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Common anglophone military ranks
Navies Armies Air forces
Admiral of the fleet Marshal /field marshal Marshal of the Air Force
Admiral General Air marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Lieutenant commander Major /commandant Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant Flying officer
Ensign 2nd lieutenant Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Officer cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant officer Sergeant major Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

A lieutenant (abbreviated Lt, LT, Lieut and LEUT) is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces.

The rank of lieutenant has different meanings in different military formations (see comparative military ranks), but the majority of cases it is common for it to be sub-divided into a senior (first lieutenant) and junior (second lieutenant) rank. In navies it may relate to a particular post rather than a rank. Typically, the post of lieutenant in naval usage is held by a Captain, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank. It is also used in fire services, emergency medical services, security services and police forces as a rank.

Lieutenant may also appear as part of a title used in various other organizations 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 organization utilizing both such ranks. Notable uses include lieutenant governor in various governments, and Quebec lieutenant in Canadian politics.


[hide] *1 Etymology


The word lieutenant derives from French; the lieu meaning "in place" as in a position (cf. in lieu of); and tenant meaning "holding" as in "holding a position"; thus a "lieutenant" is somebody who holds a position in the absence of his or her superior (compare the Latin locum tenens). Similar words in other languages include the Arabic mulāzim (Arabic: ملازم‎), meaning "holding a place", and the Hebrew word segen (Hebrew: סגן‎), meaning "deputy" or "second to".

In the 19th century, British writers who either considered this word 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 /lɛfˈtɛnənt/ lef-TEN-ənt and [1]i/ljuːˈtɛnənt/ lew-TEN-ənt, with the former generally associated with the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, and the latter generally associated with the United States.[1] The early history of the pronunciation is unclear; Middle English spellings suggest that the /ljuː-/ and /lɛf-/ pronunciations may have existed even then.[2] The rare Old French variant spelling luef for Modern French lieu ('place') supports the suggestion that a final [w] of the Old French word was in certain environments perceived as an [f].[2]

In Royal Naval tradition—and other English-speaking navies outside the United States—a reduced pronunciation /ləˈtɛnənt/ was used. This is not recognized as current by the OED, however, and by 1954 the Royal Canadian Navy, at least, regarded it as "obsolescent" even while regarding "the army's 'LEF-tenant'" to be "a corruption of the worst sort".[3]

Army ranksEdit

Conventionally, armies and other services or branches which 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 and cornet. Some parts of the British Army, including the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and fusilier regiments, 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.

Lieutenant/first lieutenantEdit

Main article: First lieutenantSee also: Lieutenant (British Army and Royal Marines)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 which do not speak English, the rank title usually translates as "lieutenant", but may also translate as "first lieutenant" or "senior lieutenant".

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.

[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]
Canada Germany Greece India Ireland Italy Mexico Sweden Romania Russia UK US

Second lieutenantEdit

Main article: Second lieutenantSecond 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) or løjtnant (Danish Army).

[14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]
Canada Germany Greece India Ireland Italy Mexico Sweden Romania Russia UK US

Third lieutenantEdit

East-European ranksEdit

A few non-English-speaking militaries maintain a lower rank, frequently translated as "third lieutenant". The rank title may actually translate as "second lieutenant", "junior lieutenant", "sub-lieutenant" or "ensign". The Soviet Union used three ranks of lieutenant, and Warsaw Pact countries similarly standardized their ranking system. Some of the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations have now discarded the third rank while many retain it like Bulgaria.


American brevet second lieutenantsEdit

Throughout the 19th century and until as late as World War II[4] the United States Army sometimes referred to brevet second lieutenants 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. In modern times, Army ROTC cadets who participate in the Cadet Troop Leadership Training program are sometimes referred to as "third lieutenants" when serving in active duty units in a junior leadership position for training purposes.[5]

Naval rankEdit

Hierarchy of naval officer ranks
Flag officers:
Admiral of the navy

Admiral of the fleetFleet admiral General admiralGrand admiralAdmiral Squadron admiralFlotilla admiral Vice admiralLieutenant admiral Rear admiralCounter admiral Commodore admiralSchout-bij-nacht Port admiralCommodore

Senior officers:

Fleet captainPost captain CaptainShip-of-the-line captain Captain of sea and warCaptain at sea Corvette captainCommander Frigate captainLieutenant commander

Junior officers:

Captain lieutenantFlag lieutenant Lieutenant • Ship-of-the-line lieutenant Corvette lieutenantFrigate lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade)Sub-lieutenant Ensign

Training officers:

Passed midshipmanMidshipman Naval cadet

Lieutenant commanderEdit

Main article: Lieutenant commanderLieutenants 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-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.[6]

Canada Greece India Poland Portugal Romania UK US


Main article: Lieutenant (naval)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 stabilised, 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,[7] 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).

[27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37]
Canada France Germany Greece India Poland Portugal Romania Spain UK US

"First lieutenant" in naval usageEdit

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, destroyers and frigates 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 specialisation 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 US Navy or US 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.


Main article: Sub-lieutenantIn 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.

[38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48]
Canada Greece India Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Spain Sweden UK US

Marine rankEdit

See also: United States Marine Corps officer rank insigniaThe United States Marine Corps and British Royal Marines[8] both use army ranks, while many former Eastern-Bloc marine forces retain the naval form[clarification needed]. 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 rankEdit

Main articles: RAF officer ranks, United States Air Force officer rank insignia, and Canadian Forces ranks and insigniaWhile 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.

NATO OF-2 / US O-3
[49] [50] [51] [52]

Flight lieutenant


Flight lieutenant


Flight lieutenant


Flight lieutenant

NATO OF-1a / US O-2
[53] [54] [55] [56] [57] [58] [59]













First Lieutenant

NATO OF-1b / US O-1
[60] [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66]

Second lieutenant












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).

Israel Defense Forces ranksEdit

[67][68][69]:For further information, you may refer to Israel Defense Forces ranks. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is an integrated force, ranks are the same in all services. It has a slightly compacted rank structure.

In the IDF, since 1951, סגן (segen) is equivalent to a lieutenant (NATO OF-2). From 1948 - 1951 the corresponding rank was that of a (סגן ראשון (סג"ר (segen rishon, or sagar), which today is obsolet. Segen literally translates as "assistant". Typically it is the rank of a company executive officer or platoon commander.

Israel Defense Forces ranks : קצינים זוטרים Ktzinim - Junior Officers or Company Grade Officers



Segen mishne





Abbreviation סג"מ








Second lieutenant Lieutenant Captain
Insignia [70] [71] [72]
More details at Israel Defense Forces ranks & IDF 2012 - Ranks (, english)

The rank of (קצין מקצועי אקדמאי (קמ"א (katsín miktsoí akademai or Kama), a professional academic officer of the IDF (medical, dental, veterinary, justice or religion), is equivalent to a professional officer of the second class in the reserve and equivalent to first lieutenant.

Police rankEdit

The rank of police lieutenant is used in most police forces in the United States. It is normally roughly equivalent to the British police inspector. A number of city and burgh police forces in Scotland used the rank of lieutenant (and detective lieutenant) from 1812 to 1948, when it was replaced by chief inspector.[9] 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 sergeant and inspector-general. The first 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. There are examples in other countries.

[73] [74] [75]

Police Lieutenant


Inspector de poliţie


Assistant Superintendent of Police

Fire services rankEdit

Main article: Firefighter RanksIn the US the junior officer grade of the fire service is the lieutenant. The most common insignia for fire department lieutenants are collar and cover devices commonly called bugles (though they are really representative of 18th century speaking trumpets); a lieutenant usually displays a single silver bugle, though some variations exist. In addition to the bugle, lieutenants often display a single silver sleeve band and wear a helmet of a different color from those worn by their subordinates, most usually limited to a white helmet shield on a black or red helmet (jurisdictionally dependant). Many cities and towns, however, employ a wide variety of other ranks and insignia. Lieutenants are typically responsible for an individual engine or ladder company and its crew.

Other usesEdit

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 in Ireland. 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 Salvation Army also uses lieutenant to denote first time officers, or clergymen/women.

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.

The rank of lieutenant is also used by STS Electrical Services Ltd in New Zealand as the rank given to senior managers and shift supervisors.

The rank is featured in the English anime adaption of Bleach, being the right hand man of the captains of the Gotei 13 (13 court guard squads in English).

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. "Lieutenant".
  2. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary.
  3. ^ A. D. Taylor, Customs of the Navy, 1954.
  4. ^ "Full Text Citations For Award of The Distinguished Service Cross". Retrieved 27 July 2009. "The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Baltazar Adona, Third Lieutenant, U.S. Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against a hostile force in the Philippine Islands. Third Lieutenant Adona distinguished himself by intrepid actions from 10 to 16 December 1941 while serving with the Philippine Scouts"
  5. ^ "News from the Commander". Department of Military Science & Leadership. Louisiana State University.$Content/News+from+the+Commander?OpenDocument. Retrieved 27 July 2009.
  6. ^ "Officer Ranks in the Royal Navy – Lieutenant Commander". Royal Naval Museum. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
  7. ^ "Uniforms and Badges of Rank – Royal Navy website". Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  8. ^ "RM Officers & Other Ranks Badges of Rank – Royal Navy website". Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  9. ^ Report of the Committee of Inquiry on the Police, 1978
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