lieu·​ten·​ant | \ lü-ˈte-nənt How to pronounce lieutenant (audio) , British le(f)-\

Definition of lieutenant

1a : an official empowered to act for a higher official The king's lieutenant handled the problem.
b : an aide or representative of another in the performance of duty : assistant Her best lieutenant was working on the proposal.
b : a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard ranking above a lieutenant junior grade and below a lieutenant commander
c : a fire or police department officer ranking below a captain

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of lieutenant in a Sentence

He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. She has her best lieutenants working on a proposal. one of the mobster's most loyal lieutenants
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

His conviction follows the April guilty plea by his top lieutenant in the group, Mack, to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering charges. Aurelie Corinthios,, "Lifetime Is Making a NXIVM Sex Cult Movie After Founder Keith Raniere's Conviction," 1 July 2019 The employees who were reassigned include Carroll Hebert, office manager, and two of his lieutenants responsible for operations and maintenance. Alison Sider, WSJ, "FAA Reassigns Senior Managers in Office Overseeing Southwest Airlines," 25 June 2019 When Mao Zedong began to embrace increasingly radical policies starting in the late 1950s, many of his highest-ranking lieutenants suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of his favor and were jettisoned or even killed. Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books, "China’s ‘Black Week-end’," 17 June 2019 The days of George Steinbrenner roaring at his lieutenants to build a winner no matter the cost are gone. Jon Tayler,, "After Kimbrel and Keuchel Signings, the State of MLB Free Agency Remains Bleak," 12 June 2019 An offseason of change for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff continued Tuesday with the departure of his top lieutenant to Europe. Tom Orsborn,, "Messina leaving Spurs to coach in Italy," 11 June 2019 It's been nearly 18 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban, which had harbored al-Qaida when bin Laden and his lieutenants were planning the Sept. 11 attacks. Fox News, "Islamic State expands reach in Afghanistan, threatening West," 10 June 2019 In March 2014, a deputy chief had ordered a group of police lieutenants to crack down on loosie sales, and officers soon made seven arrests at the corner of Bay and Victory near Tompkinsville Park. Wesley Lowery, Washington Post, "‘I can’t breathe.’ Five years after Eric Garner died in struggle with New York police, resolution still elusive.," 13 June 2019 In the air that day were two lieutenants, a pilot and an electronics warfare officer, known as an EWO. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Legendary Saga of the Navy Sky Dong Concludes," 14 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lieutenant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of lieutenant

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for lieutenant

Middle English, from Anglo-French lieu tenant, from liu + tenant holding, from tenir to hold, from Latin tenēre — more at thin

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lieutenant

Statistics for lieutenant

Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lieutenant

The first known use of lieutenant was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for lieutenant



English Language Learners Definition of lieutenant

: an officer in the army, navy, or air force with a fairly low rank
US : an officer in a fire or police department who has a rank below a captain
: an assistant to another, more powerful person : a person who represents and works for someone else


lieu·​ten·​ant | \ lü-ˈte-nənt How to pronounce lieutenant (audio) \

Kids Definition of lieutenant

1 : an official who acts for a higher official
4 : a commissioned officer in the navy or coast guard ranking above a lieutenant junior grade

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on lieutenant

What made you want to look up lieutenant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!