From Middle French lieutenant (“lieutenant; deputy”), from tenir le lieu de (“to keep the position of”). Early on, the form was folk-etymologically reshaped, the first syllable being associated with Leute (“folk, men”), the last syllable sometimes with Amt (“post, office”). The normal spoken form in German has been Leut(e)nant since the 17th century, although the French spelling Lieutenant remained common and became standard in the 19th century. The contemporary spelling was introduced in the German Empire in 1899 amid rising Franco-German tensions and a general trend of Germanification.
- The normal plural used to be Leutnants, but Leutnante is now equally common or more common.
- Leutnant in Duden online