AskDefine | Define lieutenant

Dictionary Definition



1 a commissioned military officer
2 an officer in a police force [syn: police lieutenant]
3 an assistant with power to act when his superior is absent [syn: deputy]
4 an officer holding a commissioned rank in the United States Navy or the United States Coast Guard; below lieutenant commander and above lieutenant junior grade

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /lɛfˈtɛnənt/ or /ləˈtɛnənt/ (UK)
  • /l(j)uːˈtɛnənt/ (US)
  • /lEf"tEn@nt/ or /l@"tEn@nt/ (UK)
  • /l(j)u:"tEn@nt/ (US)


From French lieu ("place") + tenant ("holder").


  1. The lowest commissioned officer rank or ranks in many military forces.
  2. In the US Army, Air Force and Marines, Second Lieutenant is the rank below First Lieutenant, which is below Captain. Both ranks may be referred to as Lieutenant or as the complete forms of the ranks.
  3. A naval officer whose rank is above that of ensign in the United States Navy and below that of a lieutenant commander. There are two ranks of lieutenant: lieutenant junior grade and lieutenant.
  4. A naval officer in the Royal Navy who holds the rank above sub-lieutenant and below lieutenant commander.
  5. A person who executes the plans and directives of another.

Derived terms

  • Lt. (abbreviation)


See also


  1. A military grade that is junior to the grade the adjective modifies: lieutenant colonel, lieutenant general.




  • IPA : /ljœt.nɑ̃/



Extensive Definition

Lieutenant (abbreviated lt. or Lieut.) is a military, naval, paramilitary, fire service or police officer rank.
Lieutenant may also appear as part of a title used in various other organizations with a codified command structure. It often designates someone who is "second-in-command," and as such, may precede the name of the rank directly above it. For example, a "Lieutenant Master" is likely to be second-in-command to the "Master" in an organization utilizing both such ranks. Notable uses include Lieutenant Governor in various governments, and Quebec lieutenant in Canadian politics.


The word lieutenant derives from French; the lieu meaning "place" as in a position; and tenant meaning "holding" as in "holding a position"; thus a "lieutenant" is somebody who holds a position in the absence of his or her superior (compare the cognate Latin locum tenens). The Arabic word for lieutenant, mulāzim (), also means "holding a place".
The British monarch's representatives in the counties of the United Kingdom are called Lords Lieutenant. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland performed the function of viceroy in Ireland. In French history, "lieutenant du roi" was a title borne by the officer sent with military powers to represent the king in certain provinces. It is in the sense of a deputy that it has entered into the titles of more senior officers, Lieutenant General and Lieutenant Colonel.
In the nineteenth century those British writers who either considered this word an imposition on the English language or difficult for common soldiers and sailors argued for it to be replaced by the calque "steadholder" but failed and the French word is still used as well as its Lieutenant-Colonel variation in both the Old and the New World.


In contemporary American English, the word is usually ().. In 1791, English lexicographer John Walker lamented that the "regular sound" – /lju'tɛnənt/ – was not in general employ, giving the pronunciation current at the time as /lɛv'tɛnənt/ or /lɪv'tɛnənt/. and New Yorker Richard Grant White, born in 1822, claimed never to have heard the /lju-/ form in his youth, the /lɛv-/ or /lɛf-/ form was by 1893 considered old-fashioned.
The earlier history of the pronunciation is unclear; Middle English spellings included both forms like lutenand and lyeutenaunt suggesting the /lju-/ pronunciation and those like leeftenant and luftenand suggesting /lɛf-/.

Armies, Marines and Air Forces

Conventionally, armies and other services or branches which use army-style rank titles (e.g. air forces, marine corps etc.) have two grades of Lieutenant. Some countries, however, use three. The Royal Air Force and some other Commonwealth air forces use a different rank system. Some Marine Corps use naval ranks.

Lieutenant/First Lieutenant

The senior grade of Lieutenant is known as First Lieutenant in the United States, and as Lieutenant in the United Kingdom and the rest of the English-speaking world. In countries which do not speak English, the rank title usually translates as "Lieutenant", but may also translate as "First Lieutenant" or "Senior Lieutenant", and in Great Britain, is pronounced "left-ten-ant".
The Lieutenant was once the second officer in an infantry company or cavalry troop. The Captain was the company or troop commander and the third officer had a variety of titles, hence the difference in modern day rank titles. Some countries used First Lieutenant and Second Lieutenant for the two junior officers; some used Lieutenant and Senior Lieutenant; some used Lieutenant and Sub-Lieutenant; some (such as Britain) used Lieutenant and Ensign (infantry) or Cornet (cavalry). When the latter ranks were changed to Second Lieutenant, the senior rank remained as Lieutenant.
Some parts of the British Army, including the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, and fusilier regiments, used First Lieutenant as well as Second Lieutenant until the end of the 19th century.
A Lieutenant usually commands a platoon or similar unit.
In the Royal Air Force and some other Commonwealth air forces, the equivalent rank is Flying Officer. From 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force maintained the rank of lieutenant. It was superseded by the rank of flying officer on the following day.
In the East-European countries the equivalent is Senior Lieutenant.

Second Lieutenant

Second Lieutenant is usually the most junior grade of commissioned officer. In most cases, newly commissioned officers do not remain at the rank for long before being promoted. Officers commissioned from the ranks may miss out the rank altogether. The rank is used throughout the English-speaking world. In non-English-speaking countries, the equivalent rank title may translate as "Second Lieutenant", "Lieutenant", "Sub-Lieutenant", "Junior Lieutenant", "Alférez" (Spanish Army and Air Force), "Alférez de Fragata" (Spanish Armada), "Fenrik" (Norwegian Army), "Ensign", or "Leutnant" (German Army).
A Second Lieutenant usually also commands a platoon.
In the Royal Air Force and some other Commonwealth air forces, the equivalent rank is Pilot Officer.

Third Lieutenant

Most countries do not maintain a third rank of Lieutenant. Those that do are all non-English-speaking, so the term "Third Lieutenant" is not actually used. The rank title may actually translate as "Second Lieutenant", "Junior Lieutenant", "Sub-Lieutenant" or "Ensign".
The Soviet Union used three ranks of Lieutenant, and so all Warsaw Pact countries also standardised their ranking system with three ranks. Some of the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations have now discarded the third rank, however.
Countries with Third Lieutenant equivalent ranks include:
Throughout the 19th century, the United States Army sometimes referred to Brevet Second Lieutenants as "Third Lieutenants." These were typically newly commissioned officers for which no authorized Second Lieutenant position existed. Additionally, the Confederate States Army also used Third Lieutenants, typically as the lowest ranking commissioned officer in an infantry company.
In the US Air Force, the Third Lieutenant Program refers specifically to a training program at active duty bases for cadets of the Air Force Academy and Air Force ROTC the summer before their fourth and final year before graduation and commissioning.


In many navies, a sub-lieutenant is a naval commissioned or subordinate officer, ranking below a lieutenant.

Police Lieutenant

Used in some police forces in the United States. It is normally roughly equivalent to the British Police Inspector.


lieutenant in Bulgarian: Лейтенант
lieutenant in Bengali: লেফটেনেন্ট
lieutenant in Catalan: Tinent
lieutenant in Czech: Poručík
lieutenant in Danish: Løjtnant
lieutenant in German: Leutnant
lieutenant in Modern Greek (1453-): Ανθυπολοχαγός
lieutenant in Spanish: Teniente
lieutenant in Estonian: Leitnant
lieutenant in Persian: ستوان
lieutenant in Finnish: Luutnantti
lieutenant in French: Lieutenant de vaisseau
lieutenant in Hebrew: לוטננט
lieutenant in Italian: Tenente
lieutenant in Japanese: 中尉
lieutenant in Georgian: ლეიტენანტი
lieutenant in Dutch: Luitenant
lieutenant in Norwegian: Løytnant
lieutenant in Polish: Podporucznik
lieutenant in Portuguese: Tenente
lieutenant in Russian: Лейтенант
lieutenant in Slovenian: Nadporočnik
lieutenant in Serbian: Потпоручник
lieutenant in Swedish: Löjtnant
lieutenant in Turkish: Teğmen
lieutenant in Ukrainian: Лейтенант
lieutenant in Urdu: نقیب
lieutenant in Chinese: 中尉 (軍階)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ADC, CO, G-man, MP, OD, acolyte, adjutant, admiral, advocate, agent, aid, aide, aide-de-camp, aider, alter ego, alternate, amicus curiae, assistant, attendant, attorney, auxiliary, backup, backup man, bailiff, beadle, beagle, best man, bound bailiff, brigadier, brigadier general, captain, catchpole, champion, chicken colonel, chief of police, chief of staff, chief petty officer, coadjutant, coadjutor, coadjutress, coadjutrix, colonel, commandant, commander, commander in chief, commanding officer, commissioned officer, commissioner, commodore, company officer, constable, deputy, deputy sheriff, detective, dummy, ensign, exec, executive officer, exponent, fed, federal, field marshal, field officer, figurehead, first lieutenant, five-star general, fleet admiral, flic, four-star general, gendarme, general, general officer, generalissimo, government man, help, helper, helpmate, helpmeet, inspector, jemadar, junior officer, lictor, lieutenant colonel, lieutenant commander, lieutenant general, lieutenant junior grade, locum, locum tenens, mace-bearer, major, major general, marechal, marshal, mounted policeman, narc, naval officer, navarch, officer, one-star general, orderly officer, paranymph, paraprofessional, patrolman, peace officer, petty officer, pinch hitter, pleader, police captain, police commissioner, police constable, police inspector, police matron, police officer, police sergeant, policeman, policewoman, portreeve, procurator, proxy, rear admiral, reeve, representative, risaldar, roundsman, second, second in command, secondary, senior officer, sergeant, sergeant at arms, servant, shavetail, sheriff, sideman, sirdar, skipper, staff officer, stand-in, subahdar, subaltern, sublieutenant, substitute, superintendent, supporting actor, supporting instrumentalist, surrogate, the Old Man, the brass, three-star general, tipstaff, tipstaves, top brass, trooper, two-star general, understudy, utility man, vicar, vicar general, vice, vice admiral, vicegerent, warrant officer
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