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Second Lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.


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 language: ملازم‎), meaning "holding a place", and the Hebrew word segen (Hebrew: סגן‎), meaning "deputy" or "second to".

In the nineteenth 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 Lieutenant-Colonel variation, in both the Old and the New World.


Pronunciation of lieutenant is generally split between the forms lef-tenant (/lɛfˈtɛnənt/) and lieu-tenant (/ljuːˈtɛnənt/), with the former generally associated with the United Kingdom, Ireland and Commonwealth countries, and the latter generally associated with the United States.[1] The earlier history of the pronunciation is unclear; Middle English spellings suggest that the /ljuː-/ and /lɛf-/ pronunciations 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—and other English-speaking navies outside the United States—tradition, the intermediate pronunciation /ləˈtɛnənt/ was preserved. 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]

United Kingdom and CommonwealthEdit

The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign (cornet in the cavalry), although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Fusilier and Rifle regiments. At first the rank bore no distinct insignia. In 1902 a single bath star (now commonly referred to as a pip) was introduced; the ranks of lieutenant and captain had their number of stars increased by one to (respectively) two and three. The rank is also used by the Royal Marines.

In the Royal Air Force the comparable rank is pilot officer. The Royal Navy has no exactly equivalent rank, and a second lieutenant is senior to a Royal Navy midshipman but junior to a Sub-Lieutenant. The Royal New Zealand Navy – breaking with Royal Navy tradition – uses the ensign grade for this rank equivalent. The Royal Australian Navy also breaks tradition in the sense that it has the equivalent rank of Ensign, but it is titled "acting sub lieutenant."

The Canadian Forces adopted the rank with insignia of a single gold ring around the service dress uniform cuff for both army and air personnel upon unification in 1968. For a time, naval personnel used this rank but reverted to the Royal Canadian Navy rank of acting sub-lieutenant, though the CF Green uniform was retained until the mid-1980s.

United StatesEdit

US-O1 insignia

Insignia of a United States Second Lieutenant

Confederate States of America Second Lieutenant

2nd Lieutenant rank insignia of the Confederate Army as used during the American Civil War

In the United States, Second Lieutenant is typically the entry-level rank for most commissioned officers.

In the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, a second lieutenant typically leads a platoon-size element (16 to 44 soldiers or Marines). In the Army, the rank bore no insignia until December 1917, when a gold bar was introduced to contrast with the silver bar of a first lieutenant.

In the U.S. Air Force, a second lieutenant may supervise flights of varying sizes, depending upon the career field, as a flight commander or assistant flight commander or may work in a variety of administrative positions at the squadron, group, or wing level.

As a result of the gold color of the bars and their usual inexperience as officers, second lieutenants are often colloquially referred to as Butterbars or Nuggets. Other colloquialisms include Commissioned Privates, 2nd Luey, or Brown Bars (this last is due to the subdued gold color of the bar as worn on tactical uniforms).

The corresponding United States Coast Guard and United States Navy rank is ensign.

People who have a bachelor's degree, or members of ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) in college may also enter as a Second Lieutenant. Newly commissioned Second Lieutenants usually attend a Basic Officer Training course.


The equivalent rank in Norway (O-1) is "fenrik", but the function of the rank differs drastically from other armies. Although it is an officer rank, it strongly resembles an NCO-rank in practice. The ranking system in Norway is quite different, while they do not have a professional army, Fenriks are usually former experienced sergeants but to become a sergeant one has to go through officer's training and education. Though they still fill such roles as squad leaders and platoon sergeants while at the rank Fenrik, in some cases Fenriks are Executive Officers (XOs). Most Fenriks have finished the War Academy as well, and are fully trained officers. This is due to the lack of an NCO-corps in the Norwegian army.

NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student Officer
Flag of Norway.svg Norway
No Equivalent General distinksjon
Distinksjoner Generalmajor
Distinksjoner Oberst
Distinksjoner Major
Kaptein / Rittmester
No Equivalent No Equivalent

Other countriesEdit

  • Flag of Afghanistan.svg Afghanistan: Dvahom Baridman
  • Flag of Albania.svg Albania: Nëntoger
  • Arabic-speaking countries except Bahrain, Oman, Sudan, Yemen: ملازم (Mulazim)
  • Flag of Argentina.svg Argentina, Flag of Cuba.svg Cuba, Flag of Nicaragua.svg Nicaragua and Flag of Peru.svg Peru: Teniente
  • Flag of Armenia.svg Armenia: լեյտենանտ (Leytenant)
  • Flag of Azerbaijan.svg Azerbaijan and Flag of Uzbekistan.svg Uzbekistan: Leytenant
  • Flag of Bahrain.svg Bahrain, Flag of Oman.svg Oman, Flag of Sudan.svg Sudan and Flag of Yemen.svg Yemen: ملازم ثان (Mulazim Thani)
  • Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium: Sous-Lieutenant (French); Onderluitenant (Dutch)
  • Flag of Bhutan.svg Bhutan: Deda Wom
  • Flag of Bolivia.svg Bolivia, Flag of Chile.svg Chile, Flag of Colombia.svg Colombia, Flag of Ecuador.svg Ecuador, Flag of El Salvador.svg El Salvador, Flag of Guatemala.svg Guatemala, Flag of Panama.svg Panama and Flag of Paraguay.svg Paraguay: Subteniente
  • Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina.svg Bosnia and Herzegovina: Podporučnik
  • Flag of Brazil.svg Brazil and Flag of Angola.svg Angola: Segundo Tenente
  • Flag of Cambodia.svg Cambodia: Ak-no-say-ney-trey
  • Flag of Cape Verde.svg Cape Verde and Flag of Guinea-Bissau.svg Guinea-Bissau: Tenente
  • Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg People's Republic of China: 少尉 (Shào wèi)
  • Qing Dynasty Imperial China (Qing Dynasty): 協軍校 (Xié jūn xiào)
  • Flag of Croatia.svg Croatia: Poručnik
  • Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czech Republic, Flag of Slovakia.svg Slovakia and Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czechoslovakia: Podporučík
  • Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark: Løjtnant
  • Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg Dominican Republic: Segundo Teniente
  • Flag of Estonia.svg Estonia: Nooremleitnant
  • Flag of Finland.svg Finland: Vänrikki (Finnish) or Fänrik (Swedish) (army and air force); Aliluutnantti (Finnish) or Underlöjtnant (Swedish) (navy)
  • Flag of France.svg France and all French-speaking non-European countries: Sous-Lieutenant
  • Flag of Georgia.svg Georgia: ლეიტენანტი (Leytenanti)
  • Flag of Germany.png Germany and Flag of Austria.svg Austria: Leutnant
  • Flag of Greece.svg Greece and Flag of Cyprus.svg Cyprus: Anthypolokhagos (army); Anthyposminagos (air force)
  • Flag of Hungary.svg Hungary: Hadnagy
  • Flag of Honduras.svg Honduras: Segundo Teniente
  • Flag of Indonesia.svg Indonesia: Letnan Dua
  • Flag of Iran.svg Iran: ستوان دوم (Setvan Dovom)
  • Flag of Ireland.svg Republic of Ireland Second Lieutenant (English); Dara-Lefteanant (Irish)
  • Flag of Israel.svg Israel: סגן משנה (Segen mishne)
  • Flag of Italy.svg Italy: Sottotenente
  • Flag of Japan.svg Japan: Santō Rikui (or San'i) (modern); Shōi (historical)
  • Flag of North Korea.svg North Korea and Flag of South Korea.svg South Korea: 소위 (Sowi)
  • Flag of Laos.svg Laos: Roitrïäkäd
  • Flag of Latvia.svg Latvia: Leitnants
  • Flag of Lithuania.svg Lithuania: Leitenantas
  • Flag of Luxembourg.svg Luxembourg: Lieutenant
  • Flag of Malaysia.svg Malaysia: Leftenan Muda
  • Flag of Mexico.svg Mexico: Subteniente
  • Flag of Myanmar.svg Myanmar: Du Bo
  • Flag of Nepal.svg   Nepal: Sahayak-Senani
  • Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands and Flag of Suriname.svg Suriname: Tweede-Luitenant
  • Flag of Norway.svg Norway: Fenrik
  • Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire: Mülazım
  • Philippines Philippines: Second Lieutenant (English); Magat, Tenyente, Ikalawang Tenyente, Alperes (cognate of Alferez)
  • Flag of Poland.svg Poland: Podporucznik
  • Flag of Portugal.svg Portugal and Mozambique: Alferes
  • Flag of Romania.svg Romania: Sublocotenent (modern); Locotenent (former)
  • Flag of Russia.svg Russia, Flag of Belarus.svg Belarus, Flag of Bulgaria.svg Bulgaria, Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Kazakhstan, Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine and Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union: Лейтенант (Leytenant)
  • Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire: Подпоручик (Podporuchik); Kорнет (Kornet) (cavalry)
  • Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Saudi Arabia: ملازم
  • Flag of Serbia.svg Serbia, Flag of North Macedonia.svg Macedonia and Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg Yugoslavia: Потпоручник (Potporučnik)
  • Flag of Slovenia.svg Slovenia: Poročnik
  • Flag of Spain.svg Spain and Flag of Equatorial Guinea.svg Equatorial Guinea: Alférez
  • Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden: Fänrik
  • Flag of Switzerland.svg  Switzerland: Leutnant (German); Lieutenant (French); Tenente (Italian)
  • Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China(Taiwan): 少尉 (Shào wèi)
  • Flag of Thailand.svg Thailand: ร้่อยตรี
  • Flag of Turkey.svg Turkey: Teğmen
  • Flag of Uruguay.svg Uruguay: Teniente Segundo
  • Flag of Venezuela.svg Venezuela: Subteniente (army); Subteniente (air force); Alférez (Navy)
  • Flag of Vietnam.svg Vietnam: Thiếu Uý

See alsoEdit


  1. American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. "Lieutenant".
  2. 2.0 2.1 Oxford English Dictionary.
  3. A. D. Taylor, Customs of the Navy, 1954.

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