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commander in chief

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noun, plural commanders in chief.
  1. Also Commander in Chief. the supreme commander of the armed forces of a nation or, sometimes, of several allied nations: The president is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force.
  2. an officer in command of a particular portion of an armed force who has been given this title by specific authorization.

Origin of commander in chief

First recorded in 1635–45
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for commander in chief

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • This squadron, which was nearest the Commander-in-Chief, obeyed and hauled off.

  • Now he was eager to get back to New York and tell the commander-in-chief the news.

    The Dare Boys of 1776

    Stephen Angus Cox

  • Dick took the seat and then looked at the commander-in-chief inquiringly.

    The Dare Boys of 1776

    Stephen Angus Cox

  • Will you show me to the presence of the commander-in-chief, sir?

    The Dare Boys of 1776

    Stephen Angus Cox

  • But the Commander-in-Chief must not tarry to bandy compliments.

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli


British Dictionary definitions for commander in chief

commander in chief

noun plural commanders in chief
  1. the officer holding supreme command of the forces in an area or operation
  2. the officer holding command of a major subdivision of one military service
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

commander in chief in Culture

commander in chief

The role of the United States president as highest ranking officer in the armed forces. The Constitution provides this power, but, through the system of checks and balances, gives Congress the authority to declare war. During periods of war, presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, George H. W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George W. Bush have taken active roles as commander in chief.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.