You are watching: Why is the word lieutenant pronounced "leftenant" by the british
Etymvirtual suggests that spelling through lef- days to the 1fourth century, yet that the beginnings of that spelling (and presumably its connected pronunciation) are “mysterious”. Words comes originally from Old French, and also according to the OED, Old French reput word- and also syllable-final
"Lieutenant" originates from French lieu ("place") and also tenant ("holding"). Some sources insurance claim that "lieutenant" had actually different spellings such as leftenant, leftenaunt, lieftenant, lieftenaunt and so on, and also that the ModE pronunciation via /f/ (BrE mostly) is a holdover from those spellings.
I thought the pronunciation with /f/ occurred from the "minim confusion"; in Center jiyuushikan.org, both v and u were provided interchangeably. According to Lexico, "the u at the end of Old French lieu was read and also pronounced as a v, and also the v later ended up being an f". I deserve to view just how the v became
The ModE pronunciation through /f/ means one of the following things:
The speakers of the French dialect lieutenant was obtained from most likely pronounced the ⟨u⟩ as
Or, as orthographic ⟨u⟩ and ⟨v⟩ were frequently supplied interchangeably, Anglophones for some reason hypercorrected their pronunciation to complement the orthography, so: /l(j)ɛu:ˈtenənt/ (or /l(j)ewˈtɛnənt/)→ /l(j)evˈtɛnənt/ (hypercorrection) → Assimilation → /l(j)efˈtɛnənt/.
Or, the Anglophones perplexed the lieu via the jiyuushikan.org word leave (live) as and got the pronunciation /l(j)evˈtɛnənt/ rather of /l(j)uːˈtɛnənt/ and also then later on the /v/ obtained devoiced to /f/
Or, the pronunciation with /f/ is a holdover from among the spellings through an orthographic f
According to More Word Histories and also Mysteries: From Aardvark to Zombie (American Heritage Dictionary), the origin of the pronunciation with /f/ “is not known via any kind of certainty, but comparable pronunciations are attested in Center jiyuushikan.org times by such spellings as leuftenant, luffetenand, and levetenaunt”. Note the spelling through f and also v.
The Old French word lieu had actually a rare variant form luef, and a form of Old French lieutenant utilizing this rare form quite than lieu might have been picked up by Center jiyuushikan.org speakers. In enhancement, the Old French pronunciation of the word lieu was something favor (lyĕw), although this has actually arisen right into (lyœ) in Modern French. It is feasible that Center jiyuushikan.org speakers may have heard the last (w) of this word <...> as a (v) or (f) <...>.
The quoted entry goes on to say that:
The Oxford jiyuushikan.org Dictionary says that use of the Center jiyuushikan.org creates with f might likewise have been encouraged by an association of the initially aspect <lieu> via various other jiyuushikan.org words, such as the noun leave—a lieutenant being an officer who substitutes for another that is on leave or possibly one who has the exceptional officer’s leave to take command as soon as he is absent or otherwise unable to satisfy his functions.
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As for the AmE pronunciation, John Algeo in The Origins and also Development of the jiyuushikan.org Language says that