• synonyms


[loo-ten-uh nt; in British use, except in the navy, lef-ten-uh nt]
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  1. Military.
    1. first lieutenant.
    2. second lieutenant.
  2. U.S. Navy. a commissioned officer ranking between lieutenant junior grade and lieutenant commander.
  3. a person who holds an office, civil or military, in subordination to a superior for whom he or she acts: If he can't attend, he will send his lieutenant.
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Origin of lieutenant

1325–75; Middle English < Middle French, noun use of adj. phrase lieu tenant place-holding. See locum tenens, lieu, tenant
Related formsun·der·lieu·ten·ant, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for lieutenant


  1. a military officer holding commissioned rank immediately junior to a captain
  2. a naval officer holding commissioned rank immediately junior to a lieutenant commander
  3. US an officer in a police or fire department ranking immediately junior to a captain
  4. a person who holds an office in subordination to or in place of a superior
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Derived Formslieutenancy, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French, literally: place-holding
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for lieutenant


late 14c., "one who takes the place of another," from Old French lieu tenant "substitute, deputy," literally "placeholder," from lieu "place" (see lieu) + tenant, present participle of tenir "to hold" (see tenant). The notion is of a "substitute" for higher authority. Specific military sense of "officer next in rank to a captain" is from 1570s. Pronunciation with lef- is common in Britain, and spellings to reflect it date back to 14c., but the origin of this is a mystery (OED rejects suggestion that it comes from old confusion of -u- and -v-).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper