A lieutenant ( or abbreviated Lt., Lt, LT, Lieut and similar) is a junior commissioned officer
in the armed forces
, fire services
and other organizations of many nations.
The meaning of lieutenant differs in different militaries (see comparative military ranks
), but is often subdivided into senior (first lieutenant
) and junior (second lieutenant
and even third lieutenant) ranks. In navies, it is often equivalent to the army rank of captain; it may also indicate a particular post rather than a rank. The rank is also used in fire service
s, emergency medical services
, security services
Lieutenant may also appear as part of a title used in various other organisations 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 organisation using both ranks.
Political uses include lieutenant governor
in various governments, and Quebec lieutenant
in Canadian politics
. In the United Kingdom
, a lord lieutenant
is the sovereign's representative in a county or lieutenancy area
, while a deputy lieutenant
is one of the lord lieutenant's deputies.
The word ''lieutenant'' derives from French
; the ''lieu'' meaning "place" as in a position (cf. in lieu of
); and ''tenant'' meaning "holding" as in "holding a position"; thus a "lieutenant" is a placeholder for a superior, during their absence (compare the Latin ''locum tenens
In the 19th century, British writers who considered this word either an imposition on the English language, or difficult for common soldiers and sailors, argued for it to be replaced by the calque
"steadholder". However, their efforts failed, and the French word is still used, along with its many variations (e.g. lieutenant colonel
, lieutenant general
, lieutenant commander
, flight lieutenant
, second lieutenant
and many non-English language examples), in both the Old
and the New World
Pronunciation of ''lieutenant'' is generally split between the forms and , with the former generally associated with the armies of British Commonwealth
countries and the Republic of Ireland
; and the latter generally associated with anyone from the United States.
[American Heritage Dictionary, s.v]
The early history of the pronunciation is unclear; Middle English
spellings suggest that both pronunciations may have existed even then.
[Oxford English Dictionary.]
The majority of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources show pronunciations with /v/ or /f/, but Bullokar
The rare Old French
variant spelling ''luef'' for Modern French
''lieu'' ('place') supports the suggestion that a final of the Old French word was in certain environments perceived as an .
Furthermore, in Latin, the ''lingua franca'' of the era, the letter v is used for both u and v.
In Royal Naval
tradition—and other English-speaking navies outside the United States—a reduced pronunciation is used. This is not recognised as current by recent editions of the OED
(although the RN pronunciation was included in editions of OED up until the 1970s).
Conventionally, armies and other services or branches that 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
. Some parts of the British Army
, including the Royal Artillery
, Royal Engineers
and fusilier regiment
s, 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 that do not speak English, the rank title usually translates as "lieutenant", but may also translate as "first lieutenant" or "senior lieutenant". The Israel Defense Forces rank ''segen'' (סגן) literally translates as "deputy", which is equivalent to a lieutenant. In the Finnish military there is a senior lieutenant
grade that ranks above lieutenant and second lieutenant but below captain; it does not have an English equivalent. In Germany it is called Oberleutnant
There is great variation in the insignia used worldwide. 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 (pips) and second lieutenants (and equivalents) one. An example of an exception is the United States, whose armed forces distinguish their lieutenant ranks with one silver bar for first lieutenant and one gold (brass) bar for second lieutenant.
File:Australian Army OF-1b.svg|Australia
File:Bosnia and Herzegovina 1st Lieutenant Insignia.svg|Bosnia and Herzegovina
File:Egypt Army - OF01b.svg|Egypt
File:Georgia Army OF-2.png|Georgia
File:Lieutenant of the Indian Army.svg|India
File:Rank insignia of tenete of the Army of Italy (1973).svg|Italy
File:JASDF First Lieutenant insignia (b).svg|Japan (JASDF)
File:DPRK-Navy-OF-1c.svg|Korea, North (Navy, senior lieutenant)
File:ROKMC-OF-1b.svg|Korea, South (Marine)
File:Mexican Military Teniente.gif|Mexico
File:08. Myanmar Army 1LT.svg|Myanmar
File:OF-1(B) Pakistan Army.svg|Pakistan
File:PA 1LT Svc.svg|Philippines (Philippine Army)
File:RAF A F1FstLt 2010.png|Russia (senior lieutenant)
File:RTA OF-1b (Lieutenant).svg|Thailand
File:UA shoulder mark 13.svg| Ukrainian Army (Senior lieutenant)
File:UNER13.png|Ukrainian Navy (Senior lieutenant)
File:British Army OF-1b.svg|United Kingdom
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 university 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 ''alferes'' (Portuguese Army and Air Force), ''alférez'' (Spanish Army and Air Force), ''fänrik'' (Swedish Armed Forces
), ''ensign'', ''Leutnant'' (German Army), ''letnan'' (Indonesian National Armed Forces
), ''poručík'' (Czech Army
), ''segen mishne'' (Israel Defense Forces
) or ''løjtnant'' (Danish Army).
File:Australian Army OF-1a.svg|Australia
File:Bosnia and Herzegovina Lieutenant Insignia.svg|Bosnia and Herzegovina
File:Egypt Army - OF01a.svg|Egypt
File:Georgia Army OF-1b.png|Georgia
File:IDF segen mishne.svg|Israel
File:Rank insignia of sottotenete of the Army of Italy (1973).svg|Italy
File:JGSDF Second Lieutenant insignia (b).svg|Japan (JGSDF)
File:DPRK-Army-OF-1a.svg|Korea, North (Army)
File:소위.JPG|Korea, South (Air Force)
File:Mexican Military Subteniente.gif|Mexico
File:07. Myanmar Army 2LT.svg|Myanmar
File:OF-1(A) Pakistan Army.svg|Pakistan
File:PA 2LT Svc.svg|Philippines (Philippine Army)
File:RTA OF-1a (Sub Lieutenant).svg|Thailand
File:UA shoulder mark 12.svg| Ukrainian Army
File:British Army OF-1a.svg|United Kingdom
File:Rank insignia of младши лейтенант of the Bulgarian Army.png|Bulgaria
File:Georgia Army OF-1a.png|Georgia
junior lt. army
File:RAF N F1c-MlLt 2010–.png|Russia
junior lt. navy
File:RAF A F1-3SubLt after2010.png|Russia
junior lt. army/RVSN
File:UA shoulder mark 11.svg|Ukrainian Army (junior lt.)
File:UNER11.png|Ukrainian Navy (junior lt.)
Eastern European ranks
A few non-English-speaking militaries maintain a lower rank, frequently translated as "third lieutenant" OF1c. The rank title may actually translate as "second lieutenant", "junior lieutenant", "sub-lieutenant" or "ensign
". Warsaw Pact
countries (except Poland since 1957) standardised their ranking systems on the Soviet system. Some of the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations have now discarded the third rank while many retain it like Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. Other nations use the term "senior ''poruchik''" or "''nadporuchik''" (OF1a), "''poruchik''" (OF1b), and "junior ''poruchik''" or "''podporuchik''" (OF1c).
The Soviet Union
used the three ranks senior lieutenant
(старший лейтенант; ''starshy leytenant'' - OF1a), lieutenant (лейтенант; ''leytenant'' - OF1b), and junior lieutenant (мла́дший лейтенант; ''mladshy leytenant'' - OF1c). The armed forces of the Russian Federation inherited this rank structure. If military personnel serve in a guards formation, or on a guards warship, the rank designation will be preceded by the word "guards" (e.g. "guards junior lieutenant"). For civil or military personnel in the medical or judicial professions, the military rank will be preceded by the words "legal" or "medical service".
United States ranks
In March 1813, the US Army created the rank of third lieutenant. The rank was used as the entry level officer rank for the Ordnance Department and the Corps of Artillery until March 1821. Throughout the 19th century and until as late as World War II the United States Army
sometimes referred to brevet second lieutenant
s 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.
Notably, the United States Revenue Cutter Service
used a simple officer rank structure with Captain, First, Second and Third Lieutenants, each of whom had distinct insignia. The title of Third Lieutenant, essentially equal to the rank of ensign
, existed until 1915 when the Service became the nucleus of the new United States Coast Guard
. Because of the time required to fully establish this organization the rank continued for some time afterwards; the first Coast Guard aviator, Elmer F. Stone
, was a third lieutenant until 1918.
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 Royal Navy followed suit in March 1914. The insignia of an additional half-thickness 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.
File:PN LCDR WhtDr.svg|Philippines
File:U.S. Navy O-4 insignia.svg|US
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 stabilized, and the ranks of commander, lieutenant commander and sub-lieutenant were introduced, the naval lieutenant came to rank 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, except that the loop is removed (see flight lieutenant
File:French Navy-Rama NG-OF1b.svg|France
File:PN LTSG WhtDr.svg|Philippines (Lieutenant Senior Grade)
File:US Navy O3 insignia.svg|US
"First lieutenant" in naval use
The first lieutenant 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 numbered by seniority, the post of "first lieutenant" remains. In minor war vessels, destroyer
s and frigate
s the first lieutenant (either a lieutenant or lieutenant-commander) is second in command, executive officer
(XO) and head of the executive branch; in larger ships where a commander of the warfare specialization is appointed as the executive officer, a first lieutenant (normally a lieutenant-commander) 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 U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard the billet of first lieutenant describes the officer in charge of the deck department
or division, depending upon the size of the ship. In smaller ships with only a single deck division, the billet is typically filled by an ensign while in larger ships with a deck department, consisting of multiple subordinate divisions, the billet may be filled by a lieutenant commander. On submarines and smaller Coast Guard cutters the billet of first lieutenant may be filled by a petty officer
In the Royal Navy, the commissioned rank of mate was created in 1840, and was renamed sub-lieutenant in 1860. In the US Navy, the rank was called master
until 1883, when it was renamed lieutenant, junior grade
. 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. In Portugal, sub-lieutenant is the rank of a junior naval officer graduated from a civil university or promoted from a NCO rank, while the equivalent rank of an officer graduated in the naval academy is designated midshipman.
File:PN LTJG WhtDr.svg|Philippines (Lieutenant Junior Grade)
The United States Marine Corps
and British 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 higher; thus a Royal Marine captain ranked with and was paid the same as a British Army major. This historical remnant caused increasing confusion in multi-national operations and was abolished.
Air force rank
While some air forces use the army rank system, the British Royal Air Force
and many other Commonwealth
air forces use another rank system in which flight lieutenant
ranks with an army captain and naval lieutenant, a flying officer
ranks with an army lieutenant and a pilot officer
with an army second lieutenant.
In the US Air Force, the Third Lieutenant Program refers specifically to a training program at active duty air force bases for cadets of the Air Force Academy
and 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.
The Royal Air Force also has an acting pilot officer
designation, the most junior commissioned rank in the British armed forces. It is functionally equivalent to third lieutenant (OF-1c / O-0).
France and the French Union
The first French Lieutenant of Police, Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie
, was appointed in Paris by Louis XIV on 15 March 1667 to command a reformed police force. He was later elevated to Lieutenant-General of Police
. In the 17th century, the term "lieutenant" corresponded to "deputy" (i.e. a person appointed to carry out a task). La Reynie was the deputy for policing duties of the Provost of Paris, the ceremonial representative of the King in Paris. In 1995, the rank of ''lieutenant'' was introduced in the National Police
as the first rank of the police officers scale.
United Kingdom and Commonwealth police forces
The rank of Lieutenant was formerly used in areas outside of the Metropolitan Police. The adoption of standardized ranks across the United Kingdom has eliminated its use. A number of city and burgh police forces in Scotland
used the rank of lieutenant (and detective lieutenant) between inspector and superintendent from 1812 to 1948. It was replaced by the rank of chief inspector
. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (founded 1871) had the rank of lieutenant between staff sergeant and inspector until 1997. In Australia, Queensland's first police force (founded 1864) had second lieutenants and lieutenants between the ranks of sergeant and inspector-general.
United States police forces
The rank of police lieutenant is used in most medium or large police departments in the United States, where it is one rank above sergeant and two ranks above a regular police officer (three in departments with a corporal rank). It is roughly equivalent to an inspector
in the British and Canadian police forces. The usual role of a lieutenant is to carry out administrative duties and assist precinct commanders (normally a Captain, or sometimes the local police chiefs). In smaller police departments, they may command a precinct itself. Lieutenants either command a watch (8-hour "shift") of regular officers or a special unit for operations or investigations (like a Robbery-Homicide squad). The typical rank insignia for a lieutenant is a single silver bar (like that of an Army or Marine Corps First Lieutenant) or a single gold bar (like that of an Army or Marine Corps Second Lieutenant). Some police departments split the rank of lieutenant into two separate grades.
Fire services rank
In the Singapore Civil Defence Force
, the rank of lieutenant (LTA) is the second-lowest commissioned
rank. The rank insignia of LTA is two pips.
In Canada the representative of the Canadian monarch in each of the Canadian provinces is called the Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor exercises all the royal prerogative powers that the monarch holds.
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
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
The Lieutenant Governor
is an official in state governments
of 45 out of 50 United States
. In most cases, the lieutenant governor is the highest officer of state after the governor
, standing in for the governor when they are absent from the state or temporarily incapacitated. In the event a governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor typically becomes governor.
In the United States
, a governor
serves as the chief executive officer
in each of the fifty states
and in the five permanently inhabited territories
, functioning as both head of state
and head of government
The Boys' Brigade
Leaders, or officers of the Boys' Brigade, particularly in the United Kingdom, are ranked as lieutenants after having completed their formal training, before which they are ranked as warrant officers. Officers serving in staff or command posts are awarded the "brevet" rank of captain, these officers then revert to their lieutenancy after having completed their tour of duty.
National Civil Defence Cadet Corps
The rank of cadet lieutenant (CLT) is given to officer cadet trainees who have passed their officer's course. The rank insignia of CLT is a pip and a bar below it. CLTs may be promoted to the rank of senior cadet lieutenant (S/CLT), which has a rank insignia of a pip and two bars below it.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army
also uses lieutenant to denote first time officers, or clergymen/women.
*Comparative military ranks