[cheef-tuh n, -tin]


the chief of a clan or a tribe.
a leader of a group, band, etc.: the robbers' chieftain.
(initial capital letter) Military. Britain's main battle tank since 1969, fitted with a 120mm gun and two machine guns and weighing 55 tons (50 metric tons).

Origin of chieftain

1275–1325; Middle English cheftayne, variant of chevetaine < Old French < Late Latin capitāneus captain
Related formschief·tain·cy, chief·tain·ship, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for chieftaincy

Historical Examples of chieftaincy

  • Though there were a number older than he, they acknowledged his chieftaincy.

    The Night-Born

    Jack London

  • "Shanklin, as the previous newest man, grabbed back the chieftaincy," he plunged ahead.

    The Devil's Asteroid

    Manly Wade Wellman

  • When the Old King died without any sons, a contest arose over the successorship to the chieftaincy.

    Stories of the Badger State

    Reuben Gold Thwaites

  • Taggarak asked Deerfoot whether he should give up his chieftaincy, and was ready to do whatever the Shawanoe advised.

  • My own chieftaincy I could demit without regret, knowing that it would fall into your hands.

British Dictionary definitions for chieftaincy



the head or leader of a tribe or clan
the chief of a group of people
Derived Formschieftaincy or chieftainship, noun

Word Origin for chieftain

C14: from Old French chevetaine, from Late Latin capitāneus commander; see captain
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 chieftaincy



early 14c., cheftayne "ruler, chief, head" of something, from Anglo-French chiefteyn, Old French chevetain "captain, chief, leader," from Late Latin capitaneus "commander," from Latin capitis, genitive of caput "head" (see capitulum). According to "Rob Roy" (1818) a Highland chieftain was the head of a branch of a clan, a chief was the head of the whole name. Related: Chieftainship.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper