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From Middle English, borrowed from Old French chief (leader), from Vulgar Latin *capum (from which also captain, chieftain), from Latin caput (head) (English cap (head covering)), from Proto-Indo-European *kauput- (English head).



chief (plural chiefs)

  1. A leader or head of a group of people, organisation, etc. [from 13th c.]
    • 1994, Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, Abacus 2010, p. 4:
      My father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a chief by both blood and custom.
    All firefighters report to the fire chief.
  2. (heraldry) The top part of a shield or escutcheon. [from 15th c.]
    • 1889, Charles Norton Elvin, A Dictionary of Heraldry:
      When the Chief is Charged with any figure, in blazon it is said to be "On a Chief".
  3. An informal address to an equal.
    Hey, chief.


Derived termsEdit

Pages starting with "chief".

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


chief (comparative chiefer or more chief, superlative chiefest or most chief)

  1. Primary; principal.
    Negligence was the chief cause of the disaster.
    • 1727, Tobias Swinden, “The Improbability of Hell Fire’s Being in, or about the Center of the Earth”, in An Enquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell. [...] With a Supplement, wherein the Notions of A[rch]b[isho]p [John] Tillotson, Dr. Lupton, and Others, as to the Eternity of Hell Torments, are Impartially Represented. And the Rev. Mr. Wall’s Sentiments of this Learned Work, 2nd edition, London: Printed by H. P. for Tho[mas] Astley, at the Dolphin and Crown in St. Paul's Church-Yard, OCLC 645158554, pages 98–99:
      [] But when we find that they [volcanoes] are but few in Number, and the chiefeſt of thoſe too near the torrid Zone, and from their Tops to iſſue forth, now clear Fire, then thick, black Smoke, and ſometimes little or nothing at all; we muſt conclude, that they are only particular Fires, probably of the Sun’s kindling at firſt, and ſince continued by the caſual and incidental Applications of that Pabulum, which thoſe Part of the Earth adminiſter to them.



chief (third-person singular simple present chiefs, present participle chiefing, simple past and past participle chiefed)

  1. (US, slang) To smoke cannabis.
    • 2012, Marquis "Cream" Cureton, When the Smoke Clears (page 268)
      He chiefed on the bud like a pro, taking long deep hits and holding it within until he had inhaled as much of the weed smoke as he could.

See alsoEdit


Middle FrenchEdit


From Old French chief.


chief m (plural chiefs)

  1. head


Old FrenchEdit

Alternative formsEdit


First known attestation 881 in The Sequence of Saint Eulalia. From Vulgar Latin *capum, from Latin caput.



chief m (oblique plural chiés, nominative singular chiés, nominative plural chief)

  1. (anatomy) head
  2. leader, chief
  3. front (foremost side of something)