Alférez (rank)

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Alférez is a junior officer rank in the militaries of Spain, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The Portuguese variant alferes is used in Portugal, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor and was also formerly used in Brazil. The naval rank of alférez de fragata is used in Spain, Dominican Republic and Peru.

Alférez and alferes are often translated as ensign, but are also sometimes translated as sub-lieutenant or second lieutenant. These translations are approximate. As a military rank, it corresponds usually to NATO rank code is OF-1.

The Spanish word alférez and the Portuguese word alferes were both derived from the Arabic الفارس (al-fāris), meaning "the knight", "the horseman" or "the conqueror".

The rank of alférez / alferes was first used by Iberian armies during the reconquista in the middle ages, being associated to the officer responsible for the carrying of a unit flag. During that time alférez was the leader of the retinue of a king or high-ranking nobleman. The famous warrior El Cid was the alférez of King Alfonso VI of Castile and Alfonso Núñez was the alférez of Duke Raymond of Galicia.


In Argentina, the rank of alférez 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 alférez ranks as an equivalent for the army's "lieutenant" ranks.

The other armed forces of Argentina do not use the rank of ensign.

Argentine Air Force rank Argentine Gendarmerie rank Equivalent Commonwealth ranks for comparison
------------- ------------- -------------
Alférez Sub-Alférez Acting pilot officer / second lieutenant
Lieutenant Alférez Pilot officer / second lieutenant
First Lieutenant First alférez Flying officer / lieutenant


In Chile, an officer cadet is known as a sub-alférez. On graduating from officer training, he becomes an alférez for a year while carrying out training specific to his branch. After this, the alférez is promoted to sub-lieutenant.


Frigate alférez is the lowest naval officer rank.


Alférez is the lowest officer rank in Spain, immediately below lieutenant. Frigate alférez is the lowest naval officer rank.

Dominican Republic[edit]

Alférez is used in the Dominican Navy, with frigate alférez (second lieutenant) and ship alférez (first lieutenant) being the lowest naval officer ranks.


"Alférez" in Venezuela's Armed Forces is the last rank of a cadet in the three land academies of officers: Army, Air Force and National Guard. The naval academy uses for its last rank "midshipman" or "guardiamarina".