The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
General \Gen"er*al\, a. [F. g['e]n['e]ral, fr. L. generalis. See
1. Relating to a genus or kind; pertaining to a whole class
or order; as, a general law of animal or vegetable
2. Comprehending many species or individuals; not special or
particular; including all particulars; as, a general
inference or conclusion.
3. Not restrained or limited to a precise import; not
specific; vague; indefinite; lax in signification; as, a
loose and general expression.
4. Common to many, or the greatest number; widely spread;
prevalent; extensive, though not universal; as, a general
opinion; a general custom.
This general applause and cheerful shout
Argue your wisdom and your love to Richard. --Shak.
5. Having a relation to all; common to the whole; as, Adam,
our general sire. --Milton.
6. As a whole; in gross; for the most part.
His general behavior vain, ridiculous. --Shak.
7. Usual; common, on most occasions; as, his general habit or
Note: The word general, annexed to a name of office, usually
denotes chief or superior; as, attorney-general;
adjutant general; commissary general; quartermaster
general; vicar-general, etc.
General agent (Law), an agent whom a principal employs to
transact all his business of a particular kind, or to act
in his affairs generally.
General assembly. See the Note under Assembly.
General average, General Court. See under Average,
General court-martial (Mil.), the highest military and
naval judicial tribunal.
General dealer (Com.), a shopkeeper who deals in all
articles in common use.
General demurrer (Law), a demurrer which objects to a
pleading in general terms, as insufficient, without
specifying the defects. --Abbott.
General epistle, a canonical epistle.
General guides (Mil.), two sergeants (called the right, and
the left, general guide) posted opposite the right and
left flanks of an infantry battalion, to preserve accuracy
in marching. --Farrow.
General hospitals (Mil.), hospitals established to receive
sick and wounded sent from the field hospitals. --Farrow.
General issue (Law), an issue made by a general plea, which
traverses the whole declaration or indictment at once,
without offering any special matter to evade it.
General lien (Law), a right to detain a chattel, etc.,
until payment is made of any balance due on a general
General officer (Mil.), any officer having a rank above
that of colonel.
General orders (Mil.), orders from headquarters published
to the whole command.
General practitioner, in the United States, one who
practices medicine in all its branches without confining
himself to any specialty; in England, one who practices
both as physician and as surgeon.
General ship, a ship not chartered or let to particular
General term (Logic), a term which is the sign of a general
conception or notion.
General verdict (Law), the ordinary comprehensive verdict
in civil actions, "for the plaintiff" or "for the
General warrant (Law), a warrant, now illegal, to apprehend
suspected persons, without naming individuals.
Syn: Syn. General, Common, Universal.
Usage: Common denotes primarily that in which many share; and
hence, that which is often met with. General is
stronger, denoting that which pertains to a majority
of the individuals which compose a genus, or whole.
Universal, that which pertains to all without
exception. To be able to read and write is so common
an attainment in the United States, that we may
pronounce it general, though by no means universal.
Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856):
GENERAL ISSUE, pleading. A plea which traverses or denies at once the whole
indictment or declaration, without offering any special matter, to evade it.
It is called the general issue, because, by importing an absolute and
general denial of what is alleged in the indictment or declaration, it
amounts at once to an issue. 2 Bl. Com. 305.
2. The general issue in criminal cases, is, not guilty. In civil cases,
the general issues are almost as various as the forms of action; in
assumpsit, the general issue is non-assumpsit; in debt, nil debet; in
detinue, non detinet; in trespass, non cul. or not guilty; in replevin, non
3. Any matter going to show that a deed or contract, or other
instrument is void, may be given in evidence under the general issue; 10
Mass. 267, 274; 14 Pick. 303, 305; such as usury. 2 Mass. 540; 12 Mass. 26;
15 Mass. 48, 54. See 4 N. Hamp. R. 40; 2 Wend. 246; 6 Mass. 460; 10 Mass.
281. But a right to give evidence under the general issue, any matter which
would avail under a special plea does not extend to matters in abatement. 9
Mass. 366: 14 Mass. 273; Gould on Pl. c. 4, pt. 1, Sec. 9, et seq.; Special