• synonyms


See more synonyms for chief on Thesaurus.com
  1. the head or leader of an organized body of people; the person highest in authority: the chief of police.
  2. the head or ruler of a tribe or clan: an Indian chief.
  3. (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.
  4. Informal. boss or leader: We'll have to talk to the chief about this.
  5. Heraldry.
    1. the upper area of an escutcheon.
    2. an ordinary occupying this area.
Show More
  1. highest in rank or authority: the chief priest; the chief administrator.
  2. most important; principal: his chief merit; the chief difficulty.
Show More
  1. Archaic. chiefly; principally.
Show More
  1. 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.
Show More

Origin of chief

1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French chief, chef, Old French chef < Vulgar Latin *capum, re-formation of Latin caput head
Related formschief·less, adjectivechief·ship, nounsub·chief, nounun·der·chief, noun
Can be confusedchef chief


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com

Synonym study

7. See capital1.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for chief

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for chief


  1. the head, leader, or most important individual in a group or body of people
  2. another word for chieftain (def. 2)
  3. heraldry the upper third of a shield
  4. in chief primarily; especially
Show More
  1. (prenominal)
    1. most important; principal
    2. highest in rank or authority
Show More
  1. archaic principally
Show More

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

Word Origin and History for 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).

Show More


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.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper