Lieutenant (abbreviated Lt. or Lieut.) is a military, naval, paramilitary, fire service, emergency medical services 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 Quebecois 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" ( _ar. ملازم), also means "holding a place".

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.


Pronunciation of "lieutenant" is generally split between the forms "left-tenant" (IPA|/lɛv'tɛnənt/ or IPA|/lɪv'tɛnənt/) and "lieu-tenant" (IPA|/lu'tɛnənt/ or IPA|/lju'tɛnənt/), with the former generally associated with the United Kingdom and her former dominions, and the later generally associated with the USA.

Early Pronunciation

The earlier history of the pronunciation is unclear; Middle English spellings included both forms like "lutenand" and "lyeutenaunt" suggesting the IPA|/lju-/ pronunciation and those like "leeftenant" and "luftenand" suggesting IPA|/lɛf-/. The hypothesis that the labial-terminated initial syllable arose as a spelling pronunciation conflating vocalic and consonantal "v" (the letters "u" and "v" were not distinguished before the eighteenth century) is rejected by the Oxford English Dictionary as "not [in] accord with the facts". The rare Old French variant spelling "luef" for Modern French "lieu" "place", on the other hand, supports the suggestion that the final IPA|/w/ of the Old French word was in certain environments apprehended as a IPA|/f/ IPA|/v/. The development of the αυ and ευ diphthongs in the Greek language, pronounced IPA|/av/ and IPA|/ɛv/, respectively, in Modern Greek, may lend plausibility to this explanation.

British and Commonwealth English

In 1791, English lexicographer John Walker lamented that the "regular sound" – IPA|/lju'tɛnənt/ – was not in general employ, giving the pronunciation current at the time as IPA|/lɛv'tɛnənt/ or IPA|/lɪv'tɛnənt/. This is still the dominant pronunciation in English-speaking countries outside the USA. British naval tradition preserved an intermediate pronunciation: IPA|/lə'tɛnənt/. This is not recognized as current by the OED, however, and by 1954 the Royal Canadian Navy, at least, regarded it as "obsolescent" even while regarding "the army's 'LEF-tenant'" to be "a corruption of the worst sort".A. D. Taylor, " [ Customs of the Navy] ," 1954.]

American English

In contemporary American English, the word is usually pronounced|ˈ/lu'tɛnənt/(audio|ltent.ogg|Audio).Oxford English Dictionary.] American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. " [ Lieutenant] ".] Walker's prescriptive pronunciation – which represents the regular English naturalization of the modern French word – took hold in the United States over the course of the nineteenth century; while an American dictionary of 1813 gives IPA|/lɛv'tɛnənt/J. R. Clemens, "American Speech" 7 (1932), 438.] and New Yorker Richard Grant White, born in 1822, claimed never to have heard the IPA|/lju-/ form in his youth,H. L. Mencken, " [ The American Language] ," 1921; 4th edition (1936), p. 345.] the IPA|/lɛv-/ or IPA|/lɛf-/ form was by 1893 considered old-fashioned. The great influence exercised on American English by Noah Webster, who insisted (but inconsistently) on the congruence of orthography and pronunciation, may be partly responsible for the eventual triumph of the "regular" pronunciation in the United States."The Maven's Word of the Day," [ 7 January 2000] .]

Army Ranks

Conventionally, armies and other services or branches which use army-style rank titles have two grades of Lieutenant, but a few also use a third, more junior, rank.

Historically the "Lieutenant" was the deputy to a "Captain", and as the rank structure of armies began to formalise, this came to mean that a Captain commanded a company and had several Lieutenants, each commanding a platoon. Where more junior officers were employed as deputies to the Lieutenant, they went by many names, including Second Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant, Ensign and Cornet. 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, and some British Army regiments still preserve Cornet as an official alternative to Second Lieutenant.

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".

There is great variation in the insignia used world-wide. In most English-speaking and Arabic-speaking countries, as well as a number of European and South American nations, full lieutenants (and equivalents) usually wear two stars and second lieutenants (and equivalents) one. The United States Army, Air Force and Marine Corps are notable exceptions. These services distinguish their lieutenant ranks with one silver bar for First Lieutenant and one gold (brass) bar for Second Lieutenant. In the British Army and Royal Marines a Lieutenant is distinguished by two diamond-shaped bath stars (or colloquially, "pips") on the rank slide.

econd 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, and both graduates and officers commissioned from the ranks may skip the rank altogether. In non-English-speaking countries, the equivalent rank title may translate as "Second Lieutenant", "Lieutenant", "Sub-Lieutenant" or "Junior Lieutenant". Non-English terms include "Alférez" (Spanish Army and Air Force), "Fenrik" (Norwegian Army), "Ensign", or "Leutnant" (German Army). In the US Army a Second Lieutenant may be referred to as a "butter bar" because of the gold bar that represents their rank.

Third Lieutenant

A few non-English-speaking militaries maintain a lower rank, frequently translated as "Third Lieutenant". The rank title may actually translate as "Second Lieutenant", "Junior Lieutenant", "Sub-Lieutenant" or "Ensign". The Soviet Union used three ranks of Lieutenant, and Warsaw Pact countries similarly standardised their ranking system. Some of the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations have now discarded the third rank.

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 Lieutenant", 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 the Air Force Academy, Air Force ROTC the summer before their fourth and final year before graduation and commissioning. A single silver or subdued pip is used to designate this rank.

Naval Rank

Lieutenant Commander

Lieutenants were commonly put in command of smaller vessels not warranting a Commander or Captain: such a Lieutenant was called a "Lieutenant Commanding" or "Lieutenant Commandant" in the United States Navy, and a "Lieutenant in Command" or "Lieutenant and Commander" in the Royal Navy. The USN settled on "Lieutenant Commander" in 1862, and made it a distinct rank; the RN followed suit in March 1914. The insignia of an additional half-stripe between the two full stripes of a Lieutenant was introduced in 1877 for a Royal Navy Lieutenant of 8 years seniority, and used for Lieutenant Commanders upon introduction of their rank. [cite web|url=|title=Officer Ranks in the Royal Navy - Lieutenant Commander|publisher=Royal Naval Museum|accessdate=2008-10-11]


Since 1580 the Lieutenants in a ship had been the officers immediately subordinate to the Captain. Before the English Restoration Lieutenants were appointed by their Captains, and this inevitably led to abuses and to the widespread appointment of men of insufficient qualification. In 1677 Samuel Pepys introduced the first examination for Lieutenant, ["Gentlemen and Tarpaulins", by J D Davies, Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 9780198202639, p.40] and it is from the date of this examination that their seniority was set. Lieutenants were numbered by their seniority within the ship, so that a frigate, which was entitled to three would have a First Lieutenant, a Second Lieutenant, and a Third Lieutenant. A first-rate was entitled to six, and they were numbered accordingly. At first a Lieutenant's commission was given only for the ship in which he served, but after the loss of HMS "Wager" and the subsequent mutiny, Lieutenants were given commissions upon passing their examination.cite web|url=|title=Officer Ranks in the Royal Navy - Lieutenant|publisher=Royal Naval Museum|accessdate=2008-10-11]

During the early days of the naval rank, a Lieutenant might be very junior indeed, or might be on the cusp of promotion to Captain; by modern standards he might rank with any army rank between Second Lieutenant and Lieutenant Colonel. As the rank structure of navies stablilised, and the ranks of Commander, Lieutenant Commander and Sub-Lieutenant were introduced, the naval Lieutenant now ranks with an Army Captain (NATO OF-2 or US O-3).

The insignia of a Lieutenant in many navies, including the Royal Navy [cite web|url=|title=Uniforms and Badges of Rank - Royal Navy website|accessdate=2008-10-05] , consists of two medium gold braid stripes (top stripe with loop) on a navy blue or black background. This pattern was copied by the United States Navy and various Air Forces for their equivalent ranks grades (see Flight Lieutenant).

"First Lieutenant" in Naval Usage

The First Lieutenant (1st Lt) in the Royal Navy and other Commonwealth Navies is a post or appointment, rather than a rank. Historically the Lieutenants in a ship were ranked in accordance with seniority, with the most senior being termed the First Lieutenant and acting as the second-in-command. Although Lieutenants are no longer ranked by seniority, the post of "First Lieutenant" remains. In Minor War Vessels, Destroyers and Frigates the First Lieutenant is second in command, Executive Officer (XO) and head of the executive branch; in larger ships where a Commander of the warfare specialisation is appointed as the Executive Officer, a First Lieutenant is appointed as his deputy. The post of First Lieutenant in a shore establishment carries a similar responsibility to the First Lieutenant of a Capital Ship.


In the Royal Navy the commissioned rank of Mate was created in 1840, and was renamed Sub-Lieutenant in 1860. In many navies, a Sub-Lieutenant is a naval commissioned or subordinate officer, ranking below a lieutenant, but in Brazil it is the highest non-commissioned rank, and in Spain it is the second highest non-commissioned rank.

Marine Rank

The United States Marine Corps and Royal Marines [cite web|url=|title=RM Officers & Other Ranks Badges of Rank - Royal Navy website|accesdate=2008-10-05] both use army ranks, while many former Eastern-Bloc marine forces retain the naval form. Before 1999 the Royal Marines enjoyed the same rank structure as the army, but at a grade lower; thus a Royal Marine Captain ranked with and was paid the same as an British Army Major. This historical remnent caused increasing confusion in multi-national operations and was abolished.

Air Force Rank

While some air forces use the army rank system, the Royal Air Force and some other Commonwealth air forces use another rank system in which Flight Lieutenant ranks with an army Captain or naval Lieutenant, a Flying Officer ranks with an army Lieutenant, and a Pilot Officer with an army Second Lieutenant.

Police Rank

The rank of Police Lieutenant is used in some police forces in the United States. It is normally roughly equivalent to the British Police Inspector.

Fire Services Rank

In the US the junior officer grade of the Fire Service is Lieutenant, and he is identified by a single bugle and a red helmet. Many cities and towns, however, employ a wide variety of other ranks and insignia. The US rank corresponds roughly with the traditional UK Fire Brigade Sub-Officer, which had now been discontinued.

Other Uses

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.

ee also

*Military rank
*Comparative military ranks
*United Kingdom and United States military ranks compared
*Ranks and insignia of NATO armies officers
*Ranks and insignia of NATO Air Forces Officers
*Ranks and insignia of NATO Navies Officers
*U.S. Navy officer rank insignia


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • lieutenant — [ ljøt(ə)nɑ̃ ] n. m. • luetenant 1287; de 1. lieu et tenant, proprt « tenant lieu de » 1 ♦ Personne qui est directement sous les ordres du chef et le remplace éventuellement. Les lieutenants d Alexandre, de César. Chef d entreprise qui a de bons… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • lieutenant — Lieutenant. s. m. Officier qui est immediatement sous un autre Officier en chef, & qui tient son lieu en son absence. Gouverneur & Lieutenant General pour le Roy dans la province de &c. Lieutenant de Roy de Languedoc. Lieutenant de Roy de la… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Lieutenant — Lieu*ten ant (l[ u]*t[e^]n ant), n. [F., fr. lieu place + tenant holding, p. pr. of tenir to hold, L. tenere. See {Lieu}, and {Tenant}, and cf. {Locum tenens}.] 1. An officer who supplies the place of a superior in his absence; a representative… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lieutenant — [lo͞o ten′ənt; ] Brit & Cdn [ lef ten′ənt] n. [ME lutenand, luftenand < MFr < lieu (see LIEU) + tenant, holding, prp. of tenir, to hold < L tenere, to hold: see THIN] 1. a person who acts for a superior, as during the latter s absence;… …   English World dictionary

  • Lieutenant — (frz. [ljøtˈnɑ̃], engl. [lɛfˈtɛnənt] (BE) oder auch [luːˈtɛnənt] (AE)) bezeichnet im französischen Wortsinne (lieu + tenant): Statthalter im englisch und französischsprachigen Raum einen militärischen Dienstgrad, in den Landstreitkräften… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • lieutenant — ► NOUN 1) a deputy or substitute acting for a superior. 2) a rank of officer in the British army, above second lieutenant and below captain. 3) a rank of officer in the navy, above sub lieutenant and below lieutenant commander. DERIVATIVES… …   English terms dictionary

  • Lieutenant — (v. fr., spr. Liöht nang), im Deutschen gewöhnlich Leutnant gesprochen; 1) Stellvertreter von Jemand, bes. wenn derselbe eine öffentliche Function bekleidet; so: L. du roi, Stellvertreter des Königs; früher in den französischen Provinzen die mit… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Lieutenant — Lieutenant, s. Leutnant …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Lieutenant — Lieutenant, s. Leutnant …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Lieutenant — (liöhtʼnang), Stellvertreter, der unterste Offiziersrang …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”