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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sheriffs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And the sheriffs and constables and all that held castles in town or burg came out and promised to be faithful to him.

  • He removed and appointed mayors of cities, solicitors, and sheriffs.

    Stories Of Georgia Joel Chandler Harris
  • Then the train started backing up along the Slopson Branch and the two sheriffs stayed on it.

    Roy Blakeley's Camp on Wheels Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • Oh, boy, I thought I'd die, but I guess the sheriffs liked it.

    Roy Blakeley's Camp on Wheels Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • sheriffs arrest him in the mountains and transport him long distances, only to find him the wrong man.

    Money Magic Hamlin Garland
British Dictionary definitions for sheriffs


(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 sheriffs



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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sheriffs in the Bible

(Dan. 3:2), Babylonian officers.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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