Definition of lieutenant in English:

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Pronunciation: /lo͞oˈtenənt/


1A deputy or substitute acting for a superior: he accepted his top lieutenant’s resignation with deep regret
More example sentences
  • While he sits at the apex, it is likely that his top deputies and their lieutenants are largely responsible for coordinating the activities of the far-flung cells.
  • Certainly a number of his lieutenants and cohorts have been captured in recent months.
  • But I regard you as a lieutenant available to assist as and when required.
1.1 see first lieutenant, second lieutenant.
Example sentences
  • The company commander thought the new lieutenant and staff sergeant were scapegoats for superior officers in their chain of command.
  • They are scheduled to graduate from the Royal Military College as lieutenants in the Australian Army on Saturday June 22.
  • The team, made up of one major, four captains, one lieutenant, one first sergeant, and three sergeants first class, began the arduous task of preparing the foreign soldiers for combat.
1.2A naval officer of a high rank, in particular a commissioned officer in the US Navy or Coast Guard ranking above lieutenant junior grade and below lieutenant commander.
Example sentences
  • Nuclear propulsion pay will now be received by sub lieutenants and lieutenants at category A levels on completion of their engineer officer of the watch board.
  • He has commanded in every rank from lieutenant to vice admiral, and has flown his flag in all three of the Navy's aircraft carriers.
  • During the second world war he served in the Royal Navy as surgeon lieutenant, escorting convoys in the north Atlantic on HMS Maplin, a converted merchant ship which catapulted Hurricanes into combat.
1.3A police or fire department officer next in rank below captain.
Example sentences
  • According to the Independent, a police lieutenant declared at the hotel yesterday that he had stationed snipers around the building and would kill anyone who attempted to leave.
  • After a portentous prologue, the film shifts five years ahead, showing him in his new position as lieutenant in the citizen police force.
  • The police lieutenant who handled the case of our intruder called and informed me that the man who broke into our house was found dead in his jail cell.


In the normal British pronunciation of lieutenant, the first syllable sounds like lef. In the standard US pronunciation, the first syllable, in contrast, sounds like loo. It is difficult to explain where the f in the British pronunciation comes from. Probably, at some point before the 19th century, the u at the end of Old French lieu was read and pronounced as a v, and the v later became an f.



Pronunciation: /lo͞oˈtenənsē/
noun (plural lieutenancies)
Example sentences
  • Based largely on the lush Hastings archives in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, it is the story of Henry Hastings, fifth earl of Huntingdon, and his lord lieutenancy of Leicestershire in the early seventeenth century.
  • A noble by birth, the young Grouchy was schooled in the pre-Revolution royalist cavalry, rising to a lieutenancy in the élite Compagnie Écossaise of the king's Garde du Corps.
  • To aid in a confrontation on land, the realm had been divided into several ‘lieutenancies,’ so that the requisite steps could be taken to defend the country from within.


Late Middle English: from Old French (see lieu, tenant).

Words that rhyme with lieutenant

pennant, subtenant, tenant

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: lieu·ten·ant

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