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 Washington was assistant chief in Milwaukee from 2010-19, and previously served as battalion chief, fire captain, lieutenant and firefighter. Cathy Kozlowicz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Menomonee Falls' new fire chief Gerard Washington says the department is 'a gem'," 25 June 2020 The wardens at Angola did not follow suit, even though inmates said many were falling ill and a guard lieutenant had died from the virus in late March. Tim Golden, ProPublica, "Inside the U.S.’s Largest Maximum-Security Prison, COVID-19 Raged. Outside, Officials Called Their Fight a Success.," 24 June 2020 But unlike the four officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death, the patrolman who killed Tycel Nelson neither faced criminal charges nor lost his job, ascending to the rank of lieutenant over the ensuing two decades. Martin Kuz, The Christian Science Monitor, "Will Minneapolis become the Selma of the North?," 11 June 2020 Jake Reuver who was elevated to the rank of lieutenant, denied Vasquez’s claims. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Shenandoah staff repaid about $70,000 in tuition reimbursement program," 10 June 2020 This lawsuit was filed the same day Portland Police Chief Jami Resch stepped down from her position and asked Chuck Lovell, an African American lieutenant, to replace her. oregonlive, "Couple sues city of Portland after being exposed to tear gas during protests," 9 June 2020 An African American lieutenant on the force replaced her. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "Thousands mourn George Floyd in Texas amid calls for reform," 9 June 2020 The police chief in Portland, Oregon, resigned Monday and asked an African American lieutenant to fill the position, CBS affiliate KOIN-TV reports. Brian Dakss, CBS News, "Live updates: George Floyd memorials reach his hometown of Houston," 8 June 2020 The motion asked the court to allow officers at the rank of lieutenant to authorize the deployment of chemical agents or projectiles in response to specific acts of violence or destruction of property because of limitations in staffing. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Temporary restraining order prohibits Denver Police from using chemical agents or projectiles against peaceful protesters without supervisor approval," 6 June 2020

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

Time Traveler for lieutenant

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for lieutenant

Last Updated

6 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lieutenant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for lieutenant


How to pronounce lieutenant (audio)

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!