) is a military
, 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
(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
(/lɛv'tɛnənt/ or /lɪv'tɛnənt/) and lieu-tenant
(/lu'tɛnənt/ or /lju'tɛnənt/), with the former generally associated with the United Kingdom and her former dominions, and the later generally associated with the USA.
The earlier history of the pronunciation is unclear; Middle English
spellings included both forms like lutenand
suggesting the /lju-/ pronunciation and those like leeftenant
suggesting /lɛf-/. The hypothesis that the labial
-terminated initial syllable arose as a spelling pronunciation
and consonantal v
(the letters u
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 /w/ of the Old French word was in certain environments apprehended as a /f/ /v/. The development of the αυ and ευ diphthongs
in the Greek language
, pronounced /av/ and /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" – /lju'tɛnənt/ – was not in general employ, giving the pronunciation current at the time as /lɛv'tɛnənt/ or /lɪv'tɛnənt/. This is still the dominant pronunciation in English-speaking countries outside the USA. British naval
tradition preserved an intermediate pronunciation: /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".
In contemporary American English, the word is usually (). 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 /lɛv'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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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, 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
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.
The United States Marine Corps and Royal Marines 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.
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.
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 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