Lieutenant was a rank
predating the 20th Century in the Canadian Army held by commissioned
officers. The word itself comes from the French language; lieu
meaning "place" (as in the noun, meaning a position) and tenant
referring to the act of filling a position - thus the word
"lieutenant" literally means someone holding a position (as in the
absence of a superior). The word is used in Canadian titles such as
Lieutenant Governor (the monarch's representative in Canadian
provinces) and is common in other nations such as the United
Kingdom, Ireland and France. The sense of a person being a deputy
can also be seen in the titles Lieutenant Colonel or Lieutenant
In Canadian English the word was pronounced as if to say "lef-tenant"
whereas in American usage the word sounds like "lootenant" (though
this unique pronunciation only phased itself in during the latter
half of the 1800's). The spelling is the same in both countries, and
this pronunciation was also a reflection of British heritage in the
From November 1902 the insignia for a Lieutenant was two rank stars,
replaced after Unification with one thick and one thin stripe of
As the British Army modernized over the centuries, a Lieutenant was
an officer assigned to take the place of a Captain, who was an
officer who actually raised a company of soldiers for the Colonel of
a regiment. The Lieutenant was expected to provide tactical
direction to the soldiers in place of the Captain.
During the early part of the 20th Century, a Lieutenant in an
infantry battalion was normally tasked as a platoon commander,
though the formalized structure of infantry companies was not firm
until after 1916 and the Battle of the Somme. In 1939, a brief
flirtation with the rank of Warrant Officer Class III and the
appointment of Platoon Sergeant Major was deemed a failure, and the
idea that platoons (or equivalents in artillery, engineer, cavalry,
armoured etc. units) should be commanded by officers was reinforced.
Subaltern was another designation for a soldier ranked Lieutenant or
After Unification, the rank structure of commissioned officers did
not change, though as time went on the rank of Lieutenant became
less important, in that platoon commanders became ranked as
Captains. The rank of Captain (and consequently of Lieutenant) as
thus devalued, much as post-Unification Corporals had their status
as section commanders degraded by the tasking of Sergeants as
section commanders instead.
were addressed by rank and name; thereafter by subordinates as "Sir"