chief·​dom ˈchēf-dəm How to pronounce chiefdom (audio)
: the position or office of a chief : leadership
Mandla Mandela's rise was a great source of pride for Mr. Mandela, who wrote of the pain of his father losing his chiefdom after a dispute with colonial authorities.Lydia Polgreen
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), who started off as a bumbling weakling in need of draconic pedagogy, has now ascended to the chiefdom of the wacky Viking village of Berk.Chris McCoy
: a region or a people ruled by a chief
The Timucua lived along the northern Atlantic coast of the Florida peninsula …. Although they were somewhat unified linguistically, speaking a dozen or so dialects of one language family, they were politically divided into as many as fifty distinct chiefdoms.Christopher M. Stojanowski
However, some tribes and even chiefdoms consist of herders who move seasonally.Jared Diamond

Examples of chiefdom in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web First came the Spanish, who encountered a dense web of chiefdoms and a century of resistance. Scott W. Stern, The New Republic, 26 June 2023 During the 12th to 16th centuries coastal chiefdoms in the Philippines sent slave-raider fleets across the region, attacking smaller groups. Catherine M. Cameron, Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2017 Consider the 16th-century chiefdoms in the Cauca Valley of Colombia, which were constantly at war. Catherine M. Cameron, Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2017 Under the Piscataway chiefdom, other tribes — including the Yaocomico, Mattawoman, Pamunkey, Mattaponi and Nanjemoy — were interconnected with their own systems of justice, governing and defending themselves. Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post, 7 Nov. 2022 At the time, the Yaocomaco people—an Indigenous tribe loosely affiliated with the Piscataway chiefdom—lived in the region. Isis Davis-Marks, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Mar. 2021 But its center—no more than a village chiefdom, in the tenth century B.C.—stood on the most elevated point of the Mount itself. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, 22 June 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'chiefdom.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of chiefdom was in 1566

Dictionary Entries Near chiefdom

Cite this Entry

“Chiefdom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

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