\ ˈchēf How to pronounce chief (audio) \

Definition of chief

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : accorded highest rank or office chief librarian the company's chief executive
2 : of greatest importance or influence the chief reasons their chief accomplishment



Definition of chief (Entry 2 of 3)




Definition of chief (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : the upper part of a heraldic field
2 : the head of a body of persons or an organization : leader chief of police
3 : the principal or most valuable part would never rest till she had read the chief of the letter to him— Jane Austen
in chief
: in the chief position or place often used in titles commander in chief

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Other Words from chief


chiefdom \ ˈchēf-​dəm How to pronounce chiefdom (audio) \ noun
chiefship \ ˈchēf-​ˌship How to pronounce chiefship (audio) \ noun

Examples of chief in a Sentence


the chief engineer on the project Her job is their chief source of income. He has many concerns, chief among them his health.


the chief of the estate was left to the eldest son our chief is out on a business trip right now
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Boston Chamber of Commerce chief Jim Rooney was especially vocal last week, using the c-word and demanding the MBTA take a bolder approach. Yvonne Abraham,, "Seeing red over the mess that is the MBTA," 15 June 2019 This is known as spear phishing, says Gary Davis, the chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security. Madeline Buxton,, "Here's How To Spot & Protect Yourself Against A Phishing Scam," 14 June 2019 Another potential candidate is Tony Sayegh, the departing assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department who is leaving his post as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's chief spokesman. Fin Gomez, CBS News, "White House eyes candidates to replace Sarah Sanders," 14 June 2019 The converted safety established himself as a big-play threat beside Mosley last season but seemed out of sorts the one time he was asked to fill in as chief on-field signal caller. Childs Walker,, "Five Things We Learned from the Ravens’ OTAs and minicamp," 14 June 2019 Panelists include Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney of the San Francisco public defender’s office, and Reason magazine associate editor Scott Shackford., "Bay Area political events: Impeachment rallies, racial justice," 14 June 2019 In 1994, Johnson was recalled to become the Telegraph’s chief political columnist. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "The Empty Promise of Boris Johnson," 13 June 2019 The Chinese telecoms giant is looking to ship a self-driving car using its own AI technology in 2021 or 2022, Huawei’s chief strategy architect Dang Wenshuan told the Financial Times (paywall) June 12. Echo Huang, Quartz, "Huawei AI could power self-driving cars in Europe and China by 2021," 13 June 2019 Again, Germany was the chief culprit, though Italy also suffered a small decline. David Meyer, Fortune, "Mark Zuckerberg's Privacy Practices: CEO Daily," 13 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the 2004 national election, the percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases was 24%, which rose to 33% in 2009, 34% in 2014 and 43% this year, said Shahabuddin Y. Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner. Fox News, "Indian election reveals role of money, questionable morality," 16 June 2019 Cygnet artistic chief Sean Murray directs the show about the comically fraught romance between an aspiring rocker and a small-town girl, set to the songs of Journey, Whitesnake and more. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Summer arts | Theater: ‘Almost Famous,’ ‘Rock of Ages,’ ‘Tale of Despereaux’ and more," 16 June 2019 Bayern boss Niko Kovac has reportedly given the go ahead for the sale, which is a surprise considering the recent stance of Dortmund chiefs who vowed to rebuff any players going the other way., "Mats Hummels on Verge of Shock Borussia Dortmund Return After 3 Years at Bayern Munich," 15 June 2019 Hereditary chiefs advise parliament, rather like hereditary lords do in Britain. The Economist, "Botswana legalises gay sex," 15 June 2019 Olivier de Challus, one of the cathedral’s chief guides and architecture experts, said that one of the reasons the rich French donors haven’t yet paid up is that there are still so many uncertainties about the direction of the construction work. Thomas Adamson,, "French tycoons stall on Notre-Dame restoration donations," 14 June 2019 Since Kapoor announced his retirement in January, industry observers had guesstimated that RB, too, would stick to the norm and pick its health division chief Aditya Sehgal, or Rob de Groot, who heads the hygiene products business, as the next CEO. Sangeeta Tanwar, Quartz India, "A 200-year-old British consumer goods giant is banking on an Indian for growth," 14 June 2019 The limits proposed by DNR are meant to prevent a future increase of mercury discharge and are based on what the plant typically discharges, said Jason Knutson, DNR wastewater section chief. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin has cut mercury pollution of its lakes. Climate change puts those gains at risk.," 14 June 2019 Lori Stoney is currently battalion chief with the Homewood Fire and Rescue Service. Anna Beahm |,, "Who will be Birmingham’s next fire chief? Woodfin interviewing 4 finalists," 13 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chief.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of chief


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chief

Noun and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French chief, chef head, chief, from Latin caput head — more at head

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Dictionary Entries near chief





chief constable



Statistics for chief

Last Updated

18 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for chief

The first known use of chief was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for chief



English Language Learners Definition of chief

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: highest in rank or authority
: most important



English Language Learners Definition of chief (Entry 2 of 2)

: the person who is the leader of a group of people, of an organization, etc.


\ ˈchēf How to pronounce chief (audio) \

Kids Definition of chief

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the head of a group : leader the chief of police
in chief
: in the highest ranking position or place editor in chief



Kids Definition of chief (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : highest in rank or authority chief executive
2 : most important : main a chief reason

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More from Merriam-Webster on chief

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with chief

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chief

Spanish Central: Translation of chief

Nglish: Translation of chief for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chief for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about chief

Comments on chief

What made you want to look up chief? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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