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[loo-ten-uh nt; in British use, except in the navy, lef-ten-uh nt] /luˈtɛn ənt; in British use, except in the navy, lɛfˈtɛn ənt/
U.S. Navy. a commissioned officer ranking between lieutenant junior grade and lieutenant commander.
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.
1325-75; Middle English < Middle French, noun use of adj. phrase lieu tenant place-holding. See locum tenens, lieu, tenant
Related forms
underlieutenant, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for lieu-tenant


/lɛfˈtɛnənt; US luːˈtɛnənt/
a military officer holding commissioned rank immediately junior to a captain
a naval officer holding commissioned rank immediately junior to a lieutenant commander
(US) an officer in a police or fire department ranking immediately junior to a captain
a person who holds an office in subordination to or in place of a superior
Derived Forms
lieutenancy, 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
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Word Origin and History for lieu-tenant



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-).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for lieu-tenant


Related Terms

third lieutenant

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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lieu-tenant in the Bible

(only in A.V. Esther 3:12; 8:9; 9:3; Ezra 8:36), a governor or viceroy of a Persian province having both military and civil power. Correctly rendered in the Revised Version "satrap."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Encyclopedia Article for lieu-tenant


company grade officer, the lowest rank of commissioned officer in most armies of the world. The lieutenant normally commands a small tactical unit such as a platoon.

Learn more about lieutenant with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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