- 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.
- the upper area of an escutcheon.
- 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,
- in the chief position; highest in rank (used in combination): editor in chief; commander in chief.
- Heraldry.in the upper part of an escutcheon.
Origin of chief
SynonymsSee more synonyms for chief on Thesaurus.com
- the head, leader, or most important individual in a group or body of people
- another word for chieftain (def. 2)
- heraldry the upper third of a shield
- in chief primarily; especially
- most important; principal
- highest in rank or authority
- archaic principally
Word Origin and History for chiefer
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.