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[cheef] /tʃif/
the head or leader of an organized body of people; the person highest in authority:
the chief of police.
the head or ruler of a tribe or clan:
an Indian chief.
(initial capital letter) U.S. Army. a title of some advisers to the Chief of Staff, who do not, in most instances, command the troop units of their arms or services:
Chief of Engineers; Chief Signal Officer.
Informal. boss or leader:
We'll have to talk to the chief about this.
  1. the upper area of an escutcheon.
  2. an ordinary occupying this area.
highest in rank or authority:
the chief priest; the chief administrator.
most important; principal:
his chief merit; the chief difficulty.
Archaic. chiefly; principally.
in chief,
  1. in the chief position; highest in rank (used in combination):
    editor in chief; commander in chief.
  2. Heraldry. in the upper part of an escutcheon.
Origin of chief
1250-1300; Middle English < Anglo-French chief, chef, Old French chef < Vulgar Latin *capum, re-formation of Latin caput head
Related forms
chiefless, adjective
chiefship, noun
subchief, noun
underchief, noun
Can be confused
chef, chief.
7. foremost, leading, prime, paramount, cardinal. See capital1 .
6. subordinate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sub-chief
Historical Examples
  • The next case called was a young man who had stolen the daughter of a sub-chief.

    Wigwam and War-path; Or the Royal Chief in Chains A. B. (Alfred Benjamin) Meacham
  • A youth, but to manhood grown, and wearing the insignia of a sub-chief.

    Gaspar the Gaucho Mayne Reid
  • Among the others who camped around Kaiachououk's igloo this year was as usual the sub-chief Kalleligak.

    Labrador Days Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
  • Even a sub-chief of the Dakotas shall not live to be their tool.

    Under Fire Charles King
  • Alone once more the sub-chief studied the cutting with official thoroughness.

    The Goose Girl Harold MacGrath
  • The second assistant to a second assistant of a sub-chief of a sub-division may have entered.

  • The sub-chief bowed himself off at the gates, and Carmichael and Grumbach crossed the Platz leisurely.

    The Goose Girl Harold MacGrath
  • He was sub-chief of Morelia, and is often mentioned in the Truth charges.

  • Paul Guidon was a sub-chief, and one of the bravest of the tribe over which he exercised some authority.

    Young Lion of the Woods Thomas Barlow Smith
  • In council of the secret clan the war-prophet and the sub-chief voiced for war.

    The Way of an Indian Frederic Remington
British Dictionary definitions for sub-chief


the head, leader, or most important individual in a group or body of people
another word for chieftain (sense 2)
(heraldry) the upper third of a shield
in chief, primarily; especially
  1. most important; principal
  2. highest in rank or authority
(archaic) principally
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, from Latin caput head
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 sub-chief



c.1300, "highest in rank or power; most important or prominent; supreme, best," from Old French chief "chief, principal, first" (10c., Modern French chef), from Vulgar Latin *capum (also source of Spanish and Portuguese cabo, Italian capo, Provençal cap), from Latin caput "head," also "leader, guide, chief person; summit; capital city" (see capitulum).


c.1300, "head, leader, captain; the principal or most important part of anything;" from Old French chief "leader, ruler, head" of something, "capital city" (10c., Modern French chef), from Vulgar Latin *capum, from Latin caput "head," also "leader, chief person; summit; capital city" (see capitulum). Meaning "head of a clan" is from 1570s; later extended to American Indian tribes. Commander-in-chief attested from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for sub-chief



  1. A man; fellow; guy, mac •Usu in direct address to a stranger, with a sense of ironic deference (1930s+)
  2. lsd (1960s+ Narcotics)

Related Terms

too many chiefs and not enough indians

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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