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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for chieftainship
Historical Examples
  • It was a mode of declaring who was to have the chieftainship, in succession to the Testator.

    Ancient Law Sir Henry James Sumner Maine
  • They intimated to him that in all probability he would soon be elevated to the chieftainship.

    Among the Sioux R. J. Creswell
  • No wonder the Indian that slew him was a brave and in the line of chieftainship!

    The Conquest

    Eva Emery Dye
  • Idling, he pointed out, was not the way to qualify for chieftainship.

  • He knows they are planning for his removal from the chieftainship.

    Wigwam and War-path; Or the Royal Chief in Chains

    A. B. (Alfred Benjamin) Meacham
  • They were the first tribe of old, and had the first chieftainship.

    The Indian in his Wigwam Henry R. Schoolcraft
  • In consequence he was cut off from the succession to the chieftainship, and publicly flogged.

    Stanley in Africa James P. Boyd
  • An Arikkara, he had been adopted by the Mandan, among whom he had risen to a chieftainship.

  • Around his neck was the torque, the emblem of chieftainship.

    Beric the Briton G. A. Henty
  • I resign my chieftainship now, when I can do it with credit.

    Boyhood in Norway Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen
British Dictionary definitions for chieftainship


/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 chieftainship



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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