• synonyms


[cheef-tuh n, -tin]
  1. the chief of a clan or a tribe.
  2. a leader of a group, band, etc.: the robbers' chieftain.
  3. (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).
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for chieftainship

Historical Examples of chieftainship

  • It was a mode of declaring who was to have the chieftainship, in succession to the Testator.

    Ancient Law

    Sir Henry James Sumner Maine

  • They intimated to him that in all probability he would soon be elevated to the chieftainship.

    Among the Sioux

    R. J. Creswell

  • No wonder the Indian that slew him was a brave and in the line of chieftainship!

    The Conquest

    Eva Emery Dye

  • Idling, he pointed out, was not the way to qualify for chieftainship.

  • He knows they are planning for his removal from the chieftainship.

British Dictionary definitions for chieftainship


  1. the head or leader of a tribe or clan
  2. the chief of a group of people
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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 chieftainship



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper