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[sher-if] /ˈʃɛr ɪf/
the law-enforcement officer of a county or other civil subdivision of a state.
(formerly) an important civil officer in an English shire.
Origin of sheriff
before 1050; Middle English sher(r)ef, Old English scīrgerēfa. See shire, reeve1
Related forms
[sher-if-duh m] /ˈʃɛr ɪf dəm/ (Show IPA),
subsheriff, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sheriff
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You can tell all this to the colonel or the sheriff; if they let you go, I'll say nothing against it.

  • I am under the sheriff's orders, and not under the orders of that officer.

  • Aleck looked at the driver, then at the sheriff, and then at my father.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
  • I was wanted at Johnstown by sheriff Frey, on some matter which would not wait for the morrow.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • "He is as close as the bark on a beech-tree," concluded the sheriff.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
British Dictionary definitions for sheriff


(in the US) the chief law-enforcement officer in a county: popularly elected, except in Rhode Island
(in England and Wales) the chief executive officer of the Crown in a county, having chiefly ceremonial duties related adjective shrieval
(in Scotland) a judge in any of the sheriff courts
(in Australia) an administrative officer of the Supreme Court, who enforces judgments and the execution of writs, empanels juries, etc
(in New Zealand) an officer of the High Court
Derived Forms
sheriffdom, noun
Word Origin
Old English scīrgerēfa, from scīrshire1 + gerēfareeve1
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 sheriff

late Old English scirgerefa "representative of royal authority in a shire," from scir (see shire) + gerefa "chief, official, reeve" (see reeve). As an American county official, attested from 1660s; sheriff's sale first recorded 1798. Sheriff's tooth (late 14c.) was a common name for the annual tax levied to pay for the sheriff's victuals during court sessions.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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