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“In lieu of” — Meaning, Context & Examples

“In lieu of” — Meaning, Context & Examples

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There are very few words in the English language that feature three consecutive vowels. 

Lieu is an exception in this regard and stands out quite starkly on the page because of it.

“Ieu,” is not a commonly occurring sequence of letters, and many people struggle to pronounce the word “lieu” as a result. 

So why does an English word contain this unusual combination of letters? 

Language is a fluid thing. Where there has been a mixing of cultures and languages, as there was in England in the 11th century during the Norman French invasion, a phenomenon called “borrowing language” occurs. 

The words that are taken from one language and enter use in another are known as “loanwords.”

Lieu’s unusual spelling comes from the fact that it is borrowed from the French lieu, which derives from the latin locum (nominative locus), both of which mean “place.” 


What is the meaning of the phrase “in lieu of”?

The phrase “In lieu of” something, means “instead of” something. This meaning derives from lieu’s original French definition, “place, position, situation, or rank.” To offer something “in lieu of” something else means to offer something “in place of” something else.  


“In lieu of” in more detail

To be in lieu of something is to stand in as a substitute for it. It has the same meaning as “in the place of” and “instead of.” 

If I offer to read a speech on my friend’s behalf, I will be reading the speech “in lieu of” them, because I am reading the speech “in their place,” or “instead of” them.  

To break down the meaning of the phrase a little more, let us consider a grocery store that is taking online orders for delivery. 

More of us than ever before are ordering groceries to be delivered to our homes.

Many grocery stores have a policy that if they have run out of an item on an online order, they will substitute it for a similar item. 

For example, if a customer orders sliced Cheshire cheddar but the store has run out of it, they will substitute it for a similar product, such as a sliced red Leicester cheddar. 

So, how you used the phrase “in lieu of” to describe what is happening here? 

Well, you might say “In lieu of a pack of sliced Cheshire cheddar, which they had run out of, the grocery store sent Tim a pack of sliced red Leicester cheddar.”

You could also describe the situation differently and say, “The store sent Tim a pack of sliced red Leicester cheddar in lieu of a pack of sliced Cheshire cheddar, which they had run out of.” 

One thing to watch out for when using “in lieu of” in a sentence, is that you do not confuse it with the similar-sounding expression “in light of.” This is a common error and results in non-sensical sentences!

“In light of” means “considering,” and is followed by information which elucidates or suggests a particular view of a subject. 

So, to use “in light of” in a sentence, you might say “In light of the recent revelation that Dr. Hausmann had plagiarized large portions of her thesis, Maria knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would stop contacting her for advice.” 

You can say, “In light of the recent headlines about mercury poisoning, James decided to stop eating fish for a while.” 

You cannot replace “in light of” in this sentence with “in lieu of,” because you would be saying “in place of the recent headlines…” which is not what is meant. 

“In light of” has a very different meaning to the phrase “in lieu of,” and should not be confused with it. 


How to use “in lieu of” in a sentence

Here is a selection of wide-ranging examples of how you might use “in lieu of” in a sentence. 

In lieu of the towel, which looked dirty and wet, Mandy preferred to err on the side of caution and use her sweatshirt to dry herself after her swim. 


The restaurant was serving a penne al arabbiata in lieu of the wild boar ragu advertised on its menu, which was so popular it had sold out within an hour.


Elizabeth was happy to accept store credit in lieu of a refund, because she had spotted a beautiful gingham coat in the store window. 


Jonathan knew that he might have to accept a place at his second-choice college in lieu of a spot at Harvard, because the latter university was so enormously difficult to gain admittance to. 


In lieu of a real engagement ring, Johannes used a toy ring from a gumball machine to propose to his childhood sweetheart Maria. 


Naeema had to use margarine in lieu of butter to make her apple pie, because Marcus had used the last of the butter on his toast that morning. 


Seamus preferred to use a Swiffer stick in lieu of a real mop and bucket because it saved him time. 


Joanna often used to attend conferences in lieu of her colleague Anthony, who suffered from social anxiety and found it difficult to be in a room full of strangers. 
In lieu of paying his final month’s rent, Max arranged to leave his landlord his furniture. 


In the wake of the pot-dropping incident, Marnie was forced to use a mop bucket with holes drilled into the bottom in lieu of a plant pot. 


Hannes left it too late, and so had to send his sister Ariana an e-card in lieu of a paper birthday card this year.


Jeremiah was using a wooden board in lieu of a real paddle to cross the lake. 


Ning realized she would have to use the front of her shirt in lieu of her shopping bag, which she had forgotten at home, to carry her groceries to her car.