commando, noun

Forms:
Also comando, and with initial capital.
Plurals:
commandos, less frequently commandoes.
Origin:
South African Dutch, PortugueseShow more South African Dutch commando, kommando armed party, from Portuguese commando command, party commanded.
A small fighting force. See also commandant.
1. In historical contexts.
a. An armed and usually mounted party of men, usually civilians, mustered especially against indigenous peoples for forays, reprisals, and the recovery of stolen cattle; an expedition undertaken by such a party. Also attributive. See also burgher sense 3 a.
1790 tr. of F. Le Vaillant’s Trav. I. 319A planter..complains to the governor that the Caffres have carried away all his cattle; and he requests a commando, that is to say, permission to go and recover his property with the assistance of his neighbours.
1979 C. Endfield Zulu Dawn 82The War Office..had failed to furnish Chelmsford with cavalry. Some of these needs were being supplied by local white volunteers formed into irregular commando groups.
b. Occasionally with defining word:
straf-commando /ˈstraf-/ noun [Afrikaans, straf punishment], a punitive expedition.
1928 E.A. Walker Hist. of S. Afr. 73The company supplied the ammunition; those who took part in each straf-commando reported the result to the Castle.
c. combinations
commando beskuit rare [Afrikaans beskuit, see beskuit], rusks taken as provisions on commando ;
commando law, a law allowing the pressing of civilians into military service ;
commando tax, a tax levied at the Cape from 1812 to supply funds for maintaining commandos .
1899 M. Marquard Lett. from Boer Parsonage (1967) 40We have begun tackling our second muid of meal for commandobiskuit today.
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 127Commando Tax, A tax established in the Cape Colony by Government Proclamation, 4 December, 1812, ‘for the maintenance of a corps for the defence of the frontier’.
2. In historical contexts. In the phrase on commando, on a military expedition; engaged in military service.
1800 J. Backstrom (tr. of J.A. Truter) in G.M. Theal Rec. of Cape Col. (1898) III. 27830 lbs. of Powder & 60 lbs. of Lead were added..that the..Veld Commandant might make use of it in case he had occasion to send a party on commando.
1983 F.E.O’B. Geldenhuys in Optima Vol.31 No.3, 154The burghers on commando..came back to farms destroyed and burned down by the English.
3. In historical contexts. During the 19th century: an armed group, or regiment, of black soldiers; an expedition undertaken by such a group. See also impi sense 1 a.
1835 W.B. Boyce in A. Steedman Wanderings II. 269The Ficani Chief..has been driven thence, by a commando from Dingaan, the Zulu Chief.
1905 G.W. Stow Native Races of S. Afr. 311Moselekatze..sent a large commando in pursuit, with orders to overtake the marauders..and recover the cattle which had been seized.
4. In historical contexts. A unit of the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer wars of 1880–81 and 1899–1902, usually mustered from a particular town or farming district; kommando sense 1 a. Also attributive. See also burgher sense 3 a.
1899 Westminster Gaz. (U.K.) 11 Nov. 8The President..has the right of declaring war and calling up one or more commandos.
1990 Weekend Argus 29 Sept. 13Operating over a 275 000 sq km area, the commandos were highly mobile. They were self-contained units, either buying, commandeering or capturing supplies from the enemy.
5. An area protection force, initially under the control of the Union Defence Force, subsequently of the South African Defence Force, consisting of civilian personnel who, having completed an initial period of national service, must regularly report for shorter periods of service or training; kommando sense 1 a. In the plural, a collective term for the members of such a force. Also attributive.
1912 Act 13 in Stat. of Union 200The Citizen Force Reserve shall be divided into two classes, A and B...Class B shall be organised as far as may be practicable so that members therof..shall form territorial corps or commandos with sub-divisions corresponding as far as possible with the arrangement of Rifle Associations in each district.
1990 Hogarth in Sunday Times 12 Aug. 16The SADF’s plan to provide commando and citizen force members with automatic rifles and radios in their homes raises some thorny questions.
6. An army unit trained to carry out lightning military raids and to engage in guerilla warfare; a member of such a unit. Also attributive.
Note:
This sense of the word is also in general English usage.
1940 W.S. Churchill Second World War (1949) II. 566Plans should be studied to land secretly by night on the islands and kill or capture the invaders. This is exactly one of the exploits for which the Commandoes would be suited.
1991 G. Nevill in Sunday Times 3 Mar. (Extra) 3Mr Ebrahim admitted that the Umkhonto we Sizwe ‘regional commando’ under his leadership in 1961 became the first ANC section to take up arms against the government.
7. The military — or paramilitary wing of any of several (usually right-wing) political organizations; a member of such a group. Also attributive. See also boerekommando and wenkommando (kommando sense 1 b).
1948 Press Digest No.10, 67A Rand leader of the Ossewa Brandwag answered that in the past few months more than two hundred guerilla commandos had been formed in mines, factories and other places of work.
1992 S. Macleod in Time 9 Mar. 27With the police on his tail, he disappeared underground for six months and tried to organize commando cells.
8. Figurative, and transferred sense.
1955 D.L. Hobman Olive Schreiner 140They fought the battle of their sex, in which the spectacular commandos of the militant suffragettes were less effective than the patient engineering of the pioneers of mental work.
1972 tr. of E.N. Marais’s Rd to Waterberg 95In the big real black-ant commandos which battle with termites..there is a preservation of unity in both the swarm and its behaviour.
9. A unit in the Voortrekker movement, the Afrikaans scouting organization; kommando sense 2. See also Voortrekker noun sense 2 b.
1966 Cape Argus 8 Mar. 5The annual fund-raising campaign of the Riversdale Voortrekker Commando.
1990 [see commandant sense 6].
A small fighting force.
An armed and usually mounted party of men, usually civilians, mustered especially against indigenous peoples for forays, reprisals, and the recovery of stolen cattle; an expedition undertaken by such a party. Also attributive.
, rusks taken as provisions on commando
, a law allowing the pressing of civilians into military service
, a tax levied at the Cape from 1812 to supply funds for maintaining commandos
on a military expedition; engaged in military service.
an armed group, or regiment, of black soldiers; an expedition undertaken by such a group.
A unit of the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer wars of 1880–81 and 1899–1902, usually mustered from a particular town or farming district; kommando1 a. Also attributive.
An area protection force, initially under the control of the Union Defence Force, subsequently of the South African Defence Force, consisting of civilian personnel who, having completed an initial period of national service, must regularly report for shorter periods of service or training; kommando1 a. In the plural, a collective term for the members of such a force. Also attributive.
An army unit trained to carry out lightning military raids and to engage in guerilla warfare; a member of such a unit. Also attributive.
The military — or paramilitary wing of any of several (usually right-wing) political organizations; a member of such a group. Also attributive.
A unit in the Voortrekker movement, the Afrikaans scouting organization; kommando2.
Derivatives:
Hence commando transitive verb nonce, commandeer sense 2 a.
1880 Grocott’s Penny Mail 28 Dec. 3A party of Boers came to Mooi River, near Stormfontein, giving notice to the English residents that they would commando them on the following day, under the Grondwit [sic].

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