Infantryman's skill with bayonet is vicious, close combat against an armed opponent. [Lt. Wendell O. Doody, "Pugil, Man, Pugil!" in Infantry magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1962]
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