chief·​ly | \ ˈchē-flē How to pronounce chiefly (audio) \

Definition of chiefly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : most importantly : principally, especially
2 : for the most part : mostly, mainly



Definition of chiefly (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to a chief chiefly duties

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Examples of chiefly in a Sentence


our video collection consists chiefly of comedies, but we have a few horror movies

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The amendment is chiefly sponsored by Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, and Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California. Charlie Savage, New York Times, "Surveillance and Privacy Debate Reaches Pivotal Moment in Congress," 10 Jan. 2018 Another 300 miles, predominantly in rural areas, had barriers chiefly designed to stop vehicles. Louise Radnofsky, WSJ, "The Border Wall, Mile by Mile," 14 Feb. 2019 China is not chiefly responsible for the decline in Pakistan’s dollar reserves, because the higher import spending entailed by the CPEC has been accompanied by greater lending from Beijing. The Economist, "Pakistan faces a currency crisis. Who will help?," 14 June 2018 Many are for film or television—and have grown out of books picked by Witherspoon for her book club, an Oprah-like venture that lives chiefly on Instagram, where its total number of followers inches toward 800,000. Zoë Ghertner, Vogue, "Reese Witherspoon: Activist, Advocate, Hollywood’s Moral Compass," 10 Jan. 2019 Merriam-Webster’s choice is based chiefly on the frequency of look-ups on their online site, which the editors analyze over the course of the year. Ben Zimmer, WSJ, "‘Justice’ Is a Judicious Choice for ‘Word of the Year’," 21 Dec. 2018 Now that the president, whose Iran strategy has been focused chiefly on the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, has withdrawn from that pact, his administration may turn its attention to dealing with Tehran’s network of proxy groups. Souad Mekhennet, Washington Post, "In Bahrain, a smoldering insurgency reveals the resilience of Iran’s proxy war," 18 May 2018 Related But investors appeared more focused on global economic concerns, chiefly how the U.S. and China will proceed with their trade spat. Michael Wursthorn, WSJ, "U.S. Stocks Inch Higher, Led by Industrial Companies," 11 Feb. 2019 Federal workers—chiefly within the aviation industry—calling out sick has been a recurring theme since the government closed its doors. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Major Airports Face Staffing Shortages and Delays Amid Government Shutdown," 25 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chiefly.' 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 chiefly


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1870, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for chiefly

Last Updated

9 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for chiefly

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

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More Definitions for chiefly



English Language Learners Definition of chiefly

: mainly or mostly


chief·​ly | \ ˈchē-flē How to pronounce chiefly (audio) \

Kids Definition of chiefly

1 : above all : most importantly We're chiefly concerned with safety.
2 : for the most part Owls are active chiefly at night.

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More from Merriam-Webster on chiefly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with chiefly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chiefly

Nglish: Translation of chiefly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chiefly for Arabic Speakers

Comments on chiefly

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


a strong desire or propensity

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