In Nazi Germany, a rank equivalent to senior colonel, Oberführer, was used by both the SA and SS. In the branches of the Allgemeine SS (General SS) and Waffen-SS (Armed SS) the rank of Oberführer was widely used. The rank did not exist in the army (Heer), although the Kriegsmarine (navy) maintained the equivalent rank of Kommodore.
After World War II, armies in Asia, especially in the Communist sphere began establishing senior colonel ranks of their own. Today, the rank of senior colonel may be found in the militaries of China (Daxiao ( )), North Korea (Taejwa ()) and Vietnam (i tá).
Most western militaries tend to equate a senior colonel as a "brigadier general in disguise"; however, this is not necessarily so. Nations which maintain senior colonel ranks may also have five general ranks (most such nations also having the rank of colonel general). A senior colonel is also not befitted honors of a general or flag officer. It is simply seen as the highest field officer rank before the general grades. In this sense, the rank may be seen as comparable to the rank of brigadier in the British and some other Commonwealth armies, similarly a senior field rank.
A similar title to senior colonel is that of senior captain, also used in most Communist countries. However, it may also be found in some western militaries as a staff rank appointed to a regular captain.
The term senior colonel is also used informally and unofficially in the U.S. military for colonels who have either been selected for promotion to brigadier general but not actually promoted yet, or for veteran colonels who are particularly experienced and influential. The Argentine Army makes a similar use of the term, though in this case it is an official distinction (Coronel Mayor) with its own rank insignia (a single red-trimmed golden sun instead of the three golden suns of a regular colonel). In the Portuguese Army, a colonel selected but still waiting for promotion to a general officer rank is officially designated coronel tirocinado (literally meaning "practiced colonel" in Portuguese), having a proper rank insignia (the rank stripes of colonel added with a general rank silver star).