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[cheef-tuh n, -tin] /ˈtʃif tən, -tɪn/
the chief of a clan or a tribe.
a leader of a group, band, etc.:
the robbers' chieftain.
(initial capital letter) Military. Britain's main battle tank since 1969, fitted with a 120mm gun and two machine guns and weighing 55 tons (50 metric tons).
Origin of chieftain
1275-1325; Middle English cheftayne, variant of chevetaine < Old French < Late Latin capitāneus captain
Related forms
chieftaincy, chieftainship, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for chieftain
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He was the chieftain of a clan that spread over Down and Antrim.

    The Foolish Lovers St. John G. Ervine
  • The next moment the chieftain entered and glared fiercely at Siegmund.

  • For this are you ill, in order to punish your father, because our chieftain the axe is angry.

    Aino Folk-Tales Basil Hall Chamberlain
  • But there was something of the chieftain, something of the prophet, about him.

    The Great Hunger Johan Bojer
  • He is described as a chieftain standing in a chariot drawn by two horses.

    History of Religion

    Allan Menzies
  • But he did have an idea that if he could somehow get word to the old Id chieftain help could be had.

    Cubs of the Wolf Raymond F. Jones
  • Had it not been for the chieftain, the black rat might have regained the run.

    "Wee Tim'rous Beasties" Douglas English
  • Among rats the chieftain is, of necessity, pluperfect master of defence.

    "Wee Tim'rous Beasties" Douglas English
  • When any affront was offered to a chieftain, the clan was instantly summoned.

British Dictionary definitions for chieftain


/ˈtʃiːftən; -tɪn/
the head or leader of a tribe or clan
the chief of a group of people
Derived Forms
chieftaincy, chieftainship, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French chevetaine, from Late Latin capitāneus commander; see captain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for chieftain

early 14c., cheftayne "ruler, chief, head" of something, from Anglo-French chiefteyn, Old French chevetain "captain, chief, leader," from Late Latin capitaneus "commander," from Latin capitis, genitive of caput "head" (see capitulum). According to "Rob Roy" (1818) a Highland chieftain was the head of a branch of a clan, a chief was the head of the whole name. Related: Chieftainship.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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