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,
    1. in the chief position; highest in rank (used in combination): editor in chief; commander in chief.
    2. the upper part of an escutcheon.

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

Synonyms for chief

Synonym study

7. See capital1.

Antonyms for chief Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sub-chief

Historical Examples of sub-chief

British Dictionary definitions for sub-chief



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


  1. most important; principal
  2. highest in rank or authority


archaic principally

Word Origin for chief

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 sub-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).



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper