[sey-chuh m]


(among some North American Indians)
  1. the chief of a tribe.
  2. the chief of a confederation.
a member of the governing body of the League of the Iroquois.
one of the high officials in the Tammany Society.
Slang. a political party leader.

Origin of sachem

1615–25, Americanism; < southeastern New England Algonquian (compare Narragansett (E spelling) sâchim, saunchum, Massachusett sontim) < Proto-Algonquian *sa˙kima˙wa; cf. sagamore
Related formssa·chem·dom, nounsa·chem·ic [sey-chem-ik, sey-chuh-mik] /seɪˈtʃɛm ɪk, ˈseɪ tʃə mɪk/, adjectivesa·chem·ship, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sachem

Historical Examples of sachem

  • The sachem of tribes, or tribal-chief is chosen by chiefs of the gentes.

    The Truth About Woman

    C. Gasquoine Hartley

  • When they arrived at Corbitant's house they found the sachem not at home.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott

  • Their sachem, Uncas, had his royal residence in the present town of Norwich.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott

  • The sachem set a chair for her and relieved her of the staff and her bag.

  • The sachem saw all this, and his mighty spirit was stirred within him.


    Morrison Heady

British Dictionary definitions for sachem



US a leader of a political party or organization, esp of Tammany Hall
another name for sagamore
Derived Formssachemic (seɪˈtʃɛmɪk, ˈseɪtʃə-), adjective

Word Origin for sachem

C17: from Narraganset sǎchim chief
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 sachem

chief of an American Indian tribe, 1620s, from Narragansett (Algonquian) sachim "chief, ruler," cognate with Abenaki sangman, Delaware sakima, Micmac sakumow, Penobscot sagumo. Applied jocularly to a prominent member of any society from 1680s; specific political use in U.S. is from 1890, from its use as the title of the 12 high officials of the Tammany Society of New York.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper